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NIGALA and HSC Trusts: Care Proceedings Pilot

September 2017

Communication Protocol To Promote Effective Working Relationships between NIGALA and HSC Trusts

The Social Work Strategy 2012-2022, Improving and Safeguarding Social Wellbeing reflects the Department of Health’s commitment to social work as a valued and valuable profession providing a unique service to individuals, families and communities. Social Workers work with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society, promoting their rights, challenging inequalities and improving their life chances. Social Workers, working in different settings share a common purpose to improve and safeguard the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.

Social Workers do this by empowering people to manage their own lives; promoting people’s independence; supporting people’s social inclusion and participating in society; helping people to keep safe and well.

Social Work values help social workers to make ethically informed decisions where there are conflicting interest and competing rights. Nowhere is this more relevant than when Children’s needs and plans come before the Courts where the importance of timely decision making for children is vital. As social work practitioners, the words of Sir Nicholas Wall eloquently captures the collective responsibility of those working, in this most challenging area of social work, to children and young people;

As practitioners, we deal with complex issues and we must always remember that at the heart of every family there is a child – a child who every day learns, changes, grows and ultimately adapts themselves to their environment- for better and for worse.

‘Decision-making within a child's timeframe’ (2013) Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division.

To improve our family justice system in Northern Ireland, the Care Proceedings Pilot was launched in December 2015 seeking to promote good decision making and reduce unnecessary delay for children subject to care proceedings. When its findings were published in 2017, one of its recommendations was for the Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) and HSC Trusts to;

work together to finalise a joint protocol, which sets out how both agencies will work together and which clarifies the role of each agency.

Recognising the need for effective, ‘appropriate, open, accurate and straightforward’ (Standards of conduct and practice for social workers, NISCC), communication, NIGALA and the five HSC Trusts are delighted to deliver on this important recommendation in a way which is timely and which evidences a commitment to collective leadership. The ‘Communication Protocol’ demonstrates a collaborative and outcomes based focus to children and their families and which provides evidence of working;

Across traditional boundaries to address the ever increasing complexity and demands on our services.