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Residential child care prior to 1950

Prior to 1947 the care of children was governed by the Poor Relief

Acts which empowered Boards of Guardians to care for children in

workhouses or to have them boarded-out (fostered). The functions of

the Boards of Guardians in relation to children transferred to the

newly established welfare authorities on 1 November 1947. At that

time the Ministry of Home Affairs recommended that the 8 welfare

authorities established under the Public Health and Local

Government (Administrative Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1946,

established homes to provide for persons in need, including children.

Almost 80 per cent of children in care lived in institutional

placements (Table 6).

Table 6: Children in care, 1947

The above table also demonstrates the significant degree of reliance

upon the voluntary sector for the provision of placements for

children; virtually all of this provision was in large institutions.


Chapter 4

Placement Number

Care of voluntary organisation 1,000

(Virtually all institutional)

Boarded-out 312

Workhouse/other 189

Local Authority Institution

TOTAL 1,501

During the 1950s the main concern confronting welfare authorities

was the dismantling of the Poor Law and Workhouse system. In an

effort to expedite the removal of children from workhouses they

were endeavouring to obtain suitable houses for conversion into

children's homes. By the beginning of 1950, the number of children's

homes opened, numbered 3 while 4 had been purchased for

conversion and negotiation was underway to purchase further


It was envisaged that each children's home would accommodate

between 25-30 children on a temporary basis pending their transfer

to foster homes. Only in exceptional circumstances would children's

homes provide a permanent home for children who were deemed

"not suitable to be boarded-out"

The beginning of the 1950s was, therefore, marked by a high

proportion of children who could not be cared for by their own

parents and families living in institutional care. There was also a high

degree of reliance on voluntary sector providers, who were

responsible for the financial support of children placed in their care

by parents. The 1950s marked the beginning of the statutory sector

making its own provision for children in children's homes to end the

use of placement within the workhouse system.

The legislative and policy context

The post-war years saw a dramatic increase in social legislation and

the dismantling of the Poor Law and workhouse system, which had

been in existence for more than 100 years. The emergence of the

notion of a Welfare State in the 1940s combined with the concepts of

the provision of social welfare to ensure societal cohesion and the

need for the State to become a provider of such services. For the first

time, therefore, a comprehensive statutory framework was

established which defined statutory and permissive powers in respect

of various groups of people, namely, children, elderly persons and

people who are either mentally ill or mentally handicapped or

physically disabled.



The 1946 Public Health and Local Government (Administrative

Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland), created a new administrative

structure to carry out the functions of the Boards of Governors.

Eight welfare authorities were established across county and county

borough council areas in Northern Ireland. Each welfare authority

was required to appoint a Welfare Officer who would assume the

responsibilities that had previously been invested in the Boards of

Guardians. The welfare authorities were also required to act through

statutory welfare committees. A structure was, therefore, put in place

to divest the Boards of Guardians of their previous responsibility

for children.

In 1946 the Government published a White Paper, "The Protection

and Welfare of the Young and the Treatment of the Young

Offender" (Cmnd. 264, HMSO). The White Paper drew attention to

the lack of knowledge about the problem of caring for neglected

children due to the previous reliance, which had been placed on the

voluntary sector and the Poor Law system, to meet their needs. The

report also highlighted the need for one government department,

the Ministry of Home Affairs, to have responsibility for all children's

legislation. It also recommended:

the establishment of an advisory committee, the "Child Welfare

Council" to provide advice to the Minister;

that welfare authorities should appoint sub-committees to deal

with statutory duties in relation to children;

that welfare authorities should establish their own children's


that welfare authorities should set realistic boarding-out rates

which were to be reviewed regularly by the Child Welfare Council;

that welfare authorities should arrange for staff to attend suitable

training courses;

that voluntary homes should be subject to registration; and



every attempt was to be made to have children boarded-out in

foster homes.

The policy stance articulated above in favour of fostering was to find

expression in legislation, the Children and Young Persons Act of 1950.

The 1950 Act also served to make good the gap in provision between

England, Wales and Northern Ireland for children in need of care and

protection which had resulted from the failure in Northern Ireland to

introduce legislation equivalent to the Children and Young Persons

Acts (England and Wales) 1933.

The main provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act (NI) 1950

were designed to:

centralise the care of children under one Department, the Ministry

of Home Affairs,

enhance the powers of welfare authorities to provide for children

that was not available under previous legislation. Section 92

specifically required welfare authorities to provide

accommodation for children in their care;

end the last of the old Poor Law Enactments;

regulate through registration (Section 95) and inspection

(Section 101), voluntary children's homes; and

establish a statutory bias in favour of foster care.

The Children and Young Persons Act (1950) was far reaching in

relation to the requirements imposed upon welfare authorities in

relation to children's homes. Section 92 specifically addressed issues

such as:

the equipment of homes;

the medical arrangements for protecting children's health;

promoting the religious upbringing of children;



requiring the approval of the Ministry for the appointment,

qualification and training of children's home staff;

limiting the period in which children may be accommodated

in homes;

providing for different types of homes for children with different

needs; and

enabling the Ministry to close a home if it "is unsuitable for the

purposes or if the conduct of the home failed to comply with


Section 96 also enabled welfare authorities to make arrangements

for the accommodation of children in care near their place of work

or education.

The above requirements made it clear that consideration had to be

given to the need for homes to have an explicit purpose, size and

function and also given to issues such as children's health,

educational and religious needs. The statutory bias in favour of

fostering contained within the legislation, meant that the notion of a

time limit on placement in a children's home was firmly enshrined in

the 1950 Act. The view was that residential care was a short term or

temporary measure, unless there were special circumstances, which

dictated otherwise.

Following the Children and Young Persons Act of 1950 there was a

rapid expansion in statutory sector provision of residential care and

an increasing number of children coming into the State's care. It soon

became apparent, however, that insufficient attention was being

afforded to the prevention of family breakdown. In England and

Wales, the call for preventative work to enable social workers to

anticipate crises in families and to act proactively to avoid the

reception of children into care, resulted in the Children and Young

Persons Act of 1963. This enabled local authorities to assist families in

either cash or kind to reduce the need to bring children into care. In

Northern Ireland, the Children and Young Persons Act 1968 replicated

this provision of the 1963 Act as well as re-enacting the 1950 Act. It



failed, however, to anticipate the changes likely in England and

Wales following the "Children in Trouble" (1968) or "The Child, the

Family and Young Offender" (1965) White Papers, which resulted in

the Children and Young Persons Act (1969). In Northern Ireland the

distinction between offender and non-offender was, therefore,


The significance of the Children and Young Persons Act 1968 was its

emphasis on prevention and giving due regard to the welfare of the

child. It also continued to provide legislative support for the bias in

favour of foster care.

In January 1976, Sir Harold Black was appointed to chair a review of

the legislation and services relating to the care and treatment of

children and young persons under the Children and Young Persons

Act (NI) 1968, the Adoption Act (NI) 1967 and the Probation Act (NI)

1950 taking into account developments in these fields in Great

Britain. The review group reported in December 1979, "Report of the

Children and Young Persons Review Group", more commonly known

as the Black Report. The implications of the report for the residential

care of children were significant for the following reasons:

it proposed the removal of the statutory bias in favour of


it recognised the need for a range of small residential homes to

ensure the appropriate placement of children;

it advocated the establishment of a specialist facility for young

people with severe behavioural problems;

it recommended that full consideration should be given to the

wishes and feelings of children in care;

it made proposals to improve the quality of residential care,

particularly through the encouragement of appropriate training

for residential workers;



it advocated the establishment of an independent visitor for all

children in care; and

it advised the separation of justice and care provisions for children

and young people.

The thinking and principles contained within the Black Report were

progressive. The Report affirmed that provision of services for

children should be based on an assessment of need and that services

should be tailored to meet the identified needs of each child or

young person. It also established that the form of care provided

"must be considered on its merits and matched to the needs of the

individual child". Residential care was, therefore, perceived as an

integral part of a continuum of services. It should not exist as an

isolated service selected as either an easy first choice or as a last

resort for children.

The inclusion of recommendations relating to the future of the

training schools contained within the Black Report meant that the

full potential of this report was not realised. There was strong

opposition to change in this area and the Prior Agreement of 1986

largely maintained the status quo pending legislative change.

Implementations of many of the Report's recommendations were,

therefore, deferred until new children's legislation was introduced in

Northern Ireland. The Children (NI) Order 1995, which commenced in

November 1996, enacted much of the progressive thinking found 16

years earlier in the Black Report. The statutory bias in favour of

fostering was removed from the statute book and the concept of

placements being selected according to their ability to meet the

assessed needs of individual children was established as the way


The 1968 Children and Young Persons Act remained the legislative

framework for children's services for 28 years. The bias in favour of

fostering which inevitably led to a perception of residential care as

an option of last resort also found expression in Regional Strategies

(1987-92 and 1992-97). The 1987-92 Strategy stated:



"Boards should seek to reduce the need for residential care

and, with the development of preventive and foster care

services as alternatives to residential care, to reduce the

stock of residential provision."

The 1992-97 strategy however referred to 4 main areas directly

related to the residential care of children. These were:

the need for a range of small residential facilities geared to

specialist tasks in order to meet the assessed needs of children;

the recognition that for some children residential care is a positive

and desirable way of meeting their needs;

an emphasis on the provision for all children of adequate

preparation for leaving care and access to after-care provision; and

establishing a target that each Board should, by 1997, have at

least 75 per cent of children in care living in a family placement,

not including those children placed at home on a 'home on trial'


Children's legislation was comprehensively updated by the

introduction of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 in

November 1996. The Children Order largely replicates the Children

Act 1989, which was enacted in England and Wales in 1991. It brings

together the public and private legislation in respect of children and

introduces a range of court orders to deal with children's cases. The

statutory bias in favour of fostering in Northern Ireland was removed

by the Children Order and its emphasis on assessment of need both

at individual and area levels. This theme is taken forward in the most

recent Regional Strategy (1997-2002), which requires that the need

for service provision should be determined on the assessed needs of

children. Paragraph 8.13 (ii) states that:

"The Department should issue guidance on the means of

assessing needs of that Boards employ

comparable methodologies in the assessment of needs. It



should also issue guidance to Boards on the format and

content of Children's Services Plans ...".

Each HSS Board is, therefore, required to produce a Children's

Services Plan (CSP) under The Children (1995) Order (Amendment)

(Children's Services Planning) Order (Northern Ireland) 1998. These

regulations amend the Children Order by inserting at Paragraph 2 of

Schedule 2, a requirement on HSS Boards to produce a CSP. The plans

are produced on a triennial basis in collaboration with other

statutory and independent providers and are subject to annual

review. Each HSS Board is required to produce a CSP, which provides

for a range of services configured to meet the assessment needs of its

child population. The first CSPs were produced in April 1999.

In a legislative and policy context there has been a shift from blanket

solutions to meeting the assessed needs of children for whom living

with their own parents and families is not an option. Foster care is no

longer perceived as the appropriate placement choice for all children.

The beginnings of this shift in thinking can be traced to the 1992-97

Regional Strategy where recognition is given to the fact that for

some children residential care "is a positive and desirable way of

meeting their needs." The emphasis on assessment and placement

choice is now firmly established by the Children Order and the 1997-

2002 Regional Strategy.

The impact of major events

Residential child care has been the focus of considerable attention

and public inquiry over the past 50 years. The most influential

document is arguably the Report of the Care of Children Committee

(1946), (Cmd. 6922) most commonly referred to as the Curtis Report.

The remit of the Committee was:

"To enquire into existing methods of providing for children

who from loss of parents or from any cause whatever are

deprived of a normal home life with their own parents and

relatives, and to consider what further measures should be



taken to ensure that these children are brought up under

conditions best calculated to compensate them for the lack

of parental care".

Just as the Committee was established, the death of Denis O'Neill at

the hands of his foster carers was receiving extensive media coverage.

Once the trial of the foster carers ended, Walter Monckton was asked

to lead an inquiry into Denis' death. While the Curtis Committee was

asked to take account of Monckton's conclusions, its terms of

reference remained unaltered.

The Curtis Committee was the first inquiry in the United Kingdom

directed specifically to the care of children who were deprived of

normal home life and covered all groups of such children, excluding

those in penal or borstal situations. The Curtis Report laid the

foundation for a modern child care service. It proposed that each

child in care "should each be the personal concern of the new

children's officers and their staff - personally known to them and able

to rely on other known people for stable relationships and

consideration of their needs".

The Curtis Report is widely perceived as having been opposed to

children being in residential care. The report takes, however, a

balanced view of both the relative merits and demerits of residential

and foster care, as the following quote demonstrates:

"We should like to deal briefly with the principle that

(adoption apart) boarding-out should be regarded as the

ideal method of disposing of the children. We think this is

true where the home is in every way satisfactory and suited

to the particular child...But as soon as the foster home falls

below the entirely satisfactory standard, the institution - at

all events the institution based on the small family group -

begins to have advantages. ...Children undergoing several

changes of foster parents are often worse off than if they

had never been boarded-out at all" (P. 461).

In reaching its conclusions the Curtis Committee visited many

children's homes and foster homes. They found many children's



homes had remained "little changed since the nineteenth century,

either in buildings or organisation... Some were more up-to-date and

provided a relatively interesting and varied way of life for the

children". The Committee concluded by recommending that fostering

should be promoted as the next best alternative to adoption as a

means of providing children with the emotional satisfaction of a

family and links with the wider community. The result of Curtis in

practice was:

to develop boarding-out as a policy;

to promote the recruitment of foster parents;

to close larger children's homes; and

to reduce the amount of residential accommodation available to

children in care.

