Activities with Minors (NI)

There is no formal registration or other legal requirement on civil groups organising activities in NI for minors, but there is a legal requirement to ensure that no one whose name is on the Children's Barred List maintained by AccessNI / DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) is engaged in a regulated activity.

The key legislative provision is that a provider of a regulated activity for children may not engage a person who has previously been barred from such activity. The barring status is established by means of a vetting check, via AccessNI.

AccessNI Vetting

The vetting of persons to be engaged in regulated activities involves the employer obtaining an AccessNI Check for that person, unless that person is being supervised in the regulated activity by another person who has been vetted.

This would involve the Prelature applying via an umbrella body (with a service level agreement) for AccessNI checks in respect of any leaders who will regularly organise activities for minors in NI.

Regulated activity

A regulated activity with children could be “any form of teaching, training or instruction of children”, “any form of care for or supervision of children”, or “any form of advice or guidance provided wholly or mainly for children, if the advice or guidance relates to their physical, emotional or educational well-being”. 

However, the activity is only regulated if “it is carried out frequently by the same person” or if the person carrying out the activity “does so at any time on more than three days in any period of 30 days” or “does so at any time between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., and the activity gives the person the opportunity to have face-to-face contact with children.”

Accommodating minors for a single overnight stay would be considered a regulated supervision of children, taking place within the restricted night hours. This means that an overnight event such as a summer camp would require AccessNI vetting of all the leaders and volunteers involved, whereas an occasional daytime activity (e.g. less than three days in any period of 30 days) would not. However, if a minor is 16 or 17 and is being trained “in the course of his employment” for the purposes of a leadership volunteering role, this restriction would not apply.

(the Children Order) is the principal statute governing the care, upbringing and protection of children in Northern Ireland. It applies to all those who work with and care for children, whether parents, paid carers or volunteers. The Children Order provides the legislative framework within which this policy operates. It covers the full range of safeguarding activity contained in Figure 1 above, including the promotion of a child’s welfare, assessment of a child’s needs, provision of support for children and families, protection of children, and powers to assume or secure parental responsibility for children when required. Each of these duties and powers is discussed more fully within this policy. 

incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK legislation. State authorities must use their powers reasonably and proportionately to protect children and young people, and the ECHR holds them responsible for inhuman or degrading treatment inflicted within their jurisdiction. Professionals across all public authorities, including government departments, local councils, hospitals, schools and the police must respect the ECHR, as must private bodies in specific circumstances. 

as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 provides the legislative framework for the establishment of a Disclosure and Barring Service and requirements relating to individuals who work with children and vulnerable adults. This legislation defines ‘regulated activity’ with children and prevents persons on barred lists from engaging in regulated activity. 

places a requirement on individuals and organisations providing children’s services to children to co-operate with each other to devise and implement cross cutting strategies. The Act is key to ensuring improved outcomes for children by supporting, enhancing and encouraging co-operation so that services are integrated from the point of view of the child or young person. 

document provides the overarching policy framework for safeguarding children and young people in the statutory, private, independent, community, voluntary and faith sectors. It outlines how communities, organisations and individuals must work both individually and in partnership to ensure children and young people are safeguarded as effectively as possible.

The roles and responsibilities of key agencies, organisations and professionals specifically relating to safeguarding children and young people are outlined in this section. 

Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) 

The SBNI was established under the Safeguarding Board (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 (the 2011 Act). The 2011 Act establishes a statutory objective for the SBNI, attributes a number of functions to it and imposes a number of duties upon it. The primary aim of the SBNI is to co-ordinate what is done by each person or body represented on the Board for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in Northern Ireland. The 2011 Act requires member organisations to co-operate to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people in Northern Ireland. 

The SBNI is supported by a number of Sub-Committees including five Safeguarding Panels. These panels are located within the geographical area of the five HSCTs. They are independently chaired, multi-agency, multi-disciplinary committees of the SBNI. Safeguarding Panels facilitate safeguarding and child protection practice at a local level and are responsible for implementing the SBNI’s strategic vision at a local level. 

The SBNI reports to the DoH as the sponsor Department for the discharge of its statutory functions and acts in accordance with Guidance to the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland, published by DoH. Among other statutory functions of the SBNI, it is required to develop operational policies and procedures for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people which must be adopted and implemented by member organisations across Northern Ireland. Operational policies and procedures should reflect the policy guidance set out in this document. The SBNI has a particular strategic focus – it is not an operational body. It sets strategic direction relating to safeguarding with the agreement and participation of its member bodies. 

