Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services (Northern Ireland)

The Independent Review of Children's Social Services (Children's Services) was a fundamental examination of Children’s Services in Northern Ireland, with a focus on quality, equity, resilience and sustainability. The Review covered all five Health and Social Care Trusts and a number of services provided on a regional basis.

The Review and final report 

The review was announced in February 2022 took 16 months to complete, publishing in June 2023. Led by Professor Ray Jones, the review engaged with parents, children and young people and those working within and alongside children’s social care services, including foster and kinship foster carers. The Chair was assisted by an Advisory Panel consisting of Her Honour, Judge Patricia Smyth, Professor Pat Dolan and Marie Roulston, OBE, a former Director of Children’s Services in Northern Ireland.

The final report sets out a plan to transform children’s services through a whole scale reconfiguration of children’s trusts and the creation of a new Northern Ireland wide independent agency. It also made some key recommendations on foster care to which The Fostering Network contributed,

Find out what the proposed changes mean for fostering

Read our blog


Our involvement  

The Fostering Network supported Professor Ray Jones to meet foster carers on three occasions over the summer of 2022. Professor Jones met foster carers from our Step Up, Step Down service, which we deliver in partnership with the South Eastern Trust. 

The Fostering Network also met Professor Jones in May 2022 and submitted a briefing to the review, which outlined: 

  • The current issues facing fostering in Northern Ireland 

  • Step Up, Step Down 

  • Fostering Attainment and Achievement 

  • The Mockingbird Family Model 

  • The need for radical reform of foster care in Northern Ireland 

Read our briefing for the review  

Our response to the consultation 

We were asked by the Department for Health to consult with foster carers, including our members. We consulted with around 100 people overall. 45 participants from across all Health and Social Care Trusts, 30 foster/kinship carers, 5 independent fostering providers, and 10 from the Fostering Network Team attended the first session. We also held an online engagement session with Professor Ray Jones attended by over 50 people, which included foster carers, social workers, IFPs, and other professionals.  

Read the full response from foster carers  


Read the summary  

We also submitted our own response to the consultation. 

Read The Fostering Network's response  


Fostering Brighter Futures 

This paper presents an overview of why better support for foster carers is essential, including within the context of key recommendations arising from the review of children’s social care services in Northern Ireland.

Reflecting the voice of foster carers and services who participated in the consultation on the review’s recommendations, this paper discusses some of the main challenges and offers suggestions for implementation and reform. It also highlights what The Fostering Network is doing via the ‘Step Up Step Down’ service to demonstrate good practice in early support for families with children on the edge of care.

Read our report