Other factors, which contributed to the misperception that Curtis was

opposed to residential care, were:

Dr John Bowlby's work in 1951 on "Maternal Care and Mental

Health", which was often misinterpreted as advocating that any

maternal figure was better than group care; and

the concerns expressed by the Parliamentary Select Committee on

Estimates at the rising cost of residential care, foster care was,

therefore, deemed a more appropriate and a cheaper option than

residential care.

The consequences of emphasising fostering on the development of

residential services for children cannot be over stated. As the Castle

Priory Report of 1968 noted:

"it is not surprising that residential work became the

"Cinderella" of the Child Care Service for a time and many

people engaged in it felt discouraged and despondent

about a future in which they appeared to be destined

always to be a second best method of care".



Practice, however, soon established that fostering was not a panacea

for all children. For older children and those, whose earlier life

experience meant that they were unable to be cared for by foster

carers, residential care began to be recognised as a "positive choice"

rather than a last resort. During the 1960s, the growing interest in

residential social work found expression in the Williams Committee

Report, "Caring for People" (1967). Its recommendations particularly

those concerning training were viewed as controversial and provoked

considerable discussion amongst residential social workers. Following

its publication a small representative group was established to study

the problems of residential work. The group met at Castle Priory

College during March 1968. It established the following over-arching


what sort of children are receiving residential care?

what is the nature of the professional task in residential

social work?

what sort of training should be provided for residential work

and is the present training appropriate?

what professional support and consultation are needed?

what standard of staffing ratio is necessary?

Castle Priory is best remembered for its work on establishing staffing

ratios for residential homes. It was, however, an important milestone

in recognising residential child care as a professional task, which is

different from the traditional concept of substitute parenting.

The public scandals surrounding residential care, which have come to

light in relation to the abuse of children have all had a dramatic

impact on the development of residential services for children. Recent

investigations in Great Britain, include:

"The Leicestershire Inquiry",1992;



"The Report of the Committee of Enquiry into Children and Young

People who Sexually Abuse Other Children" (NCH 1992);

"Choosing with Care: The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into

the Selection, Development and Management of Staff in

Children's Homes" (The Warner Report) (HMSO, 1992);_

The "Children's Safeguard Review" (SWS Inspectorate for Scotland

1997 (Kent Report);

"People Like Us: The Report of the Review of the Safeguards for

Children Living Away from Home" (Utting Report), (DoH 1997);


"Lost in Care" (Waterhouse Report), 2000.

All serve to underline the risks inherent in the group care of children

and the measures needed to protect and safeguard them.

Impact of the Kincora Inquiry

In Northern Ireland many of the remedial courses of action suggested

by recent inquiry reports in Great Britain, had been established

following the allegations of malpractice at Kincora Boys' Hostel,

Belfast. In 1980, when evidence of this malpractice came to light a

team from the Department of Health and Social Security in London

was established to provide advice on the supervision and

management of homes and hostels. The team's advice was contained

in the Sheridan Report (1982). The significance of this report stems

from its emphasis on:

the management, supervision, monitoring and inspection of

children's homes;

the recognition of the links required within the voluntary child

care sector and between it and the Boards;



the need for a complaints procedure for children in care and their


the need for effective recruitment and selection procedures for

residential workers;

the examination of residential child care within the context of all

child care services.

The development of a policy on complaints procedure for children in

care, owes much to the Sheridan Report. The Report also made a

highly significant contribution in terms of its impact on the

development of monitoring arrangements for children's homes and

the selection and vetting of residential staff.

Public interest in Kincora continued throughout the early 1980s and

in 1984 a Committee of Inquiry was established under the

Chairmanship of Judge William Hughes. The Committee considered

instances of homosexual offences and misconduct involving children

resident in 9 children's homes. The resultant report "Report of the

Committee of Inquiry into Children's Homes and Hostels" (HMSO

1986) made 56 recommendations. Many of these recommendations

endorsed the thinking of both the Sheridan and Black Reports. More

significantly, however, the Inquiry sought to enhance the standing

and qualification of residential workers by advocating:

parity of pay between residential staff and fieldwork social

workers, linked to professional qualifications and training

(Recommendation 6);

that all Officers in Charge should hold a social work qualification

and that a specific timetable should be established for the

professionalisation of the residential child care system

(Recommendation 9).

In 1991 the DHSS made available the resource to implement the

"Hughes 6 Recommendation", with the aim of achieving a fully

qualified residential child care workforce within a 5 year period. The

status and standing of residential social work was also addressed by



introducing pay parity between residential and field social workers

and by encouraging the development of an enhanced social work

role for suitably qualified residential social workers.

The implementation of the "Hughes 6 Recommendation" has

resulted in Northern Ireland having the highest level of training for

residential workers across the United Kingdom. The goal, however, of

a fully qualified workforce has still not been attained. Progress in

developing the enhanced role of residential social workers has also

been disappointingly slow. As noted in "Children Matter: A review of

residential child care services in Northern Ireland" (DHSS, 1998), the

full potential of Northern Ireland's highly qualified residential

workforce has not been realised. This is in part due to the lack of an

adequate supply of places and the absence of sufficient

differentiation of function within the current stock of homes.

The impact of the Sheridan and Hughes Reports on the development

of internal and external monitoring arrangements for residential

homes for children cannot be over-emphasised. Many of the

subsequent investigations in the rest of Great Britain, referred to

above, have demonstrated that the absence of robust monitoring

arrangements, particularly of an external nature has contributed to

the abuses of children remaining undetected for many years.

In the "Safeguarding Review" undertaken in Northern Ireland,

following the publication of the Utting and Kent Reports covering

the rest of the United Kingdom, listed above, the Chief Inspector,

Social Services Inspector, (SSI) indicated that the monitoring

arrangements in place in Northern Ireland were a significant

safeguard for children. He also underscored that there was the need

for ongoing vigilance and that there was no room for complacency if

children's wellbeing was to be safeguarded whenever they are cared

for away from home.

The scandals and inquiries which have become associated in the

public conscience with residential care have served to emphasise that

adults entrusted with the care of vulnerable children are capable of

physically and sexually abusing them and that children need ways to

have their concerns and complaints heard and heeded. In relation to



Kincora, as early as 1967, there were written allegations from 2

residents to the Belfast Welfare Authority alleging that they were

being abused by staff. These allegations appear to have been viewed

as malicious and were consequently dismissed. Over the next 13 years

there were repeated allegations and complaints; all were either

disregarded or unsubstantiated. The need for professional input into

the monitoring and management of children's homes is essential if

the culture and practice within them is to safeguard and promote the

well being of children.

The past 50 years have seen major social and professional changes all

of which has had an impact on children's services and residential care.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by

the United Kingdom government in 1991, affords children looked

after by the State "special protection" (Article 20). They also have

rights, which include family contact, provided it is not a risk to the

child, (Article 9), to have their circumstances regularly reviewed

(Article 25) and the right to be consulted (Article 12).

Inspection arrangements and service standards

In addition to establishing monitoring arrangements and a

complaints procedure for children in residential care, work was also

progressed to develop standards for the inspection and monitoring of

children's homes in Northern Ireland. In 1986 the Social Work

Advisory Group, now the Social Services Inspectorate, in collaboration

with the HSS Boards' Assistant Directors of Social Services (Family and

Child Care), agreed a comprehensive set of standards for residential

child care. This was the first time that an explicit statement of

practice and professional criteria had been issued. This paper was

comprehensively redrafted in 1992 "Quality Living: Standards for

Services: Children who live away from home". This standards

framework adopted a children's rights approach to the setting of

standards. An inspection framework document was formulated and

shared with Boards and voluntary children's homes. The standards

established have informed subsequent inspections. They were revised

and reissued in 1996 to take account of the changes associated with

the implementation of the Children Order.



The commencement of the Children Order in November 1996 resulted

in responsibility for the inspection of children's homes transferring

from SSI to the 4 HSS Boards' Registration and Inspection units. The

frequency of inspection was increased as a consequence of the

Children Order to 2 inspections each year one of which is


"Children Matter"

In June 1997 the Chief Inspector, SSI, was asked by the Health and

Social Services Committee of the DHSS to head a review of residential

child care. The background to the review was:

the rapid retraction of the voluntary residential sector, discussed in

more detail below;

the emergence of a range of difficulties within the residential

sector which suggested that control had been lost in some homes.

The report which emerged from the comprehensive review of

residential child care services, "Children Matter", included the

following findings:

there was an insufficient supply of places to enable placement


homes were generally configured as "general purpose" homes

and dealt with a range of children's needs which were at times


there was a need for more specialist facilities to enable children to

be placed in homes capable of meeting their assessed needs;

the current stock of children's homes were in the main large,

institutional type buildings which had had limited capital

investment in them and needed to be replaced or brought up to a

homely standard of finish; and



there were social, economic and practice issues which were likely

to combine to increase the demand for residential child care


The Department accepted the findings and conclusion of the

"Children Matter" report, its Action Plan and 31 recommendations.

Following publication of "Children Matter" in 1998, the 4 HSS Boards

produced their response, "Implementing Children Matter", which set

out a 5 year programme of specific capital developments designed to

redress the shortfalls and shortcomings evident within the residential

child care sector. Due to concerns regarding the expansion of

residential places, the Minister for HSSPS, established the "Children

Matter" Taskforce, July 2000, with the following terms of reference:

to confirm the total additional places (new and replacement)

needed in each Board area to meet the "Children Matter" agenda;

to agree an Action Plan for each Board which identified the

individual schemes needed to provide these places;

to explore new sources of funding and service provision;

to construct an overall Regional Plan to meet the requirements of

"Children Matter" targets, including the consequent resource

implications and staffing requirements; and

to monitor implementation of the Plan.

The contribution and changing role of the voluntary sector

The role of the churches and religious organisations in the provision

of homes for children in Northern Ireland was fully developed before

the State assumed a greater responsibility for the care of children.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1950 and its accompanying

statutory rules provided the context for the growth of statutory child

care facilities. The Welfare Authorities' Homes (No. 130) 1952

Regulations facilitated the growth of children's homes within the

statutory sector. Until then residential care in Northern Ireland was



largely provided by the voluntary sector, as illustrated at Table 6

above. Since the Children and Young Persons Act 1950 placed a duty

on welfare authorities to receive children into care whose parents

were unable or unfit to care for them the number of children in the

care of voluntary homes has reduced.

Until the Children and Young Persons Act 1950 came into force the

only authority for the inspection of voluntary homes was contained

in Section 25 of the Children Act 1908. Under the Children Act, the

Ministry had no power to require such homes to be registered nor

was there any means by which any Government Department could

intervene in the arrangements for the training, education, or aftercare

of children accommodated within them. In a few homes

effective after care and boarding-out schemes were in operation but

in the majority of homes improved standards of accommodation,

education and training were required. The Children and Young

Persons Act 1950, therefore, gave the Ministry of Home Affairs the

power to require the registration of all voluntary homes and to cause

them to be inspected. The Ministry was also empowered to make

regulations for the conduct of such homes and for securing the

welfare of children living within them. For this purpose, the Children

and Young Persons (Voluntary Homes) Regulations (NI) 1952, were

made. Conditions were also established to set a maximum size on the

number of children to be accommodated in children's homes.

The scale of voluntary provision and its relative position in relation to

statutory services is illustrated by the following statistics in Table 7.



Table 7 - Number of children in care 1947-59

The figure for 1959 shows the substantial proportion of children

cared for by welfare authorities, the scale of new provision in

relation to residential care and the commitment to having children

boarded-out (63 per cent of all children were boarded-out).

In 1960, 2.4 per 1,000 children were in care in Northern Ireland, lower

than for England and Wales (5.2 per 1,000) and Scotland (6.5 per

1,000). In the same year a report entitled, "The Operation of the

Social Services in relation to Child Welfare" (Child Welfare Council,

HMSO 1960), provided details on the considerable progress made in

relation to child care services since the implementation of the

Children and Young Persons Act 1950. It also noted that unlike the

children in statutory homes, children in voluntary homes, apart from

those operated by Dr Barnardos, were rarely boarded-out. Discussing

the future role of the voluntary sector it concluded that the number

of children in their care would continue to decline. It envisaged their

role as being involved in the long-term care of children where special

treatments were required or where boarding-out was inappropriate.

The Report also commented on the uneven development of child care

services across Northern Ireland and on the difference in pattern of

provision between welfare authorities and voluntary homes.



Voluntary organisations Welfare Authorities

Year Number Number

1947 1,000 501 (of whom 189 were in

workhouses or other

institutions, and the

remainder boarded-out)

1959 751 1,148 (of whom there were 728

boarded-out 226 in

welfare homes 158

maintained in voluntary

homes or on behalf of a

welfare authority)

Between 1963 and 1966 all voluntary homes were visited by a

committee, appointed to "consider and report upon the role in the

child care service of organisations providing voluntary homes within

the meaning of Section 98 of the Children and Young Persons Act (NI)

1950 and the principles adopted by such organisations in caring for

children and young people". ("Role of the Voluntary Home in the

Child Care Services" Report by the NI Child Welfare Council, 1966.)

In 1966 there were 20 voluntary homes, which were specifically

children's homes. Twelve of the homes were run by religious orders

of the Roman Catholic church; 3 were closely connected with the 3

main Protestant churches; 4, although not associated with any

particular denomination, had a strong religious background, and one

had a secular origin.

