NI: Bill for NI children’s services co-operation ‘rewritten’

Steven Agnew MLA
Steven Agnew MLA

The Children’s Services Co-operation Bill is to be considered further after being significantly amended in the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday.

The private member’s bill, which is “inspired by the Children’s Act 2004”, would put a statutory duty on all departments of the Northern Ireland Executive to work together in the commissioning and delivery of children’s services.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK where government departments don’t have such a statutory obligation.

The bill was amended at the first consideration stage by MLAs yesterday in order to take on board the feedback of the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, which said it is “generally supportive” of the bill.

Steven Agnew MLA, who introduced the bill last December, said it was now “a Bill rewritten”, with its sponsors opposing various clauses and proposing significant amendments.

Mr Agnew told the Assembly: “The work that has gone on since January has ultimately been about making the Bill more effective.

“Cooperation has ensured that expertise has been brought to the table and that conversations have happened between stakeholders to ensure that what started as a single private Member’s Bill has very much become collaborative work between Departments, officials, the sector, the Committee and me.

“That process highlights the value of cooperative working and why a Bill such as this is needed.”

The bill has been referred back to the Principal Speaker and will return to the Assembly for the further consideration stage before a final vote.

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