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Last updated: 03.12.19

Safeguarding Children Legislation in Northern Ireland

Which Legislation covers Safeguarding Children in Northern Ireland?

In the UK, we have pieces of safeguarding children legislation and guidance that are relevant across the nation, but we also have pieces that are country specific. Here we list and summarise the pieces that are specific to Northern Ireland. To find other country-specific legislation, please select the relevant country: England, Scotland or Wales. To find the list of pieces that are relevant across the UK, select here.


Addressing Bullying in Schools Act 2016

The Addressing Bullying in Schools Act 2016 focuses on addressing bullying in schools, and places a duty on schools to develop policies and systems to prevent bullying. ‘Bullying’ is defined by the Act as the repeated use of any communication or acts by a pupil or groups of pupils against another pupil or group of pupils, with the intention of causing physical or emotional harm.

Link: Addressing Bullying in Schools Act 2016


The Children Order 1995

The Children Order 1995 primarily governs the care, upbringing and protection of children in Northern Ireland. It applies to anyone working with or caring for children, including parents, paid carers or volunteers, and seeks to strike a better balance between supporting parents to enact their parental responsibilities and the judicial powers of intervention of social workers.

Link: The Children Order 1995


Children’s Services Cooperation Act 2015

The Children’s Services Cooperation Act 2015 strengthened the imperative for children’s agencies to work together, and for the Northern Ireland Executive to develop and publish an overarching strategy for children. The high-level aim of this strategy to improve the wellbeing of all children, where ‘wellbeing’ includes children’s physical and mental health, their economic and environmental wellbeing, and their learning and achievement.

Link: Children’s Services Cooperation Act 2015


Criminal Law Act 1967

Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 makes it an offence not to report a ‘relevant offence’ to the police, including offences against children.

Link: Criminal Law Act 1967


Education Order 1996

The Education Order 1996 outlines the right for children with special educational needs (SEN) to be educated in mainstream schools. The Order requires the Local Authority to assess a child who as SEN and, where appropriate, provide a Statement of Special Educational Needs outlining the specific support needed to meet the child’s needs, including access to equipment.

Link: Education Order 1996


Safeguarding Board Act 2011

The Safeguarding Board Act 2011 provided the legislative framework for the creation of a regional Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) and established five Safeguarding Panels to support the SBNI’s work at a Health and Social Care Trust level and take responsibility for child protection at a local level.

Link: Safeguarding Board Act 2011


Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Order 2008 (as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012)

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Order 2008 prevents unsuitable people working with children, young people and adults at risk by ensuring any organisation working with vulnerable people has an appropriate safeguarding policy in place and clearly-defined procedures to protect vulnerable children and adults and ensure there is effective record keeping systems in place.

Link: Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Order 2008


Cooperating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland 2017

Cooperating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland 2017 provides an overarching policy framework for safeguarding children and young people, outlining how organisations must work together to ensure children and young people are safeguarded. It also outlines the aims of effective safeguarding practice, which are namely to promote the welfare for children and young people and protect them from harm, and to prevent harm occurring through early identification of risk and appropriate, timely intervention.

Link: Cooperating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland 2017


Children and Young People’s Strategy 2019-2029: Working Together to Improve the Wellbeing of Children and Young People Living in Northern Ireland, Delivering Positive, Long-Lasting Outcomes (Department For Education) 2016

The strategy seeks to enable agencies and individuals to work together to improve the wellbeing of children and young people and deliver positive, long lasting outcomes. It aims to do so by keeping effective partnership and multi-agency working at its centre.

Link: Children and Young People’s Strategy 2017-2027


Revised Regional Core Child Protection Policies and Procedures for Northern Ireland (Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland) 2018

The Revised Regional Core Child Protection Policies and Procedures for Northern Ireland are a set of policies and procedures which aim to support professionals and agencies to work more effectively to protect children and young people from abuse or neglect.

Link: Revised Regional Core Child Protection Policies and Procedures for Northern Ireland (Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland) 2018


Understanding the Needs of Children in Northern Ireland Assessment Framework (UNOCINI)

UNOCINI is an assessment framework aiming to support professionals in assessment and planning to better meet the needs of children and their families by providing a process in which their circumstances are also considered. Provides a format for a preliminary assessment that can be completed by any professional in an agency.

Link: UNOCINI

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