Voluntary organisations were able to make decisions regarding the

admission of children to their homes at the request of a parent. The

1966 Child Welfare Council Report found that such decisions were

not always taken "by someone who as well as knowing the

circumstances, is fully qualified to assess the relative merits of various

solutions". While recognising that the power to admit children

without reference to the statutory authorities was essential to the

ethos of voluntary homes and also ensured parental choice, the

Committee concluded that the practice "is likely to lead in the future

to serious difficulties unless allied with closer co-operation with

welfare authorities". The Committee noted that the 1956 Report

"Children in Care", (HMSO 1956, Paras 110-115) had suggested as a

means of improving co-ordination between voluntary homes and

welfare authorities that the former should seek the help of the latter

before admitting children. The 1966 Child Welfare Council Report

attributed the decline from 82.4 per cent to 71.5 per cent in

voluntary admissions to homes in the period between the two

committee reports as primarily due to the recommendations

contained in the 1956 "Children in Care" Report. The 1966 report,

further recommended that voluntary homes should either use the

services of welfare authorities or themselves employ qualified field

staff for the purpose of adequately assessing the decision to

accommodate a child.



The Child Welfare Council Report concluded that there was "an

increasing acceptance by the statutory bodies of their responsibilities

in the field of child care". This was evident by the increased numbers

of children both in voluntary homes maintained by welfare

authorities and the 1,195 children in the care of welfare authorities.

The report also noted that many more of the children in voluntary

homes than the 238 taken into care by the welfare authorities would

have become the responsibility of the authorities had application

been made to them in the first instance.

The Child Welfare Council Report examined the extent of boardingout

for the 694 children who were wholly the responsibility of

voluntary organisations. On 31 March 1965 only 16 per cent of such

children had been boarded-out, which differed significantly from the

welfare authorities' figures of 54 per cent of children in their care

being boarded-out. Only 5 of the 20 voluntary homes used boardingout

to any considerable extent and 2 of these used it primarily with a

view to adoption. The Committee drew attention to Section 101(2) of

the Children and Young Persons Act 1950, which empowered the

Ministry of Home Affairs to direct that a child in a voluntary home

shall be handed over to a welfare authority with a view to the child

being boarded-out. This power was never used and the Committee

recommended that voluntary homes should be encouraged to boardout

a larger proportion of children in their care.

The Committee in addition to concluding that boarding-out of

children was not promoted also commented on the inadequate

support provided to children after their final discharge from

children's homes. It recommended, therefore, "the appointment of a

qualified field worker to carry out these essential functions or where

this is not possible "full use should be made of welfare authority


The Report noted the value of voluntary homes and the increased

variety of services and their ability to cater for various age groups

and children of different religious backgrounds. It concluded that

provided voluntary homes offer services to a satisfactory level there is

"no reason why this relationship should not flourish". This Report in

many ways is central to the future role of the voluntary sector.



Essentially, it endorsed the increasing emphasis placed on statutory

provision first heralded in the Children and Young Persons Act 1950.

The terminology used in the Report demonstrated a view of the

voluntary sector as a complementary and reducing element within

the wider child care sector. The Report noted that:

"By working in co-operation with welfare authorities

addition to the financial security arising from regular

payments for children in care, voluntary homes can ensure

that they are participating in what should be a

comprehensive service and that they have access on a

regular and informal basis to facilities which they would

otherwise be unable to provide."

It was not until the early 1980s that the Report's prediction of a

reducing role for the voluntary sector was realised.

When the Report was being prepared, voluntary children's homes

were used to a greater extent for purely voluntary cases than in the

rest of the United Kingdom. The proportion of children maintained

by voluntary organisations in Northern Ireland on 31 March 1965 was

32 per cent of all children deprived of a "normal home". The

comparable position for England and Wales and Scotland was 17 per

cent and 15 per cent respectively. From 1966 on, it is possible to trace

the increasing role of the statutory authorities both for decisions to

admit children to care and for the funding of such placements.

The statutory bias in favour of fostering contained in the Children

and Young Persons Act 1968, further impacted upon the voluntary

residential sector as emphasis was placed on promoting the number

of children looked after in family situations. In policy terms this

legislative preference resulted in the DHSS Regional Strategies for

1987-92 and 1992-97 providing a framework, which resulted in the

further retraction of both the voluntary and statutory sectors'

residential child care provision. The twin emphasis on residential care

as a last resort and providing care in smaller homes placed

considerable pressure on the voluntary sector which traditionally had

provided care in large scale buildings for children with less complex

needs. The level of disturbance in children's behaviour also increased



within homes as a consequence of the rising threshold for admission

to residential care.

In addition to legislative and policy imperatives there were also the

wider scandals within the residential sector both in Northern Ireland

and the rest of the United Kingdom, which shattered public

confidence in group living and also inhibited providers from

remaining in what was perceived as a difficult and volatile

environment. The Kincora Inquiry, which has been discussed earlier,

was followed by the withdrawal of voluntary residential providers,

largely from the secular and Protestant church sector.

The Hughes Report sought to improve the quality of care provided to

children by raising the status and training of residential workers.

Recommendation 6 of the Report required that residential staff were

employed and qualified on terms and conditions comparable to their

field social work colleagues. The funding of the Hughes 6 staffing

recommendation was met by the DHSS with the aim of producing a

fully qualified residential social work workforce. To achieve this goal,

however, homes had to cope with large numbers of staff being

released for training purposes. In addition, qualified staff had more

job mobility than was previously the case and retention of them has

been a major issue for the sector. The cost of providing staff with

good terms and conditions has also significantly increased the costs of

residential care. The contracting difficulties, which subsequently arose

between voluntary providers and statutory commissioners, have been

cited as a significant reason for the ongoing retraction of the

voluntary sector.

Table 8 below shows the scale of withdrawal of the voluntary sector

during and following the "Kincora scandal" which first came to

public attention in January 1980.



Table 8 - Retraction of the voluntary sector since 1978

The "Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Children's Homes and

Hostels" (Hughes Report) was published in December 1985. Following

that date the main voluntary providers were the homes run by the

Religious Orders of the Roman Catholic church, with the Protestant

church sector only retaining minimal input through the Belfast

Central Mission. The scale of provision made by Barnardos also

substantially reduced during and following this period.

The above table also serves to illustrate the size differential between

voluntary and statutory providers. For example, during 1982 the

average number of children living in a voluntary home was 14

compared with 10 in statutory homes. "Children Matter" sets out in

its report the number of places available in both voluntary and

statutory children's homes at Appendix 1 Table 1. The figures show a

retraction between 1986 and 1997 from 31 to 15 homes in the

statutory sector with the number of places falling from 480 to 176

and in the voluntary sector a reduction from 12 to 6 homes with

capacity reducing from 208 places to 64 (1997). "Children Matter"

projected a further retraction within the voluntary sector in the

following 18 months suggesting that around 22 places would be

available from these providers in 1999-2000. This forecast proved

remarkably accurate, as fewer than 20 places were provided by one

church based voluntary provider, namely the Belfast Central Mission,

by 2000.



Year Voluntary Homes Statutory Homes % voluntary homes

(No. of children) (No. of children) (% children, vol.)

1966 24 (298) 22 (316) 52% (49%)

1970 24 (407) 23 (358) 51% (53%)

1974 24 (447) 29 (335) 45% (57%)

1978 23 (457) 32 (335) 42% (58%)

1982 25 (349) 35 (350) 42% (50%)

1986 12 (144) 31 (333) 30% (30%)

The past 50 years have, therefore, seen a virtual withdrawal of the

voluntary sector from the provision of residential care. Explanations

for this shift are complex and include:

changes in the legislative context and consequently the increasing

assumption of responsibility for children in need of care by the

statutory authorities;

the policy imperative in favour of providing for children in small

scale residential settings when historically the voluntary sector

comprised, in the main, large institutional buildings;

the statutory and policy bias in favour of fostering which resulted

in the retraction of the residential sector as a whole;

societal changes resulting in fewer applicants for the vocations

which largely removed the workforce from many of the homes

run by religious orders;

the requirement for a qualified workforce and the increase in

costs of residential care as a consequence of this policy;

the increasing public concern regarding the standard of care

provided to some children within residential homes and the

withdrawal of voluntary organizations as a result of well

publicised concerns about institutional child abuse; and

more complex contracting arrangements as a consequence of the

changed role of HSS Boards and Trusts.

The main achievements in residential care for children since 1950

1. Children's residential facilities have moved away from large

impersonal institutions to smaller, more homely settings.

2. There has been a widespread recognition that staff who work

with children in residential settings are performing a skilled and

valued role. This has resulted in a greater emphasis on their



support, training, status, and the terms and conditions of their

employment. In Northern Ireland post the Hughes Inquiry, this has

resulted in parity with Family and Child Care field social workers.

3. Increasingly residential care is not used to meet the needs of

younger children or as a long-term placement option for older

children who require experiences of family life.

4. There is increased recognition of its value as a service of choice for

some children rather than as a placement of "last resort". It is now

viewed as an integral part of the child welfare system.

5. There has been increasing recognition of children's vulnerability in

residential settings and consequently greater safeguards have been

devised in terms of staff vetting, monitoring arrangements,

standards setting, inspection, and the establishment of complaints

and representations procedures. In addition, a considerable body

of regulations and guidance has been developed under the

Children Order to assist with the operation of high quality

residential units.

6. There is an increased awareness of the diversity of children's

needs and consequently the need for a range of facilities within

the residential care sector to ensure that children's assessed needs

are met.

7. There is increased priority afforded to listening to the views of

children when decisions are being made about them.

The way ahead

"Children Matter" set out the shortfall in the existing stock of

children's homes and the likely consequences for children and the

operation of children's residential services if there is no expansion of

provision. The Report also argues for greater differentiation of

purpose for residential homes to enable children to be placed in

homes capable of meeting their assessed needs. This approach reflects

the changed legislative base for the provision of children's services.



The devolved administration, the Northern Ireland Legislative

Assembly, has taken an active interest in children's residential

services. The HSSPS Committee, which was established in November

1999, selected for its first Inquiry, children's services, which it

identified as a priority area for scrutiny. The subsequent report of the

HSSPS's, "Inquiry into Residential and Secure Accommodation for

Children in Northern Ireland" was published in December 2000. The

terms of reference of the Inquiry was:

"To investigate the current position with regard to

residential and secure accommodation for children in

Northern Ireland, and to make recommendations for


The Report found that "the severe shortage of places and suitable

accommodation contributes to a multitude of problems within the

residential sector and compounds the vulnerability of those children

most disadvantaged in our society". In the Assembly debate on the

Committee's Report all parties endorsed it and the Minister for

HSSPS, in her response congratulated the Committee on the

comprehensive nature of the report and undertook to consider each

of the 36 recommendations. The Minister also concurred with the

approach, which the Committee had taken in viewing residential

services as part of the spectrum of child welfare services rather than

in isolation. The priority afforded to the expansion of the number

and range of children's residential services is clearly evident from the

Northern Ireland Executive, the Minister and the HSSPS Committee.

Carrying forward the commitment into action is the task of the

"Children Matter" Taskforce through establishing Regional Plans to

address both the expansion of places and the creation of more

specialist residential services for children. Already the Phase 1 Report,

published in June 2001, has established targets to increase the

number of residential places by 77 and to replace 70 existing places.

The Taskforce's Phase 2 Report will take forward the development of

specialist residential services for children with a range of complex




The availability of a high proportion of qualified residential staff

provides Northern Ireland with a good base from which to expand

provision and to develop more specialist models of service for

children who require residential care. Although it will be a major

challenge to recruit and retain a significant increase in the workforce

to staff the large number of new homes in planning. The current

model of general-purpose homes has not the capacity to utilise staff

resources and skills to the level necessary to sustain morale and retain

staff within this workforce. There is a need to establish models of

service, which enable staff to operate to explicit statements of

purpose and function and to achieve good outcomes for children.

Residential care and foster care are not mutually exclusive options

rather they are integral parts of the child welfare system. The

successful functioning of each is linked closely to the health and well

being of the other.

There is a need for concerted effort if residential services are to

develop both to the number and type required and to be informed

by an ethos which views residential care as an essential part of the

child welfare system, accessed according to children's assessed needs,

rather than as a last resort. In 1950, welfare authorities were

encouraged to build and to commission children's homes to enable

the Poor Law provision to be ended for children. Now 50 years later

the Department is again asking the successors of welfare authorities,

HSS Boards and Trusts, to expand their provision. Early indications are

that the progress being made today is not at the pace of those

charged 50 years ago with this duty.








Development of the juvenile justice system - pre 1950

In order to understand the juvenile justice system as it was in 1950 it

is important to have an understanding of the key factors that

influenced its development. One of the most important of these was

the Lynn Committee, which was appointed in 1935. The Committee

recommended changes in the law regarding the protection and

welfare of the young and the treatment of young offenders. Its terms

of reference were influenced by many features that had been

introduced in England by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

The underpinning ideas of the 1933 Act, which have influenced the

juvenile justice system in Northern Ireland over a long period of time


that children coming before the courts should be dealt with

separately from adults;

that concern for their "welfare" should be a major factor in all

proceedings criminal or civil; and

an acknowledgement that the distinction between children who

offend and children who come from deprived backgrounds is

often an artificial one.