Under Section 10 of the 2011 Act members of the SBNI and its statutory committees and subcommittees have a statutory duty to co-operate contained in the exercise of their statutory functions. Mechanisms to underpin and support effective cooperation, collaboration and joint working between member bodies of the SBNI in operational practice must also be in place. 

Health and Social Care (HSC)

The Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (Northern Ireland) 2009 (the 2009 Act) reformed the current structure of Health and Social Care service delivery in Northern Ireland. The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) commissions a comprehensive range of health and social care services required in Northern Ireland from Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCTs) and other organisations. The HSCB manages the performance of HSCTs and seeks to improve performance through the exercise of its functions. The Public Health Agency (PHA) has functions in health improvement and health protection, contained in section 13 of the 2009 Act. The 2009 Act defines the parameters within which each HSC body must operate, including their duty to meet and promote the universal health and social well-being needs of all children and young people.

Health and Social Care Board (HSCB)

The HSCB is the ‘authority’ designated by the Children Order. The HSCB delegates its child safeguarding and child protection functions to HSCTs under legally binding arrangements known as ’Schemes for the Delegation of Statutory Functions’. The HSCB Director of Social Care and Children has lead responsibility for ensuring compliance with legislative safeguarding duties on behalf of the HSCB. This includes the duty to assess the service requirements of, and plan for the delivery of services to children and families in need under Article 18 (see section 2) and in conjunction with Schedule 2 to the Children Order.

Under Schedule 2, the HSCB is required to review services for ‘children in need’ and their families and publish an annual children’s services plan in consultation with a range of named agencies. This responsibility is met through the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership (CYPSP) through the publication of the CYPSP Action Plans. 

The HSCB must ensure robust arrangements are in place in Northern Ireland to safeguard children and young people and promote their welfare by:

The HSCB provides for a designated doctor role to take the lead role in child safeguarding by providing support to medical colleagues in the development and implementation of safeguarding policies, liaising with the named doctors within the HSCTs as required.

Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCTs)

The HSCB commissions the HSC services required to meet its legal obligations from five HSCTs, and under agreed schemes for the delegation of statutory functions, delegates its statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under the Children Order to HSCTs. On behalf of the HSCTs, the Executive Director of Social Work within each Trust has lead responsibility for the effective discharge of all statutory functions under the Children Order. 

The HSCTs work in partnership with other statutory agencies and with the community and voluntary sector to ensure that children and young people are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted. In particular HSCTs work closely with Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) given their shared responsibility for child protection investigations. 

Where a potential risk to a child has been raised, it is the responsibility of the Gateway Service or Children’s Services in the relevant HSCT to assess the risk to the child and his/her needs and determine what response is required. 

HSCTs must ensure that children and families are informed about support available and how they can access it. This includes family support services to children in need and their families, including services for children with a disability, child protection services and services for children who are ‘looked after’ by the HSCT. In all cases, it is the responsibility of the HSCT to ensure that the assessed needs of the children and young people are met as fully as possible, that their best interests are effectively served and risks to them are being effectively managed. 

As a minimum, each HSCT should appoint a named paediatrician and a named nurse with defined responsibilities for providing a lead safeguarding role for the medical, nursing and midwifery professions. HSCTs should work in collaboration within and across disciplines to provide additional ‘named’ roles, where those professions consider such a role necessary to deliver effective safeguarding. Those fulfilling a ‘named’ role must be highly skilled and experienced in children’s health and development generally and child safeguarding, including child protection, specifically. The named individuals must ensure that their Trust’s child safeguarding policy and procedures are complied with in full by their professions. HSCTs should ensure clear lines of accountability to the relevant Executive Director.

In terms of governance, HSCTs must ensure that:

Role of Social Workers

Social workers within HSCTs are the lead professionals for safeguarding children and young people. As a profession, social workers and their managers have responsibility to safeguard children and young people, including the management and maintenance of the Child Protection Register, its associated systems and for ensuring that all statutory functions delegated to HSCTs in respect of safeguarding and protecting children are satisfactorily fulfilled. 

An unbroken line of professional governance and accountability must exist from front-line social workers in HSCTs through their Director of Social Work, to the HSCB Director of Social Care and Children, to the Chief Social Work Officer within the DoH. Social workers and / or their managers within HSCTs must ensure they are fully aware of their duties and powers under the Children Order, and must comply with legislative requirements, this policy, operational policies and procedures, published guidance and standards relating to child safeguarding. 

