Key representatives from the public sector, voluntary organisations and government came together yesterday to discuss the future of support for children and families in Northern Ireland.

Home-Start hosted the event, which was held at Queen’s University Belfast.

The round table discussion marked the first anniversary of the Children's Services Co-operation Act, and was an opportunity to assess what progress has been made and to discuss how it new ways of working could be applied in the future.

Discussion focussed on how services can better co-operate to ensure that children don’t fall between the gaps in service provision.

Elizabeth Young, director of strategic development for Home-Start UK, said “Home-Start in Northern Ireland know that currently children are excluded from services to which they have a right. We know that volunteers are well placed to facilitate families’ efficient use of scarce public services.”

The Children's Services Co-operation Act requires that public bodies should cooperate to 'contribute to the well-being of children and young people' and 'to require the adoption of a children and young person's strategy'.

The new Programme for Government proposes a new way of carrying out public service work based on outcomes rather than activity.

Elizabeth Young continues: “It is clear from Home-Start’s research that it is services which are complex – not families. By coming together at events like this and developing new ways of working together we can help make sure families get the networking skills they need to navigate services and ensure children get the support to which they are entitled.”