There was also a widely held view that supported the "treatment"

for young offenders in a residential setting. In practice this resulted in

residential sentences for child offenders for sometimes quite minor

offences which could last up to 3 years. They were seen as providing

the child with help and guidance that the child "needed." It is easy

to underestimate how radical this view of childhood actually was.

Readers of Oscar Wilde's collected letters may recollect how Wilde

wrote to the Times newspaper in support of a prison officer who was

dismissed for giving a young child a "sweet biscuit" because the child

was crying and found prison food too hard to digest. Between Oscar

Wilde's time in Reading jail in the 1890s and the 1933 Act something

radical had happened to the collective conscience of public policy

makers. There was a desire to be progressive and more "scientific" in

approach and a belief that this would be of benefit for the child and

the wider society. Since that time sentencing of child offenders has

been influenced by the movement between two ends of a

continuum, the need for treatment and the need to make sentences

proportionate to the seriousness of the offence committed.

The Lynn Committee examined the extent of "juvenile delinquency"

in Northern Ireland. It concluded that although there had been a rise

in indictable offences involving children and young people under 16

during the 1930s that the numbers of such offences committed by

young people in Northern Ireland was still relatively small. The

Committee also felt that there were important factors to be taken

into account in looking at the reasons for juvenile offending. These

included lack of parental responsibility, poor housing, lack of

employment and lack of recreational facilities. They also found that

there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate the effects of cinema

and dance halls on delinquency!

The Lynn Report was certainly as radical as the content of 1933

English legislation . The recommendations that showed advancement

in thinking in relation to juvenile offenders included:

the use of police "private warnings" (cautions) for child petty


the introduction of special qualifications for magistrates sitting in

juvenile court with a resident magistrate always present as


the belief that the jurisdiction and procedure of the juvenile court

should not be similar to an ordinary adult court and the court

should be "empowered to exercise...the widest powers of

guardianship and protection";

raising the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 8 years;

the provision of a special remand home for boys;



the view that imprisonment was unsuitable for juveniles even in

the case of very serious acts of delinquency;

reformatories and industrial schools should be combined into a

system of approved schools; and

after-care should be regarded as an essential part of the approved

school system.

The Committee gave consideration to whether whipping as a court

sentence should be abolished (the penalty was rarely used in

Northern Ireland) and decided that it should be retained but used

infrequently as they had no doubts that in most cases it had

damaging effects. In coming to this decision they were swayed by the

opinion of Sir Cyril Burt, the psychologist, who felt that in some cases,

involving the most vicious offenders, it could be useful.

The Lynn Committee recognised the value of supervision of young

offenders in the community. At that time there were just 10

probation officers in Northern Ireland, half of whom were based in

Belfast. Of the Belfast probation officers 3 were women. One other

remaining officer was employed as a court missionary and another

was employed by the Catholic Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. All

the officers were employed on a part time basis and needed another

form of occupation to support themselves. The scales of

remuneration were low even by the standards of the day. Caseloads

were high. A part time senior probation officer had a caseload of 70

and a part time probation officer had a caseload of 37. Pre-war

probation officers had a calling that was often based on religious

conviction, concerned especially with the evil effects of drink. The

cornerstone of their beliefs was that each offender had dignity,

worth and, above all, could be reformed.

The Lynn Report made significant recommendations regarding the

organisation, appointment, numbers, training and improved

remuneration of probation officers. It visualised a secular, public,

professional body that had outgrown its charitable origins and would

have a significant part to play in supervising child offenders. The

Committee had a vision of the future that moved the emphasis of the



service away from the moral improvement of offenders towards an

approach based on social science, especially psychology.

Developments 1950-onwards

There was no official or immediate Government response to the

recommendations of the Lynn Report but most of the

recommendations were enacted eventually. Developments in child

care had been overtaken by World War 2. After the war, however,

the Children and Young Persons Act (NI) 1950 was enacted.

It provided for:

the abolition of reformatory and industrial schools, which were

now to be referred to as training schools. Specific reference was

made to classifying such schools according to "the age of the

persons for whom they are intended, the religious persuasion of

such persons, the character of the education and training given

therein, their geographical position, or otherwise as it thinks best

calculated to secure that a person is sent to a school appropriate

to his needs";

raising the age of criminal responsibility to 8 years; and

the introduction of statutory rules, orders and regulations for

juvenile courts, the composition and duties of Boards of

Management of training schools and the appointment of suitable

people to undertake after-care duties for children on release.

The Committee's recommendations relating to probation were taken

forward in legislation in 1950. Although there had been a Probation

of Offenders Act dating back to 1907, the probation service did not

become full time until the Probation Act (Northern Ireland) 1950 was

enacted, establishing the legislative basis for the modern probation

service. Staffing was relatively slow to grow with only 14 full-time

officers and one part-time officer in post by 1955.

The 1950 Act enabled the court to make an offender the subject of a

probation order instead of passing sentence on him. This meant that



the order did not appear as a criminal conviction and as long as the

probationer complied with the conditions of the order he did not

have to return to the court for sentence. The probation order was

made for a period of between one and 3 years, during which time

the probationer had to agree to be supervised by a probation officer

and to receive visits at home. In more recent years the minimum

length of a probation order has been reduced to 6 months. Since the

co-operation of the offender was essential to the likely success of the

order, his or her consent was required before an order could be

made. The law required the probation officer to advise, assist and

befriend the probationer. It was hoped the offender could be

encouraged to desist from further offending.

The statutory basis of the service has expanded since the 1950s:

community service was introduced for adults in Northern Ireland

under the Treatment of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1976

and made available to 16 year olds under the Treatment of

Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1989. Community service

involves the offender being required to undertake unpaid work in

the community under the supervision of The Probation Board for

Northern Ireland (PBNI). As with a probation order the offender is

required to give consent to the making of a community service

order (CSO). The length of a CSO must not be for less than 40

hours and not more than 240 hours of unpaid work. The statutory

basis for community service orders is now set down under Articles

13 and 14 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1996

which repealed the relevant Articles in the Treatment of Offenders

(Northern Ireland) Order 1976;

additional requirements could be placed upon offenders by the

courts as part of a probation order under the Criminal Justice

(Northern Ireland) Order 1996 if the court considered them

necessary to secure the rehabilitation of the offender, protect the

public from harm or prevent the commission by him of further

offences. These included requirements to reside at a particular

place, to participate in designated activities, to attend a probation

day centre or undertake treatment for a drug or alcohol

dependency. An offender could also be required to undergo



medical treatment where a qualified medical practitioner

considered this to be necessary; and

a combination order was introduced as a high tariff community

sentence. It combined a probation order and a community service

order. The order could only be applied to a person over the age of

16. The length of such orders could be between 6 months and 3

years for the probation part combined with between 40 and 100

hours of community service.

The Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 introduced three

other important changes that affect child offenders.

the name of the juvenile court was changed to the youth court

with an expectation that, at some point in the future, the court

will deal with 17 year old offenders;

the social enquiry report (SER) that probation officers produce for

the courts to assist sentencers was replaced with the pre-sentence

report (PSR). The PSR is intended to be a more objective document

that focuses on the offence and addressing risks of re-offending

and of harm to the public; and

the probation order has now become a sentence of the court in its

own right. It is a community punishment, which can only be

passed when the offence for which an offender is being sentenced

is regarded by the court as "serious enough" to justify a

community penalty.

In the new legislation the purpose of the probation order, which in

the 1950 Act was given as being to "advise, assist and befriend", was

redefined as being for "securing the rehabilitation of the offender"

or " protecting the public from harm from him or preventing the

commission by him of further offences". There is an expectation that

lack of adherence by the offender to the conditions attaching to the

order will result in the offender being returned to court, when an

alternative sentence may be imposed.



Having commenced with a small group of officers with few having

any formal qualifications, the probation service has developed

substantially in the past 50 years to cope with the new legislative

requirements. The Probation Board (Northern Ireland) Order 1982

facilitated the creation of a new arms length management structure,

which has enabled the service to be run by a community based Board

of Management. The Probation Board today has a staff complement

of around 300, of whom, approximately, 200 work directly with

offenders or are service managers. All probation officers are qualified

social workers. The probation service now operates as a professional

service, which has been given a clearer function to provide

programmes for the supervision and assistance of offenders and to

help them prevent re-offending. It also seeks to protect the public

from harm.

A major report in 1979 by the Children and Young Persons Review

Group, chaired by the late Sir Harold Black, which had been

established to review legislation and services relating to the care and

treatment of children and young persons under the Children and

Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 and to consider, in

particular, the future administration of the probation service made

significant proposals for change in the arrangements for

management of juvenile offenders. Many of these have been

implemented over the past 20 years. One of its recommendations,

that training schools should be closed and replaced with a single

custodial establishment for young offenders, was not implemented at

the time. The training schools at Rathgael, St Patrick's, St Joseph's

and Whiteabbey remained in existence although the Rathgael and

Whiteabbey Schools were combined into one school for both girls

and boys on the Rathgael site. Lisnevin Training School was

established at Millisle, after a short period at Newtownards.

Custodial sentences, in the form of training school orders, have been

available to the juvenile courts since 1968 for children who commit

more serious offences or who are persistent in their offending. They

could also be made, until the implementation of the Children (NI)

Order 1995, for children who were found by the courts to be in need

of care, protection and control or children who persistently failed to

attend school. This led to substantial numbers of training school



orders being made in the 1970s and 1980s but these do not truly

reflect the number of juvenile offenders. Over recent years efforts

have been made to separate children who were sent to training

schools as being in need of care, protection and control from those

who were adjudicated offenders. This separation was formalised in

1995 when under the provisions of the Children (NI) Order 1995,

training schools were required to provide separate accommodation

for care and offender cases.

The training schools were not seen to be very effective in preventing

re-offending. A research study, Juvenile Offenders and Reconviction

in Northern Ireland, based on an analysis of all juveniles convicted of

an offence in 1991, found that 86 per cent of juveniles sentenced to a

training school order were re-convicted within 2 years of sentence.

Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Children) (NI) Order 1998

the training schools were replaced by juvenile justice centres in

February 1999 , using the existing training schools premises and staff.

Unlike the training school order, the new juvenile justice centre order

(JJC Order) is a determinate sentence that, in the majority of cases,

comprises 3 months in the juvenile justice centre followed by 3

months supervision in the community by a probation officer,

although the courts can make a JJC Order of 2 years duration in

serious cases. In such cases the maximum length of time spent in

custody is 12 months followed by 12 months supervision in the

community. Courts considering making a JJC Order must first have

regard to whether the offence meets the seriousness criteria set

down in the Criminal Justice(Northern Ireland) Order 1996. This is a

significant move from the treatment model of working with child

offenders towards a more explicitly criminal justice model. It is, in

part, a recognition that lengthy residential treatment for child

offenders has not worked and, in part, a recognition that the length

of time in custody should bear some relationship to the seriousness of

the offending involved. The emphasis in custodial centres now

focuses more directly on working with the child on his or her

offending behaviour, although other development needs are taken

into account.



The decline in numbers of young people receiving custodial sentences

has resulted in the closure of some of the existing secure

accommodation. Lisnevin Juvenile Justice Centre, which is located in

premises built on the design of a category C prison, has long been

considered unsuitable for children. Following a public consultation,

the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has recently determined that the

two remaining juvenile justice centres, which were housed in the

former training schools at Bangor and Millisle, are to be replaced by

a single, purpose built, juvenile justice centre. The principle objectives

of the new centre will be to challenge and reduce offending

behaviour through the provision of programmes to address such

behaviour, and to keep juvenile offenders in a safe and secure

environment. It will also be an objective of the new centre to seek to

assist the young people who are sent there to prepare constructively

for their return to the community.

With the introduction of the Children and Young Persons Act

(Northern Ireland) 1968 the age of criminal responsibility was raised

to 10 where it has since remained. The recent review of the criminal

justice system in Northern Ireland which was provided for in the

Belfast Agreement considered whether there should be any change

in the age of criminal responsibility. It concluded that the age of

criminal responsibility should remain at 10 years of age. However, it

also recommended that children aged between 10 - 13 inclusively,

who are found guilty of criminal offences and who require to be held

in custody, should not be sent to juvenile justice centres, but that

their accommodation needs should be provided for by the secure care


Trends in juvenile offending since 1950

It is difficult to establish with any degree of accuracy the amount of

crime committed by juveniles as a significant proportion of all crime

is not reported to the police and not all the crime that is reported is

cleared up. Therefore, official police crime statistics do not give an

accurate picture of the extent of juvenile crime, although they

may give some indication of trends.



Published figures show that, with the exception of a slight decrease

in the years between 1987 and 1990, there has been a continual

increase in the number of crimes recorded by the police over the past

50 years. It is likely that the numbers of crimes by juvenile offenders

has also increased during this period. Despite this, the number of

juveniles coming before the courts has reduced over the last 25 years

by approximately 65 per cent. It is known that most juvenile

offending is minor in nature and only a relatively small number of

juveniles persist in committing offences. Thus, over the past 25 years

increasing attention has been given to the diversion of child

offenders from the court system and alternative methods being used

to deal with children who offend.

Juvenile offenders coming before the courts now predominantly tend

to be those who are more persistent in their offending or who have

committed more serious offences. However, the SSI, in a recent

unpublished review of the operation of the Criminal Justice

(Children) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, found that, amongst those

entering juvenile justice centres on remand from the courts or

through short placements under the Police and Criminal Evidence

Act, there is an over representation of children coming from

residential children's homes. These children account for 20 per cent

of such placements.

