North Down Green Party MLA Steven Agnew today launched his Private Member’s Bill calling for the introduction of a Statutory Duty to Co-operate on Children’s Services.
Speaking at the event held in the Long Gallery in Stormont, the Green Party Leader said: “Children are one of our society’s most valuable assets and a joined up strategy of co-operation between Executive departments when it comes to planning, commissioning and delivery of children’s services will pay dividends in the future.
“Legislation is needed to change the culture of our Executive departments which currently operate in isolation.
“Unlike other regions of the UK, Northern Ireland does not have a statutory duty to co-operate on these services and therefore children in Northern Ireland are losing out.
“Northern Ireland has one of the highest rates of child poverty and neglect in the UK and we need our Executive to step up to the mark to put structures in place to protect the most vulnerable.
“If we are serious about tackling the disadvantages faced by many children in Northern Ireland in terms of improving health and educational outcomes then we need to ensure that they get the best start in life.
“We need to use what limited resources we have as efficiently as possible and that means getting departments to work together and moving beyond a ‘silo mentality’.
“The historical situation of governance in Northern Ireland and lack of political accountability has led to an inefficient system where each department works in isolation.
“Now is the time to challenge that model and open up channels of co-operation which will ultimately lead to better services and better outcomes for children.
“I believe that we must move beyond simply consulting with each other and start working together for the benefit of children and families in Northern Ireland.
“That is why I want to bring forward legislation that will have positive and tangible benefits for the future generations.”