Joint Forum meeting - 6th May

The Joint Forum is made up of representatives from central and local Government (Public Sector Group) and the Voluntary and Community Sector (Voluntary and Community Group). 

The Joint Forum met in Hydebank Wood College on Friday 6th May. 

The meeting focused on the following agenda:

Time Agenda Item Speaker Paper

Welcome and Introductions

Guest speaker:  Ian Maye

Marie Cavanagh  
10.05 Department for Communities 

Ian Maye

Deputy Secretary

10.10 Welcome to Hydebank Wood College 

Governor Austin Treacy

Hydebank Wood College


Start 360’s work within Hydebank and with Public Sector partners

Start 360 Clare Connolly   

Minutes and Action Points of  last meeting (JF 01/16)

Marie Cavanagh  
10.45 Matters arising Marie Cavanagh   

Information Updates:

Grant Funders Database (GFD)

Grant Procurement

Review of the Operation and Implementation of the Concordat between the Voluntary and Community Sector and the Northern Ireland Government 2011 - 2015


Jack O’Connor

Michael Donnelly

Michael Donnelly

Jack O’Connor
Stephanie Morrow


Standing Items:

Reform of Local Government Update

Review of Support Arrangements

Nichola Creagh

Michael Donnelly


Policy discussion:

Focus on Youth Justice

Outcomes Based Approach/Programme for Government Update

Steps to Success: United Youth


Paddy Kelly,Children’s Law Centre & Paula Rodgers, Include Youth Kiera Lloyd (DoJ)


John Noble

12.15 Concordat Annual Report

Susan Hunter

12.30 AOB    
12.45 Lunch    

The Joint Forum panel were welcomed by Austin Treacy, Head of Hydebank College. Austin provided attendees with an overview as to how Hydebank transitioned to Hydebank Wood College and the innovative work that was ongoing. Austin detailed the different learning styles the college had adopted and the significance of labels when working with the students. Austin provided an overview on what had been achieved with an improvement in staff satisfaction, reduction in staff numbers, and the community outreach with weekly senior citizen lunches held in The Cabin. 

Claire Connolly, Manager with Start 360, provided Joint Forum members with information on the programmes that Start 360 manages in each of the prisons in partnership with the public sector. Clare stated that the key to working in strong cross sectoral partnerships is each partner recognising the different role they fulfil.  

Information Updates

Grant Funders Database

Lisa McElherron stated that NICVA's research staff use the database for the State of the Sector survey which is in turn used as evidence in policy development. 

Lisa stated that it was vital the database is properly populated to ensure there was evidence based policy making. Lisa continued that there had been noticeable improvements with the input of data and with the new departments it was vital that they continued to use the Grant Funders Database and built on the improvements. 

Action point 1: NICVA are to provide a State of the Sector update for the Joint Forum and to conduct a survey as to whether the database needs upgraded to make it more accessible for the sector to access. 

Grant Procurement

Michael Donnelly informed Joint Forum members that the guidance had been issued by the Central Procurement Directorate and it had been circulated to each department for comments. The guidance should be ready to be publically circulated in June. There was a concern raised in the sector’s engagement with local councils as they were not bound by the same restrictions as government departments and had more flexibility. There had been concerns about local councils using tenders like grants and local government could utilise advice provided in the guidance.

Action point 2: NICVA to follow up with Nicola Creagh (DOE) to discuss how a piece of work could be brought forward with local councils. 

Review of the Operation and Implementation of the Concordat between the Voluntary and Community Sector and the Northern Ireland Government 2011 - 2015

Philip McDonagh (SIB) provided Joint Forum members with an overview on the process of the review thus far. The Strategic Investment Board had been accessing minutes from the Joint Forum and had accessed information on the CAT teams. The team had also interviewed members of the Public Sector Group and the Voluntary and Community Group which was helpful and useful. The team had also talked to Arm’s Length Bodies who work with the sector and had also conducted an online survey with the sector using NICVA’s mailing lists. The survey response had been disappointing but the responses provided had been comprehensive. The first draft of the review report was currently with the DSD and at the next meeting there will be a presentation provided on its content. A draft will be sent to Forum members for comments ahead of the next meeting as DSD are committed to partnership working.

Standing Items

Review of Local Government Update

The Forum had a discussion about this item going forwards. Nichola was keen to hear feedback from sector organisations on how the reform of local government has been and is being experienced. Lisa McElherron suggested that an item ongoing in the agenda will be focused on the sector working with local government and ensuring that local community plans are reflecting the Programme for Government.  

Action Point 3: NICVA to follow up with Nichola Creagh on how this new item will be shaped. 

Policy Discussion

Youth Justice – Paddy Kelly, Children’s Law Centre, Paula Rogers, Include Youth and Kiera Lloyd, DOJ 

Paddy opened the discussion by thanking the Forum for the opportunity and stated that it was timely given the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s imminent examination of the UK and NI government, the Children’s Services Co-Operation Act 2015  and the Children and Young People’s Strategy which will now be taken forward by the Department for Education. Paddy stated that these all presented an opportunity to have a human rights compliant youth justice service. Paddy emphasised the longevity in the working relationship between sector organisations and the department and stated that the relationship had always been one of partnership. The constructive working relationship had been demonstrated by the progress made on the commitment that no child should be detained in Hydebank Wood College.  