One change that has had an impact on the number of juvenile

offenders coming before the courts, has been the establishment of

juvenile liaison bureaux to consider the cases of children who have

committed offences. The Black Committee Report recommended that

there should be an extension of police cautioning. The juvenile

liaison scheme has encouraged closer co-operation between agencies

such as probation, social services, education welfare and the police in

decisions about children who offend. The effect has been to divert

many child offenders away from the courts and for their cases to be

dealt with in other ways. In some cases a police caution is

administered; in others children and their families may be referred to

diversion projects or social services for continuing support. Research

data from cautioning schemes in England shows that 80 per cent of

children subject to a first formal caution do not re-offend.

Unfortunately although the juvenile liaison scheme has expanded



considerably, juvenile liaison bureaux are still not in place in all parts

of Northern Ireland. The best format for inter-agency co-operation

has, however, still to be determined. Over the past two years a

"children's panel" has been piloted in one HSS Trust area and its

progress has been subject to evaluation.

As part of a second caution or a caution for a serious offence children

are now sometimes encouraged to make reparation to their victims

through a process of restorative justice and staff from the core

agencies have been trained in the Thames Valley model of restorative

cautioning although the victims rarely attend. Indications from

England are that restorative schemes are not easy to establish but

they can enable justice to take place more swiftly so that it is more

real and meaningful to the child and can also be of benefit to the


Figures for 1999-2000 show that there were 12,323 cases referred to

the juvenile liaison scheme. Of these, only 5 per cent (643) were

referred to the courts for prosecution. The other cases were dealt

with by advice and warning (60 per cent), or by official caution (11

per cent). The remaining 24 per cent involved no further action.

One of the more common offences for which juveniles appear before

the courts is that of criminal damage. Burglary and robbery offences

by juveniles have reduced substantially since they peaked in the early

1980s. Motoring offences by juveniles brought before the courts have

fallen substantially since the 1970s and sexual and violent offences

have consistently represented a small proportion of offences

committed by juveniles. Some offences reflect changes that have

taken place in society over the past 50 years. Drug offences, which

currently represent a very small number of the total cases coming

before the courts, and joy riding are offences which were virtually

unknown 50 years ago.

Trends in sentencing juvenile offenders

For most of the 20th century children who offend were given a

special status under the criminal law. Since the Children Act 1908,

magistrates courts dealing with children under 16 were required to



deal with them separately from adult offenders by sitting at a

separate place or at a different time. The juvenile court dealt both

with those children who were in need of care and protection and

those who had committed criminal offences. The 1968 Act in

Northern Ireland raised the age for separation of children from adults

in criminal proceedings to include 16 year olds.

In recent years there has been an interest in developing new

community based approaches to dealing with youth offenders. Apart

from the new community sentences referred to earlier, courts were

empowered to make attendance centre orders under the provisions

of the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968. The

first attendance centre was established in Belfast in 1970. An

attendance centre order requires a child to attend a centre for a

period of between 12 and 14 hours, spread over a number of weeks.

There is provision for the duration to be less than 12 hours in certain

circumstances for children under 14. The attendance centre order in

Northern Ireland is taken as an opportunity to carry out a piece of

focused work with the child in order to address his or her offending

behaviour. This involves the use of an accredited centre with trained

staff. There was, however, only one attendance centre in Northern

Ireland for 30 years, which limited the availability of the sentence to

those within the greater Belfast area and consequently attendance

centre orders have only ever represented a small percentage of the

overall sentences for juveniles in Northern Ireland. More recently

efforts have been made to extend the provision to other parts of the


The main sentencing trends until 1998 were as follows:

the use of fines for juvenile crime which has declined over the

years, in part, because the fine often had to be paid by parents,

particularly in the case of younger children. The use of the fine for

juvenile offenders has now reduced substantially from 35 per cent

of all disposals in 1970 to approximately 10 per cent in 1998;

absolute discharge which is used only in a very small percentage of

cases. Courts have also made use of conditional discharges for a

substantial proportion of juvenile offenders. Over the past 30



years the percentage of cases given a conditional discharge has

varied between 22 and 28 per cent. Although, as the children who

appear before courts nowadays tend to be more serious or

persistent offenders it can be anticipated that the use by the courts

of absolute and conditional discharge will diminish in future;

probation orders have consistently represented between a quarter

and a third of the outcomes for juvenile offenders over recent


since 1990 more use has been made of the community service

order for juveniles but overall it represents only about 3 per cent

of all disposals for juvenile offenders;

the number of training school orders had been falling over the

past 20 years. Numbers of training school orders fell from 267 in

1986 to 140 in 1997. With the separation of juvenile offenders

from those young people requiring care, the population of the

training schools declined considerably. In 1997 there were 69

training school orders made. This fell to 52 the following year.

During this time the average number of children in residence was

88. Since the commencement of the new shorter juvenile justice

order the number of direct committals was 73 (1999) and 76 (2000)

with an average number of children in residence of 29; and

the JJC Order is intended for only the most serious and persistent

juvenile offenders. The number of children who have been made

subject to JJC Orders, which have been available to the courts since

February 1999, has been relatively small. Fifty-one JJC Orders were

made over the first 9 months since the introduction of the new

order. The court can also make a young offender centre order in

respect of a 17 year old where it considers a custodial sentence to

be necessary. Between 20 and 50 such orders are made annually,

representing 3-6 per cent of all juvenile/youth court disposals for

juveniles in Northern Ireland. Young Offenders Centres are part of

the prison system. It is anticipated that when the new purpose

built juvenile justice centre is built there will be no need for

children under 17 years of age to enter the prison system.



Under the provisions of Part IV of the Children (NI) Order 1995 there

is now a general duty placed on each HSS Trust to safeguard and

promote the welfare of children within its area, who are in need.

Each authority is required to take reasonable steps designed to

reduce the need to bring criminal proceedings against such children,

to encourage children within its area not to commit criminal offences

and to avoid the need for children within its area to be placed in

secure accommodation.

These requirements are broad in scope and have led to variation in

the emphasis placed on work with child offenders across Board and

Trust areas and in the resources devoted to it. Agreed targets and

standards for the use of diversionary strategies by agencies concerned

with juvenile justice are a necessity to move this area of work further

forward. A clearer framework is needed to ensure that, working in

close co-operation with others, social services can make a real

contribution to the prevention of delinquency by children.

The emphasis in the past on early and prolonged residential

treatment of juvenile offenders has not been particularly successful.

In the past five years there has been greater emphasis on providing a

wider range of alternatives for dealing with children who offend

with custodial sentences used as a last alternative for only the most

serious offences. There are examples of good practice in preventive

work being undertaken by agencies such as Extern, Northern Ireland

Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) and

Whitefield in close collaboration with social services. Whitefield is

managed by the Juvenile Justice Board, and has 16 projects largely in

the Eastern areas of the country.

The main achievements in juvenile justice since 1950

1. There is widespread recognition that juvenile offending should be

considered within the context of the social circumstances of the

young person concerned.

2. The age of criminal responsibility has increased from 7 to 10.



3. Working with young offenders requires the involvement and cooperation

of a number of agencies - statutory and voluntary.

Multi-agency working has developed especially over the past 10


4. Although the emphasis for most of the last 50 years has been on a

welfare/treatment approach, this has recently changed towards an

approach where the length of custodial intervention is in

proportion to the seriousness of the crime.

5. There has been a considerable interest in alternatives to custodial

care. Community based initiatives have been successfully


6. The introduction of restorative justice schemes is seen as an

important development in helping not just the young offender

but also the victim.

The way ahead

Northern Ireland has so far been spared the moral panic that has

occurred in England and Wales, which has led to a rapid increase in

legislation. While there is no room for complacency, especially with

regard to the use of drugs and violent assaults among young people,

sentencing statistics show a falling number of young people coming

before the courts since the 1970s and the most common crimes

committed by young people are linked to property.

A strength of juvenile justice services in Northern Ireland during this

period has been a willingness to innovate and experiment and this is

continuing with the development of diversionary services, mentoring

schemes and restorative justice projects.

In terms of lessons that can be learnt the undernoted are recorded:

the former training school system was expensive, it incarcerated

children for long periods of time often for relatively petty offences

and was ineffective in reducing re-offending;



there is a need to develop an inclusive form of training for

residential and field child care staff and juvenile justice workers so

that the juvenile justice centre is not isolated from the

mainstream. Well-qualified staff can be attracted and retained and

there is movement between the field and the centre;

the provision of services for child offenders across Northern

Ireland has been inconsistent. Examples of this include the

inconsistent coverage of juvenile liaison bureaux and a lack of

cohesion in children's services planning for children in conflict with

the law. This demonstrates the need for Government to take more

of a leadership and co-ordinating role. It is likely that this will

happen through the forthcoming juvenile justice agency;

work with child offenders has been insufficiently evidence led.

There has been a lack of research and practice based knowledge

on working effectively with child offenders has not sufficiently

developed. The NIO's paper, Juvenile Offenders and Reconviction

in Northern Ireland, showed reconviction rates for community

service of 71 per cent, for probation orders of 80 per cent and for

attendance centres of 89 per cent;

there is need to ensure that there is total commitment to interagency

co-operation from the commencement of a JJC Order for

each young person. This should cover the assessment of need and

of risk and include the planning for and delivery of programmes

that tackle offending behaviour;

there has been insufficient emphasis on engaging directly with the

family of the child offender at an early stage, and subsequently, in

order to help the family develop skills to deal with their child's

offending behaviour;

the establishment of a bail support scheme would further reduce

the number entering juvenile justice centres on remand.

Identifying alternative residential care and fostering for those who

cannot remain at home while awaiting a court hearing would also

help to keep out of custody children who do not need to be



remanded or placed in a secure unit under the provisions of the

Police and Criminal Evidence Act; and

children who are offenders have too often been excluded from

mainstream services in education and training and, while there are

exceptions to this, the quality of services that they have been

given have not been of adequate standard to help the child

reintegrate. There has been insufficient focus on the issue of

school exclusion. A scheme of school based conferencing has

recently been introduced on a pilot basis by Barnardos, working in

partnership with the Southern Education and Library Board, aimed

at intervening before the suspension of a pupil takes place.

The report of the Criminal Justice Review offers an opportunity to set

in place good multi-agency standards for police, probation, social

services, the juvenile justice centre and other agencies so that they

can work together in a joined up and effective way. To be effective

this will require publicly published standards, key performance

measures and engagement with sentencers. The review group also

considered that restorative justice might be particularly useful in

dealing with juvenile offenders without a long history of criminality

but whose offending was a matter of real concern to local

communities. Restorative justice is an approach to dealing with harms

created by crime which views such problems as a breakdown in

relationships and seeks to repair those relationships. It tries to

balance the rights and interests of offenders, victims and the

community. Rather than by dealing with them as a violation of the

law where the offender must be punished, restorative justice focuses

on the harm that the crime does to the victim, to the community and

also to the offender. The aim is to repair the damaged relationship

which may be at the root of criminal behaviour and which will have

been further damaged by that behaviour.

The review group has recommended the development of restorative

justice approaches for juvenile offenders and that a restorative justice

approach should be integrated into the juvenile justice system in

Northern Ireland. While the review group recommended that a court

based youth conferencing scheme should operate on the basis of

court referrals it has also acknowledged that pre-court conferences



could also be developed as part of a diversionary strategy. The

emphasis on restorative justice offers an opportunity for a new and

additional approach to dealing with juveniles who offend as we

enter the 21st century.





Described on occasions as 'the forgotten children', it is only in

relatively recent times that the social care spotlight has begun to

focus on children who have a disability. Baldwin and Carlisle (1994)

point out that the need to develop publicly funded care for disabled

children living with their families was not recognised by statutory

authorities until the early 1970s - indeed 'children with disabilities

have been excluded from mainstream child care policy for most of

this century'.

Yet the numbers of disabled children are significant. A prevalence

study carried out in 1992 by the Government's Policy Planning and

Research Unit estimated that 14,600 children in Northern Ireland

were disabled (PPRU, 1992). This represents a rate of 35 per thousand

children. The number of children estimated to have disabilities in the

highest severity category was 2,600, the equivalent of 6 per thousand

children in the population. The lowest severity category was

estimated to include some 3,300 children, representing a rate of 8 per

thousand children. Some form of disability therefore affects many

children in Northern Ireland.

It would be difficult to trace the development of social care services

for disabled children in isolation from advancements in education

and the health services. Their histories are intertwined. Long stay

hospitals and special residential schools in the past provided a form

of institutional care for disabled children. Indeed, most of the

residential homes for the disabled established by voluntary bodies in

the early years of the Victorian era and well into the 1970s provided

an element of medical treatment and education. As educational and

medical services became community based and more severely

disabled children were able to be cared for at home, statutory

welfare services faced the challenge of developing effective

community support services and this remains the challenge for today.




Services for disabled children prior to 1950

In the pre-war period many physically and sensory disabled children

were in the care of charitable institutions. Children in these

institutions were taught trades, particularly shoe making, shoe

mending and tailoring. On reaching school leaving age they often

went into sheltered employment. Evason et al (1976) note that prior

to the inception of the welfare state, the education authorities had

done little for disabled children. This was generally true of all the

statutory authorities. There is a complex pre-war history associated

with the contribution of voluntary organisations to the health, social

care and education of disabled children. Most of this history still

remains in the archive records of pre-Victorian institutions and

charitable bodies. A few examples are noted here:

the 'Cripples Institute' (now the Northern Ireland Institute for the

Disabled) founded in 1878 had by 1904 established 2 residential

homes with schools, each catering for 50 disabled children. At one

stage, orthopaedic surgery was carried out on site. One of the

homes, originally 'The Mrs Stuart Memorial Home' in Bangor, was

formally recognised as an educational establishment in 1957 and

continued as a residential school until 1983, when it was closed

due to diminishing needs for disabled children to receive

education away from home;

in 1836, a committee of interested individuals formed the Ulster

Society for Promoting the Education of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb

and opened a small school for deaf children with 'a small dwelling

house' for children from outside the city. This work was the

forerunner to the establishment of the Ulster Institution for the

Deaf and Dumb and the Blind which by 1843 had 100 boarding

pupils. There were rigorous regimes in the school and only one

month's 'vacation' period was allowed when pupils could return

to their own homes (Hailes, 1989).