Social workers are required to use professional knowledge to make informed judgements about the needs of the child and their family, and to inform decisions on how these needs can best be met. This includes a decision about whether a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm, and if a child protection investigation is required (see section 6). Social workers have lead responsibility for all Child Protection Investigations, and should liaise with other professionals and agencies, including the PSNI, to achieve as full an understanding as possible of the child or young person’s family circumstances.

There are social workers based within organisations outside of the HSC sector who provide safeguarding services to children, such as those within the Education sector or those working in some voluntary organisations or in independent practice. These social workers must liaise closely with HSCT social workers as necessary to ensure the children and young people they work with are effectively safeguarded. 

Role of Health Professionals 

The universal nature of health provision means that health professionals are well placed to prevent harm occurring through early identification of need and risk and through provision of support to children, young people and families in need. They are often the first to identify that families are experiencing difficulties or to uncover evidence of harm. All health professionals, including those in the independent sector, must be able to recognise the signs of harm. They must play their part in family support planning and providing on-going support for as long as is deemed necessary within the remit of their profession, contributing to and participating in the assessment processes in respect of children in need, including child protection planning and case conferences. 

Role of Independent Guardian 

The HSCB, in accordance with Section 21 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act 2015, must arrange for the appointment of an Independent Guardian who is responsible for supporting separated or trafficked children and young people. The Independent Guardian advocates on behalf of separated and trafficked children until such times as their long term care arrangements are determined and may continue to have a role into leaving care and aftercare arrangements. It is essential that such children and young people are afforded appropriate support and advice, including bespoke legal advice to assist with an asylum application. 

Public Health Agency (PHA)

The PHA is a multi-disciplinary, multi-professional body which has four key functions:

PHA is required to create better inter-sectoral working, including enhanced partnership arrangements with local government, to tackle the underlying causes of poor health and reduce health inequalities. 

The PHA provides for a designated nurse role to work across all HSCTs providing leadership and support in the development, implementation, monitoring and review of services provided for children and young people, including appropriate supervision and learning opportunities in respect of safeguarding children and young people.

Voluntary, Charitable, Faith and Community-based Organisations

Voluntary, charitable, faith and community based organisations play a key role through their contribution to safeguarding children and young people generally, as well as providing more tailored support to children, young people and their families to assist them in keeping their children safe. 

It is essential that all voluntary, charitable, faith and community based organisations have child protection policies and procedures in place and that their staff and volunteers receive training and support in their use. 

Organisations providing support to children, young people, or their families or carers should recognise the importance of keeping appropriate, accurate records of the work they are undertaking, and have systems in place to share information with the appropriate statutory agencies where they have information or concerns regarding the welfare or safety of a child or young person. 

Organisations which provide services to children or young people must have policies and procedures in place which put child safeguarding at the heart of the organisation’s ethos, governance and practice, and which reflect the aims of this policy. Each organisation's policies and procedures must be owned at all levels within the organisation and should be in line with good practice guidelines as set out in Keeping Children Safe: Our Duty to Care  – Standards and Guidance for Safeguarding Children and Young People – November 2016.

When receiving services, children need to be and feel safe, and parents need to have confidence that they will be kept safe. Organisations must foster openness with parents, to provide all necessary assurances that the services provided to their child or young person are ‘safeguarding sound’. In particular, all organisations that provide services to children and young people which fall within the definition of ‘regulated activity’ must ensure they comply fully with the requirements of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. However, this must be done in a balanced, common-sense way which does not prevent individuals or groups from engaging with children and young people on the basis that safeguarding is considered too difficult.

Formation activities given principally by or on behalf of the Prelature as such (e.g. study circles, recollections, doctrinal talks) to anyone under 18 years in Northern Ireland involve the responsibility of the Prelature as a Church body and (in addition to civil responsibilities) are subject to the Standards and Guidance of the NBSCCCI, as in the RoI. These standards are therefore incorporated into the Local Safeguarding Policy - Ireland for the NWE Region of the Prelature.

Diocese of Down & Conor

See for example the Safeguarding Guidelines for the Diocese of Down & Conor

This section provides definitions used within the Co-operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland, 2017

policy document.

Safeguarding and Child Protection

Safeguarding is more than child protection. Safeguarding begins with promotion and preventative activity which enables children and young people to grow up safely and securely in circumstances where their development and wellbeing is not adversely affected. It includes support to families and early intervention to meet the needs of children and continues through to child protection. Child protection refers specifically to the activity that is undertaken to protect individual children or young people who are suffering, or are likely to suffer significant harm.

