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NIASW: Social work has wealth of expertise to support child protection disclosure arrangements extension

NIASW has welcomed today’s introduction of new child protection measures to make it easier for members of the public to find out if a person has a criminal record for sexual offences, or violent offences that could indicate a risk to children.

This new statutory provision does not replace existing child protection procedures; it will run alongside existing processes. Agencies such as police and social services have processes under the auspices of PPANI (Public Protection Arrangements in Northern Ireland), which was introduced in October 2008 to manage certain sexual and violent offenders.

These agencies can already disclose information as part of a risk management plan relating to criminal convictions where there are child protection issues but the new statutory provision gives members of the public a direct route to the police to raise concerns, if they make a written application at their local PSNI station.

Anyone can apply for information under the new measures but they must be in reference to a named individual and to a specific child. The person raising concerns will not automatically be the person to whom information is disclosed.

NIASW Chair and former PPANI Coordinator Marcella Leonard said: “The new measures will be supported by PPANI and as such it has very strong roots in social work. There is a wealth of social work experience in PPANI and we hope this expertise will be utilised to ensure a child protection approach.

“This scheme also provides an opportunity to intervene early to help protect more children, to prevent abuse and to support individuals and families. Anything that aids the protection of our children is to be welcomed but we do urge members of the public to use the scheme sensibly.

“If anyone has any imminent child protection concerns, they should still report them to the police or to social services, this scheme is for disclosing information on a person’s previous convictions only.”