In the early 1940s there was no institution to cater specifically for the

needs of adults or children who were 'mentally handicapped.' In

practice, 'most mentally defective children went to ordinary schools

or stayed in their own homes.' (Caul and Herron, 1992).



In the absence of a full and readily accessible historical record of the

residential and other support services offered by voluntary

organisations, it is impossible to map the general provision that

existed for disabled children prior to the inception of the welfare

state. Statutory welfare provision developed within legislation that

brought children and adults together in the use of the term,

'disabled persons.' Even by the early 1950s post war period in

Northern Ireland, however, statutory welfare services aimed

specifically at disabled children were almost non-existent.

Welfare policy and legislation

It was health legislation, rather than welfare law that first enabled

the provision of help at home for families with a disabled child. The

Health Services Act (NI) 1948 provided for a health authority to make

arrangements for domestic help where 'such help was required

owing to the presence of any person who is ill, lying in, an expectant

mother, mentally defective child, or a child not over compulsory

school age.' The 1949 Welfare Services Act (NI) which followed was

the first important welfare legislation to address the needs of people

with disabilities. The introduction to the Act stated that it was an Act


'substitute for the existing Poor Law relating to workhouse

accommodation and relief, requiring welfare authorities to

provide residential and other accommodation for certain

persons in need thereof ... to provide for the disposal of

workhouse property; to make further provision for the

welfare of handicapped and aged persons'.

'Handicapped' groups were defined as persons who were ' blind, deaf

or dumb and other persons who are substantially handicapped by

illness, injury or other congenital deformity or other such disabilities

as may be prescribed and whose handicap is of a permanent and

lasting nature'. Examples of the assistance that could be given were:

informing those eligible of services available to them;



giving instruction at home and elsewhere in methods of

overcoming disability;

providing recreational facilities and the compilation and

maintenance of Registers of Handicapped Persons; and

domestic help, but only for the handicapped.

The 1948 Act further provided that authorities could assist voluntary

bodies in the provision of services covered by the Act and voluntary

organisations that were providing meals or recreation for the aged

and handicapped.

The powers of health authorities to provide domestic help were

repealed by the 1954 Welfare Services Act (NI) and transferred to

local welfare authorities who assumed full responsibility for the

'home help' service as it came to be known. The 1954 Act brought

within the scope of welfare authorities the authority to provide

domestic help for any household for which help was needed by

reason of, inter alia, the presence of persons who essentially fell

within the definition of the 'handicapped' groups identified above.

No further changes were made until the Welfare Services

(Amendment) Act (NI) 1961 added the provision of meals to the

services that welfare authorities could offer directly to the


In 1971, the Welfare Services Act (NI) created a duty on each welfare

authority to 'ascertain the number of persons who in its area stand in

need ... of the several services which it is the function of the welfare

authority to provide' and gave welfare authorities general powers to

promote the welfare of the disabled, including the mentally

disordered, but little changed in the examples of services that could

be provided.

The above welfare enactments were repealed in the 1972 Health and

Personal Social Services Order for Northern Ireland. This imposed a

general duty on the Ministry (subsequently the DHSS now the

DHSSPS) to provide or secure the provision of personal social services



in Northern Ireland designed to promote the welfare of the people

of Northern Ireland. There is no specific mention of disability in the


The next legislation to address the needs of disabled people was the

Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978 which made it a

mandatory function of HSS Boards to ensure that they were

adequately informed of the numbers and needs of handicapped

persons in their area. The Act required Boards to publish information,

make arrangements for social services to meet the needs of disabled

people, including practical assistance in the home, transport

arrangements, home adaptations, holidays and help obtaining a

telephone. This was amended by the Disabled Person's Act (NI) 1989

which further required Boards to identify the needs of school leavers

with disabilities and provide appropriate services. The Disabled

Persons Act gave people with disabilities rights to representation,

assessment, information and counselling. The Act also gave carers of

disabled people the right to an assessment of their ability to care to

be taken into account and the right to ask for an assessment of the

needs of the disabled person.

Strictly not a welfare provision, but with important implications for

the provision of social care services, the Disability Discrimination Act

1995 stated that disabled people must not be discriminated against

by those providing goods, facilities or services. A failure by a Trust to

provide a service to disabled children could therefore be considered

to be discriminatory.

The Carers and Direct Payments Act (NI) 2001 which is about to be

implemented gives HSS Boards and Trusts the power to make direct

payments to people with parental responsibility for disabled children

so that the child can access mainstream services and leisure activities.

The Act also extends direct payments to 16 and 17 year old disabled

children where they intend to leave home to go into further or

higher education. Children and their families now have an enhanced

choice of services and for the first time, autonomy in choosing the

type of service they wish to receive.



Thus, until the introduction of the Carers and Direct Payments Act

(NI) 2001, the needs of children with disabilities historically have been

subsumed in welfare legislation aimed primarily at adults. This may

well have influenced the way welfare services were delivered to

disabled children. Even at the point in the mid 1980s when social

services developed programmes of care, services for children with

disabilities were, with only few exceptions, delivered within the adult


Social Security Benefits and the Family Fund

Many families who have a disabled child suffer financial hardships -

historically disability and poverty have gone hand in hand.

Furthermore, research has consistently demonstrated that the

transparent and hidden costs of caring for a disabled child are

substantially greater than those for able-bodied children.

No extra financial assistance was available for children with

disabilities until Attendance Allowance was introduced in 1971. In its

early days, however, the eligibility criteria for attendance allowance

effectively excluded many disabled children. In 1972, following the

immense publicity surrounding the birth of children damaged by

Thalidomide, the Government announced the establishment of a

Family Fund to help parents 'shoulder the various burdens entailed in

caring for very severely congenitally handicapped children'. It was to

be administered by the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust. A

publication in 1976 detailing its activities showed that 1,691

applicants had received grants in Northern Ireland. The Fund


'Health and Social Services Boards have responsibilities to

provide aids and adaptations and to provide social work

services. The variability in the level and type of provision in

different areas is well known but the services provided for

families with handicapped children appear to be generally

miniscule and a quarter of families applying to the Family

Fund are actually not known by their social services

department. As far as we can tell, very few of those that



are known are receiving either casework support or even

routine review visits. I am afraid that the view one gets of

the personal social services from the perspective of the

families is very bleak indeed; anger and frustration that has

wilted with experience to a weary resignation that "they

cannot help you".

Whilst the type of grant made available has changed over the years,

the Family Fund still operates here and mainly supports families by

assisting them with holidays and white goods. The DHSSPS continues

to finance it as part of a national agreement with the other 3 United

Kingdom regions. In the year 2001-2002, some 1.4 million was

allocated in support of the Family Fund.

In 1977 the Mobility Allowance which had formerly been paid to

eligible people aged 15 - 50 years who were unable or virtually

unable to walk, was extended to cover children aged 5 - 15 years and

in later years to children from the age of 2 years. More recently,

further developments in social security benefits to support children

and their families have made a significant impact, such as:

the extension of attendance allowance to children under 2 years

and to children with a terminal illness without a 6 months 'waiting


the amalgamation of attendance and mobility allowances into the

Disability Living Allowance;

the extension of Invalid Care Allowance to married women;

the creation of Carer's Premiums on Income Support; and

the Social Fund, which can help 'families under exceptional stress'.

Social security benefits provide an important context for the delivery

of social care services because of their direct impact on the living

standards of disabled children and their families.



Education legislation and schooling for disabled children

At the inception of the welfare state, the pressures of caring for a

severely disabled child at home already had for many years been

compounded by a lack of suitable education facilities. Children whose

disability prevented them from attending mainstream schooling

would have found it almost impossible to find a local school, unless

they lived in the Belfast area.

The 1947 Education Act (NI) required education authorities to have

particular regard 'to the need for securing that provision is made for

pupils who suffer from any disability of body or mind by providing,

either in special schools or otherwise, special education treatment

appropriate for persons suffering from that disability.' In December

1947, there were only 11 special schools in Northern Ireland of which

5 were under voluntary management and 2 were hospital based. The

597 pupils in these schools were categorised as: blind, deaf, physically

handicapped, delicate and Educationally Sub Normal (ESN). Provision

was concentrated in Belfast. Some of the better known residential

schools for disabled children in Northern Ireland were established

during the 1950s and 1960s but, as noted above, their roots go much

further back.

After many advances in the education of children with sensory

difficulties, the Ulster Society for the Deaf Dumb and Blind purchased

land at Jordanstown Co Antrim in 1953 to establish the Jordanstown

School for children with sight and hearing impairments, which is still

operating today.

The Northern Ireland Council for Orthopaedic Development (NICOD,

now the Cedar Foundation) founded Malcolm Sinclair House in 1953

as a clinic for 25 children, mainly with cerebral palsy. This later

became a nursery school with treatment for the very young. By 1955

there were concerns about problems of 'educability and

employability' of disabled children and NICOD opened Mitchell House

School in 1961. By 1965 the school had 26 residents and 14 day

pupils. The Belfast Education and Library Committee, heavily

influenced by the work of NICOD had made a special class available

in Mountcollyer School in 1956 for children with cerebral palsy and



other conditions. This became the current Fleming Fulton School,

which when it first opened enrolled children from 5 yrs to school

leaving age and provided residential accommodation for pupils from

outside Belfast. In 1971 NICOD handed over responsibility for its

schools to the Department of Education.

The Health Services (NI) Act 1948 had introduced a duty on the

Ministry of Health with regard to the ascertainment and treatment of

mental deficiency and the care, supervision, training and occupation

of mental defectives. The Mental Health Act (NI) 1948 gave the

Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority responsibility for all mental

health services, including services for 'persons requiring special care' -

a more acceptable term for children and adults whom legislation had

formerly described as 'mental defectives', 'imbeciles' etc.

Under the Mental Health Act (NI) 1961, medical practitioners or

health authorities were required to refer to the education authorities

any child between the age of 2 years and under the compulsory

school leaving age who was felt to be in need of special care. The

Education and Library Board in turn was to notify the health

authority if the child was found to be 'uneducable'. Parents could be

compelled to send children to training centres where it appeared this

was necessary. A number of special care schools and training centres

were established which, after the restructuring of health and welfare

services in 1972 became the responsibility of the newly created

Health and Social Services Boards.

From the implementation of the 1947 Education (NI) Act to 1970

several amendments and miscellaneous provisions followed and the

1947 legislation was repealed in 1972 by the Education and Libraries

(NI) Act which introduced significant administrative changes. The

basis of educational development in Northern Ireland until the mid

1970s effectively was the 1947 Act. (Evason et al, 1976). A number of

disabled children from Northern Ireland were sent to special schools

in the South of Ireland and in England. In some cases, welfare

authorities paid for young disabled school leavers to attend

rehabilitation courses in England.



The most radical reforms, however, to have had an impact on the

education of disabled children were introduced in the 1980s and

1990s. The Education (NI) Act 1981 and the Education Order 1986

committed the Government to the integrated education of all

children. The Order imposed a duty on Education and Library Boards

to promote the education of children with special needs in ordinary

schools alongside other children, no matter how severe a child's

disability, subject to certain conditions. It introduced arrangements

for assessing a child's special educational needs and making a

'Statement' of how these would be met. In 1987, responsibility for

the education of children in 'special care' schools passed from HSS

Boards to Education and Library Boards.

The 1989 Education Reform (NI) Order established the Northern

Ireland Curriculum and applied it 'with such modifications as may be

specified in the Statement' to children with special educational

needs. The Disabled Persons (NI) Act (referred to above) and

introduced in the same year, required Education and Library Boards

to seek information from HSS Boards on the first assessment after the

child's 14th birthday as to whether a child with a statement is

disabled and to notify them between 8 and 12 months before a child

under 19 years is due to cease full time education. This should assist

in addressing some of the problems that disabled young people can

experience in the transitional period from child to adulthood, when

after leaving school many suffer from social isolation, a lack of self

confidence, self esteem and have difficulty in finding and keeping a

job (Hirst and Baldwin, 1994).

Finally, the Education (NI) Order 1996 and its associated Code of

Practice created more rights of appeal by parents against decisions on

assessments and statements. The Code of Practice which came into

effect in 1998, gives detailed practical guidance to schools and

Educational and Library Boards on how to identify, assess, record,

meet and review special educational needs (Titterington, 1999).

In terms of their integration into ordinary schooling, disabled

children have come a long way in the 50 years under consideration. A

survey of disabled children carried out in 1994 by the Government's

Policy, Planning and Research Unit (PPRU, 1995) showed that 95 per



cent of children who fell within the least severe category of disability

were attending an ordinary class in an ordinary school. By contrast,

however, only 25 per cent of children in the most severe category

attended an ordinary class. Sixty-seven per cent of this group were in

special education, which included a special school or a special

class/unit or remedial class/group of an ordinary school.