A Child

The Children Order defines a ‘child’ as a person under the age of 18. 

Child in Need

Article 17 of the Children Order imposes a general duty on HSCTs to provide a range of services for children in need within their area and states a child shall be considered to be ‘in need’ if: 

‘Family’ in relation to such a child in need, includes any person who has parental responsibility for the child and any other person with whom he has been living. In determining whether a child or young person is in need, consideration must be given to: 

Article 18 of the Children Order requires HSCTs:

by providing a range and level of care appropriate to those children's needs. Fulfilling this duty is a key part of preventative safeguarding.

The Concepts of Harm and Significant Harm

The Children Order defines ‘harm’ as ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development. The Order states that ‘ill-treatment’ includes sexual abuse, forms of ill-treatment which are physical and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical; ‘health’ means physical and / or mental health; and ‘development’ means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. 

There is no absolute definition of ‘significant harm’, as this will be assessed on a case by case basis. Article 50(3) of the Children Order states that “where the question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant turns on the child's health or development, his health or development shall be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child”.

Where a HSCT suspects that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, the HSCT has a duty under Article 66 of the Children Order to make enquiries, or cause enquiries to be made, to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. Section 6.3 provides further information on the determination of significant harm. 

Child in Need of Protection

A child in need of protection is a child who is at risk of, or likely to suffer, significant harm which can be attributed to a person or persons or organisation, either by an act of commission or omission; or a child who has suffered or is suffering significant harm as defined in Article 50 of the Children  Order.

Types of Abuse 


can be suffered by a child or young person by acts of abuse perpetrated upon them by others. Abuse can happen in any family, but children may be more at risk if their parents have problems with drugs, alcohol and mental health, or if they live in a home where domestic abuse happens. Abuse can also occur outside of the family environment. Evidence shows that babies and children with disabilities can be more vulnerable to suffering abuse. 

Although the harm from the abuse might take a long time to be recognisable in the child or young person, professionals may be in a position to observe its indicators earlier, for example, in the way that a parent interacts with their child. Effective and ongoing information sharing is key between professionals. Harm from abuse is not always straightforward to identify and a child or young person may experience more than one type of harm or significant harm. 

Harm can be caused by:

Physical Abuse 

is deliberately physically hurting a child. It might take a variety of different forms, including hitting, biting, pinching, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating a child. 

Sexual Abuse 

occurs when others use and exploit children sexually for their own gratification or gain or the gratification of others. Sexual abuse may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape, or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside clothing. It may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in the production of sexual images, forcing children to look at sexual images or watch sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via e-technology). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.  

Emotional Abuse 

is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child. It is also sometimes called psychological abuse and it can have severe and persistent adverse effects on a child’s emotional development.  Emotional abuse may involve deliberately telling a child that they are worthless, or unloved and inadequate. It may include not giving a child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them, or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate. Emotional abuse may involve bullying – including online bullying through social networks, online games or mobile phones – by a child’s peers.


is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs, whether it be adequate food, clothing, hygiene, supervision or shelter that is likely to result in the serious impairment of a child’s health or development. Children who are neglected often also suffer from other types of abuse.


is the intentional ill-treatment, manipulation or abuse of power and control over a child or young person; to take selfish or unfair advantage of a child or young person or situation, for personal gain. It may manifest itself in many forms such as child labour, slavery, servitude, engagement in criminal activity, begging, benefit or other financial fraud or child trafficking. It extends to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation can be sexual in nature (see section 7).

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Excerpts from Co-operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland 2017

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the child. It provides the overarching framework to guide the development of local laws, policies and services so that all children and young people are nurtured, protected and empowered. Each of the 41 Articles in the Convention detail a different type of right, all of which interact to form one integrated set of rights for children and young people. All Articles of the Convention are important and inter-relate to each other: those Articles with particular relevance for this policy include:

Children and young people have the right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate. The child’s views, however, will not necessarily determine the course of action to be taken, as ultimately, those with parental responsibility are responsible for keeping the child safe and must act in the best interests of the child. The Convention obliges States to encourage and support parents to exercise their parental responsibilities. However, if parents neglect their responsibilities or are unable to provide a satisfactory standard of care, the State is obliged to intervene to make decisions and take actions to safeguard children and young people when it is necessary to do so.