Paddy stated that the Hillsborough Agreement had committed Northern Ireland to having a human rights compliant youth justice system and the Children’s Law Centre were of the view that this was enshrined in our peace agreement.  Paddy continued that 41% of accepted recommendations made in the Youth Justice Review had not been achieved four years on despite a Ministerial commitment to achieving 90% by 2014. A full list of the Youth Justice Review recommendations are available here. Paddy expressed concern that reductions to the youth justice agency budget is a false economy which will result in increased costs associated with a failure to divert children away from the criminal justice system . Paddy stated that it was a grave concern that there had been a removal of independent scrutiny as currently there is no future role for the Criminal Justice Inspectorate in monitoring the implementations of the recommendations of the Youth Justice Review. The Criminal Justice Inspectorate's recent monitoring report published in 2015 is available here. 

Paddy expressed concern at the recent Department of Justice’s Youth Justice Scoping Study. Paddy said that there were obvious concerns that what was being undertake was a ‘review of a review’ instead of the department implementing the  recommendations contained within the Youth Justice Review. Paddy heralded the extensive consultation that had been carried out and had concerns the Scoping Study had not been widely consulted on.  Paddy went on to highlight the fact that youth justice is now aligned with the NI Prison Service with the NIPS Director General having overall responsibility for implementing the Youth Justice Review.  This causes concern as youth justice should remain separate from the adult criminal justice system.

Paula Rogers stated the Youth Justice Review had affirmed youth justice as distinct from the adult justice sector. In the context of funding cuts, the Youth Justice Directorate had been subsumed into the Prison Division which had worrying implications. There were a number of recommendations of particular concern that hadn’t been achieved. These included delay and statutory time limits; separation of children in custody not underpinned by statute; the over representation of looked after children detained under PACE (up to 40% of those detained); and youth engagement clinics occurring without a legal representative present. 

Kiera Lloyd provided the Forum with an overview on the Scoping Study carried out by DOJ. The Minister's statement on the Scoping Study is available here. The Scoping Study established a steering group which met three times and a sub group which met many times. The department also hosted an ideas exchange workshop with the voluntary and community sector.

The Minister in his statement to the Assembly on the outworking of the Scoping Study outlined the main themes. The first was that health and welfare should be at the centre of the model. This would involve a holistic government response to youth justice. The Minister had wanted to influence the Programme for Government with recommendations which included raising the age of criminal responsibility, questions over whether the JJC should be a justice facility at all and whether there should be a focus on social care. The second theme was maximising community involvement and points of exit. This included recommendations on restorative practice, early engagement, ensuring there are advocates for children throughout the process continually asking the question whether the child should be detained at all. Kiera reaffirmed that custody should always be a last option and should always be at a minimum. 

Kiera stated that although there was no statutory footing preventing children from being detained in Hydebank, it was now an ingrained policy within practice. Kiera added there was a wider body of work required to rewrite justice legislation to ensure it was easier to understand and changing one part of law was difficult when law is created like building blocks over time.  Kiera stated that the Scoping Study was an effort by DOJ to invigorate the silo mentality and there was engagement with the voluntary and community sector through the workshops. Kiera stated that the points raised in the ideas workshops by the sector echoed the issues raised by practitioners on the ground such as social workers and probation officers. Kiera also highlighted the need for effective throughcare to ensure that once children leave the youth justice facility, they are supported by statutory services to ensure they do not return. 

Paddy responded to the points raised by Kiera with a request that government  act on the recommendations put forward in the Youth Justice Review and now in the Scoping Study. Paddy stated that it was concerning that there were geographical differences in the use of PACE against young people with remands to the JJC being used more as a place of safety with children who lived closer to Bangor. A number of sector organisations responded to the discussion raising concerns over the timeframe in implementing the recommendations and urged the department to react more hastily given that it was children at the heart of it. Kiera stated that it was difficult for the government to react quickly as the release of money was slow through the bureaucratic process. This was a huge programme of work with many partners for shared responsibility for this. The Children’s Services Cooperation Act should ensure that other public bodies do not shirk their responsibilities.  

Programme for Government

Peter Robinson told attendees about the outcomes based approach the Programme for Government is adopting and the opportunities for cross departmental working the new model will allow. Peter Robinson spoke about the structure of the new Programme for Government which will have a series of high level outcomes underpinned by indicators and measures in action plans.

More details on the Programme for Government framework and timeline is available on the NICVA website

Steps 2 Success (S2S)

John Noble responded to an enquiry sent to him by VCG Panel member Glenda Davies. Glenda raised concerns about the effectiveness of the S2S programme and the inability of programme participants to engage in any other programmes, including ESF funded programmes, which may have better outcomes for the participant. 

John stated that S2S has a comprehensive quality monitoring regime and the level of service to each participant is defined by a Service Guarantee. Ongoing participation on S2S is a requirement for receipt of JSA, any decisions on benefit sanctions for non-participation are a matter for the Social Security Agency. Measurement of S2S performance is carried out by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on behalf of the Department. The delivery organisations having been set challenging targets for job entry and job sustainment and the funding model has a strong output related funding element.  

Information on S2S performance is published quarterly and can be found here

Concordat Annual Report 

Susan Hunter provided an update to the panel on the Concordat Annual Report. The draft has been updated and will be sent out to members for comment with a view of sending it to print by the end of May. 

Date of the next meeting

The next meeting is to be scheduled for autumn 2016 and will be held in NICVA.

For more information on the Joint Forum including the list of Voluntary and Community Sector members, please click here. The Department for Communities website also hosts the Joint Forum Hub available here

If you would like to find out more about the Joint Forum or would like to propose a policy discussion, please email Policy Development Officer Jenny McEneaney

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