Whilst a significant number of the more severely disabled children

are the subjects of special educational arrangements, it is evident

that there have been important developments in educational

provision over the 50 year period. Residential and day institutions

that by the early years of this period had been well established by

charitable organisations were the key providers of social care,

education and medical treatment for children. Although the duties

imposed on welfare authorities at that time in respect of disabled

children were minimal, this charitable provision had the effect of

relieving welfare services of the care of a large number of the most

severely disabled children within their own families.

Until the 1970s the medical model of education predominated with

an emphasis on 'illness'. At its most simplistic level, the purpose of

education was to provide 'cures' or 'educational therapies'. This was

typified by the numbers of children in long stay hospitals, specialist

institutional care with treatment and training on site - indeed, some

institutions in the early days had their own operating theatres - or in

residential schools which provided specialist therapies.

By the 1980s the medical model had come under much criticism for

focusing on the disability rather than on the impact of the

educational provision on the pupil's learning. Sebba and Sachdev,

1997 note that a more interactive approach developed in which the

child's difficulty was seen to arise from a mismatch between the

characteristics of the child and the organisational aspects of

provision. The responsibility for the difficulties shifted from the child

and the parents to the school. The school needed to provide

sufficient support to enable the child to cope with the demands of

schooling or to modify the demands to enable the child to do so.



More recently alternative perspectives have been presented in which

disabilities are acknowledged and support and adaptations provided.

The presence of disabled children who experience difficulties with the

organisational arrangements of the school is seen as an opportunity

to consider and address limitations in current provision. In this sense

'special educational needs' can be seen as a vehicle for whole school

improvement (Sebba and Sachdev, 1997).

A few special 'education with treatment' schools remain. However, a

number of factors are now serving to promote more formal

structures of support to disabled children and enabling preparation

for further education, training or occupational life in an

unprecedented way, including:

the inclusion of many disabled children within ordinary schools

and greater accessibility of locally based special schools;

the requirement for joint assessment by HSS and Education and

Library Boards of children who have a statement of special

educational need; and

the impending introduction of direct payments to young people

aged 16 and 17 years.

One of the newer challenges for both education and social services is

to ensure that all disabled children have access to high quality preschool

and nursery provision from which they have been excluded in

the past. Such initiatives are now being developed with a view to

mainstreaming disabled children within ordinary pre-school provision.

The development of health services for disabled children

The PPRU study, 'Disabled Children in Northern Ireland' (PPRU, 1995)

demonstrated that health services provide the core services for

disabled children. Whilst 75 per cent of the children surveyed were in

regular contact with medical consultants, only 13 per cent were

receiving social care services at home and of these, over a quarter, 28

per cent reported that they were not visited by a social worker.



Sixteen percent of parents said that there were services that their

child needed but was not getting - these were usually social care or

nursing services. There is clearly scope for greater development of the

role of social workers within health care teams.

It would be impossible to catalogue the full history and development

of health services for children with disabilities. Some of the accounts

presented in this section serve to illustrate the growth of community

based health services and the potential for social workers to become

fully integrated as part of the multi-disciplinary team.

Development of services for children with physical disabilities and

chronic or life limiting illnesses

Patterns of disease have changed dramatically since 1947.

Poliomyelitis and tuberculosis of the bones and joints were the two

main crippling diseases at that time. The advent of a vaccine to

eradicate polio and drugs to cure tuberculosis had by the 1950s

changed the face of orthopaedics (James, 1984). However, the poor

health of the people of Northern Ireland just after the war together

with the social, medical and economic problems that prevailed

created the circumstances in which a high number of children with

cerebral palsy were to be expected. Around 1950, NICOD established

the first clinic for children with cerebral palsy, which became the

prime source of advice and care in Northern Ireland for this group of

patients. This organisation also opened Malcolm Sinclair House in

1953 as a treatment centre for children and the work was later

expanded to include treatment centres at Mitchell House and

Fleming Fulton schools. It is of note that the centres employed

physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, teachers

and psychologists. In his comprehensive history of NICOD, Mr W V

James makes no mention of liaison with welfare officers or social

workers in the early years, save to comment that between 1955 and

1959 there were various requests from Down County Welfare

Committee to provide:

a car for 2 handicapped brothers for recreational purposes;



a grant for the provision of a typewriter for a handicapped girl;


a grant for 400 in respect of a handicapped person who wanted

to start a chicken farm.

NICOD in each of these circumstances 'regretted it was unable to

help' - the Welfare Committee eventually provided the typewriter

itself. Children with conditions other than cerebral palsy were also

referred to the centres, for example, spina bifida and other

congenital conditions and, in 1967, several children who had suffered

Thalidomide damage. By 1980, the organisation had established

advice clinics in several parts of Northern Ireland. Rather than parents

having to travel, they 'provided a service that went out from Belfast

to the hospitals and took the treatment to the children and the

parents' (James,1984).

Dr C Field (former Consultant Paediatrician at the Belfast City

Hospital) summed up developments in paediatric care since his

appointment in 1947 and the innovative thinking that led to the

establishment of an assessment clinic in 1976 with a specialist team:

'I soon realised that a single handicap was rare - most

children had several problems. For example, the child with

cerebral palsy, although usually sent to hospital because of

delay in his motor development, very frequently had

problems of hearing, vision, speech, language or

intelligence and emotional, social and educational

difficulties were the rule, rather than the exception.

With all of these difficulties parents found it difficult to

relax and communicate their problems in the hurly burly of

the ordinary outpatient's department. Furthermore, the

examination and treatment of these children required skills

in other disciplines which I did not possess. The other

disciplines were - speech therapy, occupational therapy,

physiotherapy, orthoptics, educational psychology and

social work.



The treatment of handicapping conditions is badly taught

in medical schools but I also found that it is extremely

badly taught in all these disciplines so I had to get not only

therapists, but therapists with a specialist post graduate

knowledge and experience of handicapping conditions.'

(Field, 1982).

The late 1980s and 1990s saw the establishment of Child

Development Centres and Community Paediatricians appointed in

each Board with responsibility for children with developmental

disabilities. As a result, many children have access to specialist clinics

within their own localities and fewer children have to be seen at

regional treatment centres in Belfast. Dr N Hill, Consultant

Community Paediatrician in South and East Belfast HSS Trust recently

scoped the known morbidities i.e. those that have been recognised

for many years and the 'new' morbidities i.e. emerging trends and

conditions that have become prevalent in relatively recent times. It is

evident that the latter present new challenges to the

multidisciplinary, community team (Figure 1).



Figure 1 - Disabled children and morbidity trends

*eg children requiring ventilation or dependent on technological


The number of children who have disabilities and conditions that

require clinical intervention has grown significantly. This is due in

part to advances in medicine, which mean that more children are

surviving premature birth and neonatal complications and those with

degenerative diseases are living longer. This group of children may

require feeding tubes, suction, catheterisation, nebulisers or

administration of rectal diazepam for the control of epilepsy and

regular injections.

More recent years have also seen the emergence of voluntary

organisations such as Malcolm Sargent Cancer Care, the Children's

Palliative Care Team (formerly the Diana Children's Community



The known morbidities The new morbidities

Developmental delay eg developmental disorders eg

speech problems; developmental co-ordination

disorder, dyslexia, autistic

Childhood disabilities eg spectrum disorder, attention

cerebral palsy, deficit hyperactivity disorder;

Learning disability, specific Life limiting disorders and

learning difficulty; technology dependent


Chronic illness eg asthma, Complex child protection

enuresis; eg Munchausen by proxy;

Behavioural disorders - School based health problems

child psychiatry; eg anaphylaxis;

Child Health surveillance work Behavioural disorders.

including eg audiology.

Nursing Team) and the Children's Hospice specialising in multidisciplinary

care and support of children with life limiting conditions.

As the number of children with complex health care needs grows, so

too does the need for shared care services where children can have

short breaks in family based or small group settings. The challenge to

social care services is to find and support such placements through

the training of support carers who will inspire the confidence of the

children and families who are dependent on them.

Development of services for children with learning disabilities

More so than other children who are disabled, children with learning

disabilities face many barriers to full participation in society.

Traditionally they have suffered from poorly planned and coordinated

services in which there was little choice or control for

children and their families. Where there are no chronic conditions,

their health care needs have often not been adequately met. As far

as health and social care services are concerned they have often been

the most forgotten of the forgotten children.

The Mental Health Act (NI) 1948 gave the Northern Ireland Hospitals

Authority responsibility for all mental health services, including

services for 'persons requiring special care'. Services to the latter were

administered by a sub group of the Hospitals Authority known as the

Special Care Authority. Muckamore House, now Muckamore Abbey

Hospital opened in 1949 for the care of 'mental defectives.' Caul and

Herron (1997) note that the redistribution of responsibilities meant

that services were largely hospital based: 'to parents this had the

virtue of simplicity and continuity since one organisation had

responsibility for mentally handicapped people from the cradle to the

grave. However, the system also had the unfortunate effect of

segregating mentally handicapped people from the rest of society,

both in regarding hospital as appropriate "residential care" and in

having segregated education in "Special Care" schools.'

Many children who were unable to be cared for at home remained

institutionally based until the community care reforms of the late



1980s when a number of small group homes were established. During

this period there were initiatives, notably by Barnardos to transfer

children with learning disabilities from children's homes to foster care

placements and to provide supported housing and employment

training for such young people. It is an indictment on social care

services, however, that today some children continue to remain in

long stay hospital services as a consequence of the absence of

suitable community based resources.

Child care legislation, policy and the development of services

1947 - 1970

The Curtis Report (1946), a landmark in child care policy, identified

the need to keep children out of institutional care. Many of its

recommendations were enacted in the Children and Young Persons

Act (NI) 1950. Yet despite its original brief to look at the condition of

all children not living in their own homes, the reviewing team drew

its boundaries to exclude those who had significant disabilities,'

(Shearer, 1980). The Report stated:

'The mentally or physically handicapped child presents

different problems, most of which are outside our frame of


One of the consequences of the lack of focus by the Curtis Report on

disabled children was that they were excluded from the strong

recommendation that children in care should be accommodated

separately from adults. Indeed, it specifically recommended that

children with severe learning difficulties should be moved to properly

staffed "homes or colonies", where they could live alongside adults

who were similarly disabled. Shearer (1980) has argued that the

Curtis Committee, 'whilst proposing dramatic changes in respect of

able-bodied children "proposed no more than a tinkering of existing

arrangements for handicapped children". The need for institutional

provision, particularly for those with learning difficulties, epilepsy

and severe behaviour problems, was not questioned. Nor were

recommendations made for the transformation of the residential

forms of living such children experienced' (Baldwin and Carlisle 1994).



The 1950 Children and Young Persons Act therefore had nothing

specific to offer disabled children.

The report by the Northern Ireland Child Welfare Council, ' The

Operation of Social Services in relation to Child Welfare ' (HMSO,

1960), considered children in the care of welfare authorities and

voluntary homes in 1957. This report served to endorse and

perpetuate the view that institutional accommodation was the only

option for the disabled child who could not be cared for at home and

that the emotional needs of such children somehow assumed

secondary importance in the light of the issues raised by the fact that

they were 'handicapped.'

" ... the welfare authorities quite rightly take the view that

residential care should not be regarded as the solution for

every child in care, and that no deprived child should be

placed in long-stay residential accommodation until other

methods of dealing with the case have been considered.

Adoption or a foster home is probably best for the

illegitimate baby, the toddler, the orphan and the child in

need of care by reasons completely outside himself. On the

other hand, the child who, because of some behavioural

maladjustment, or physical or mental handicap, finds

himself in the care of a welfare authority, would in many

cases be more suitable for group treatment."

Caul and Herron (1992) recount that welfare services for the disabled

from 1950 onwards were patchy. Apart from the history of

institutional care, it is almost impossible to tell what the state of

welfare services to disabled children living at home were at that time.

Some services, notably those for the deaf and blind were better

developed due to the good services of voluntary organisations. Most

welfare authorities had by the mid 1950s established home teachers

for the deaf and blind. Belfast Welfare Authority was the first

authority to appoint professionally qualified social workers in the

1970s who had undertaken additional specialist courses in working

with the deaf and blind. Other authorities established similar posts

shortly after this. These specialist workers catered for both adults and

children and served to draw attention to issues such as the difficulties



facing school leavers. There was also good rapport with voluntary

organisations, particularly those involved with people who were deaf

or had hearing difficulties. Other disabled children became the

responsibility of generalist welfare officers, although there was an

attempt to integrate other professionals, such as occupational

therapists into work with the disabled.

As noted above, children in institutions who had a disability were

unlikely to have been 'boarded-out'. Indeed, it was not until the

1970s that organisations such as Barnardo's led the way in

demonstrating that no child, including a child with severe learning

difficulties, needed to be excluded from the opportunity of

experiencing family life with foster carers.

For children who did manage to stay with their families, a lack of

suitable aids, adaptations, transport and education facilities could

add to a family's financial and emotional hardships and could involve

great sacrifice on the part of parents. Three women currently living in

a residential setting recently spoke of their experiences as severely

disabled children in the 1940s and 1950s. The names used are not the

real names of the people concerned:

Deirdre recalled her experience as the only child of 'middle class'

parents in the 1940s. Her mother recognised her child's needs for

specialist treatment, which, at the time was only available at a

residential centre in England. Refusing to be separated from her

young daughter, she took the child to England where they stayed

for 3 and a half years. The child's father had to remain at home to

keep his job and provide financial support. To maintain herself

and the child, Deirdre's mother undertook unpaid work in

exchange for board and lodgings. When they returned to Belfast,

the child was able to attend an ordinary class in a private school

although she had limited oral speech and writing capabilities. The

private school eventually closed down and she then transferred to

the newly opened Fleming Fulton School. The child's experience of

a period of ordinary schooling was a rare occurrence for the time.

born with cerebral palsy into a large family in the mid Ulster area,

Elaine, her mother and (when no-one could be found to look after



them) her young siblings made a journey by ambulance each week

to the Malcolm Sinclair clinic in Belfast where she stayed for

treatment for a few days at a time. One day when she was about

4 and a half years old, Elaine was taken by her mother to a

residential school and simply left there. She grew up a stranger to

her family as most vacations were spent in hospital. As a child,

Elaine thought she would eventually become a 'normal' adult, as

she had only ever seen children, not adults, who were disabled

like herself. In the short times she spent at home, there were no

outings arranged to take Elaine to the shops or other leisure

activities. The only occasion on which she was asked if she would

like to go to church was when there was a 'healing' service. Her

mother recalled many years later that when she 'abandoned' her

at the school she couldn't tell her little daughter what was

happening as she 'didn't know how to'. Elaine felt that the school

did not challenge her academically. She demonstrated her

potential when she left by taking 'O' and 'A' levels at a technical

college and gaining a place at university. Elaine was unable to

settle at home, where she felt very much an outsider and as a

young adult eventually made arrangements for her own care.

Sarah was the youngest of a family of 9 children born to working

class parents in a remote rural setting; she suffered from cerebral

palsy and could not walk. She recalls that her parents were

friendly with the primary school teacher who was eventually

persuaded to allow her to sit in on a class. Sarah was about 8 years

old when she started school and her attendance involved a daily

one mile walk each way to the school by her mother who pushed

her, first in a tansad and then on a tricycle with a lever to 'steer'.

She remembers with amusement that the other children in the

small school were rostered in twos to take her to the toilet, which

was at the back of a nearby field. Treated with respect by all at

the school she still remains friends with some of her former class


The only contact Sarah had with a social worker was when she

became too old to remain in primary school and her mother was

anxious not to have to send her to a residential school in Belfast.

To the dismay of the child and her mother, the social worker took



them to see a school that was clearly for the 'mentally

handicapped'. It was through the insistence of her mother that

Sarah was eventually taken by taxi each day to a school for

physically disabled children in Bangor. Her recollections are of

sadness and disappointment at the lack of career opportunities for

her when she left school. A place was offered at a day centre

where there was no intellectual challenge and the activities were

mainly handicrafts.

Sarah was well into her teens before she got a wheelchair from

'the welfare'. She remembers it as being a large heavy wooden

contraption that was completely unsuitable for her small frame.

None of these women remembers any involvement from welfare

visitors or social workers during their childhood years. It was to be

some considerable time before there would be social work teams in

Northern Ireland specifically offering support to children with

disabilities and their families.

Disabled children were again conspicuous by their absence in the

next major children's legislation, the Children and Young Person's (NI)

Act 1968. This was perhaps indicative of the prevailing views referred

to above, that children with disabilities were purely a health, rather

than a social care concern.

By the mid 1960s, however, disabled school leavers could be found in

day centres which offered craft instruction, music, art therapy and

occupational skills. This period also saw the establishment by welfare

authorities of specially trained occupational therapists to work with

disabled people and Mobility Officers for the Blind. At least one

welfare authority set up monthly meetings which included a trade

union official, the personnel officer of a large bakery, the Blind

Persons' Resettlement Officer and the Disabled Person's Resettlement

Officer to address training and employment needs. Minibuses capable

of taking wheel chairs were purchased to transport disabled adults,

children and young people to day centres and leisure activities. PHAB

clubs (for Physically Handicapped and Able Bodied children) were

well developed by the end of the 1960s. Some hospitals, such as

Lissue children's hospital offered short periods of respite for children.



Legislation and the development of services 1971 - 1994

The development of generic social work during this period meant

that families had only limited access to the specialist knowledge that

their situations required, although the 1971 Welfare Services Act led

to the establishment of registers of disabled persons in each welfare

authority. Arrangements existed in some authorities for referrals of

disabled children to be made directly to welfare headquarters by

educational psychologists. Senior managers then allocated the

referrals to each local district for children to be registered and visited

by social workers. The expectations in at least one authority - County

Down Welfare Authority - were that adults and children on the

register would be visited every 6 months at a minimum and social

workers were required to return 6 monthly monitoring reports to

headquarters. They were expected to assess need and assist families

with issues as diverse as problems in the home situation, schooling,

referrals for aids and adaptations and employment placements. In the

1972 reorganisation of health and social services in Northern Ireland,

the County Down Welfare Authority alone transferred responsibility

for some 3,500 (excluding 'special care', but including ESN) persons

on its register. A generalist model of service delivery continued to

prevail in the statutory services. By the 1970s specialist social work

skills and expertise were mainly to be found in the large number of

voluntary organisations operating in special interest areas in the

disability field. In 1980, for example, the Spina Bifida Association

appointed the first full time social worker to work with families of

children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus throughout Northern

Ireland. At this stage the social worker was dealing with up to 5 new

referrals a month.

A major survey of disability in the United Kingdom was initiated in

1979 by Outset, a charitable body based in London. The postal survey,

which received substantial funding from the DHSS, involved

contacting every household in Northern Ireland to identify people

with a disability. Where persons were identified they were followed

up by interview and an outline of their views and needs was passed

to each responsible social services office. Social workers were to carry

out an assessment of all those who were referred by Outset with a

view to ensuring that they would receive appropriate services. As far



as can be ascertained, the Outset survey promised much, but in the

end delivered little. It did not appear to have influenced any

significant strategic development of services or generated a particular

focus on the needs of disabled people.

It was not until the mid 1980s that specialist Programmes of Care

were introduced by social services. In each HSS Board, however,

services which children with disabilities could potentially fall within

and between were the Family and Child Care Programme, the

Physical Disability and Sensory Impairment Programme and the

Learning Disability and Mental Health Programmes. Despite a degree

of confusion around the structures and the resulting difficulties of

ring fencing finance to target children with disabilities, there was

rapid expansion of services in the 1980s.

By the 1980s respite care had been developed but much of it was

hospital based. A number of children with profound disabilities

continued to be cared for alongside adults in hospital settings or

long-term institutions. Some new initiatives, however, during this

period included:

the development of small family group residential homes for

children with learning disabilities;

the development of respite schemes for children in children's

home and group home settings; and

the establishment of the first non-hospital/non-clinic based

paediatric support scheme by Barnardos and South and East

Belfast Trust incorporating early diagnostic and 'one stop'

treatment and social care services, including respite provision and

play schemes.

These projects were developed and delivered in partnership with a

range of voluntary agencies.

The implementation of the People First reforms in the early 1990s led

to a further number of disabled adults and children who had

formerly been in hospital settings being moved out into community



based homes and hostels. Some children were placed with foster

carers, although the 1992 PPRU study of the Prevalence of Disability

among Children found that 273 disabled children were still living

permanently in communal establishments. This period, nevertheless,

saw services to promote the independence of young people making

the transition from childhood to adulthood developed in partnership

with voluntary organisations. These provided work and life skills

training in conjunction with housing associations and sheltered

housing schemes.

Perhaps the most significant impact on services for disabled children

during this period was the ratification by the United Kingdom

Government in 1991 of the 1989 United Nations' Convention on the

Rights of the Child. Several Articles of the Convention, by making

reference to all children, place children with disabilities firmly within

the full implementation of the rights of the Convention. Article 23

details specific entitlements, which include the rights of disabled

children to special care, education and training to enable them to

lead a full and active life. It further provides that:

'a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full

and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity,

promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active

participation in the community.' (Article 23, UN

Convention on the Rights of the Child).

Legislation and the development of services from 1995 to the


The Children (NI) Order 1995 was the first child care legislation in

Northern Ireland to make specific reference to children with a

disability. It provided for the first time a legal framework for the

provision of services to disabled children as children in need. Under

Article 17 of the Order, a child is deemed to be in need if:

he is unlikely to achieve or maintain or to have the opportunity to

achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or



development without the provision for him of services by an

authority (under Part IV of the Order);

his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired or

further impaired without the provision for him of such services; or

he is disabled.

Under Article 2 of the Children Order, a child is disabled if he is

'blind, deaf or dumb or suffering from a mental disorder of any kind

or substantially handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity

or such other disability as may be prescribed'.

The Regulations and Guidance to the Order require Trusts to take

reasonable steps to identify children in need in their area and to

assess the needs of such children. They are required to provide a

range and level of personal social services appropriate to those

children's needs.

The various provisions of the Children Order that are specific to

disabled children include:

where a Trust is providing accommodation for a disabled child

whom it is looking after, the Trust must so far as is reasonably

practicable, ensure such accommodation is not unsuitable to his

particular needs;

a requirement on each Trust to set up and maintain a register of

disabled children in its area;

enabling a Trust to assess a child's needs under the Children Order

at the same time as assessments under other legislation (eg the

Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986); and

a requirement on Trusts to provide services for disabled children

which are designed to minimise the effects of the disability and

enable the children to have the opportunity to lead lives that are

as normal as possible.



The Children Order was implemented in 1996 amidst some concerns

about disabled children being stigmatised by being defined as

children in need. There was also dissatisfaction with the perceived

'inappropriateness and over bureaucracy' of the looked after review

system which includes children who avail of short term breaks. In

general, however, there was contentment on the part of most

parents that for the first time statutory welfare services had a legal

duty to assess needs and provide services to disabled children.

Some 6 years on from the implementation of the Order, significant

strides have been made, although not always at the pace that the

needs of children with disabilities would demand. To assess and

address needs adequately will require the establishment of proper

data bases in each Board and Trust. The development of effective

Registers of Disabled Children will be key to this process. A multidisciplinary

project has been established to develop a model for a

Register of Children with a Disability. This is being taken forward on

a 4 Board Consortium basis, led by the Eastern Board and will lead to

a prototype register which can be manipulated to suit the needs of

each Board and Trust and will be capable of collating information on

a regional basis.

The final report of a research project on Children and Young People

with Disabilities which considered the impact of the Children Order

on services for disabled children (Monteith and Cousins 1999) found

that further developments had taken place in the planning,

organisation and provision of services by Boards and Trusts since the

implementation of the Order. These included:

increased co-ordination of multi-disciplinary assessments of

disabled children;

the separation in some Trusts of disabled children's services from

adult services and establishment of new teams for children with


new partnerships with other agencies and the voluntary sector;

additional staffing to support services for children with disabilities;



an increase in the number of disabled children in long term foster


an increase in the numbers of children offered respite/short term


expanded summer and holiday schemes;

projects for transition to adulthood;

increase in mainstream nursery provision and pre-school places for

disabled children; and

increased funding of domiciliary care.

Most of the above initiatives have been developed in partnership

with voluntary organisations.

In conclusion, the Children (NI) Order has done much to ensure that

children with disabilities are regarded as children first and has

provided a significant foundation for the development of services to

ensure that disabled children will enjoy the kind of life opportunities

that most other children take for granted.

The way ahead

The context of social care services for disabled children has changed

dramatically from what it was in 1947 and indeed from what it was

even just a decade ago. Changing perspectives in relation to

understanding and interpreting disability over the last 50 years have

influenced not only the way services are provided but also the wider

views of society. When, in the past, disabled children were perceived

to be 'sick' and therefore in need only of medical treatment, welfare

and other statutory services were to some extent absolved of

exercising their full responsibilities. In today's society there is growing

recognition that individuals are not so much disabled themselves, but

rather live in a disabling society.



In an ever-changing social context, some of the more recent

challenges for social services are:

the increasing demand for services to deal with developmental


rising numbers of referrals of children to health and social services

from education services;

advances in technology enabling very frail children to live longer;

the move from regional to locality services;

the development of community children's nursing;

accessibility of information by parents via the internet; and

a general increase in the expectations of children and their


(Hill, 2002)

To address challenges such as these, messages from inspection and

research in England show that a number of key factors are important

in determining whether disabled children and their families receive

effective services. They can be readily applied to Health and Social

Services in Northern Ireland and include the need for:

the equivalent of a children's champion in each Board and Trust

who has clear management responsibility for services to children

with disabilities;

specialist workers for disabled children and dedicated children's

teams. These are associated with better quality services and higher

levels of satisfaction among service users;

management of care to each family which is based on the

identification and assessment of family needs and a planned

programme of support rather than on short term crisis




co-ordinated assessment arrangements wherever possible across

health, education and social services;

multi-disciplinary training which leads to sharing of knowledge

and the development of understanding between agencies; and

above all, good communication at every level.

The DoH in London has recently produced the Strategy 'Valuing

People : A new Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century'

(DoH, 2001). This defines a future agenda for disabled children's

services in England. The Strategy includes key actions for education,

health and social care services that are equally relevant to the needs

of disabled children in Northern Ireland. Amongst the actions that

will require joint initiatives are:

early diagnosis, intervention and treatment of children;

cross Government programmes for young children, including Early

Years Developments and Sure Start Partnerships;

co-ordinated care packages of family support;

increased provision of a wider range of flexible support services

for families of disabled children, including short breaks; and

more and better information for families, availability of key

workers and other measures to improve co-ordination.

These are key to the future development of services in Northern