1 Oct 2003

Nigel Williams, the first Commissioner for Children and Young People for Northern Ireland, today announced plans for a major study of the state of children’s rights and welfare in Northern Ireland on his first day in office.

Speaking during his first public appointment when he opened the international conference “Towards a Better Future- Building Healthy Communities”, organised by the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust, he urged the conference to listen to young people’s views.

After introducing a special morning session focussed on children recovering from trauma and conflict, Mr Williams gave the platform to two young people from the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust to talk of their experience of working together in a cross community project.

He said: “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has set an international benchmark of minimum rights about how those aged under 18 should be treated. As the first Commissioner for Children, I want to know exactly where we are starting from in Northern Ireland against the UN standard. “ I will therefore be publishing within the next few weeks a brief for a major research study looking at how well both Government, and society more generally are doing in serving the needs of our children and young people. I look forward to receiving proposals from academic researchers and others with expertise in this area.”

The Commissioner also unveiled today his logo and initial web site www.niccy.org. Mr Williams said: “ Since my appointment was announced in June, I have been working with children and young people to develop a friendly welcoming branding for the Office of the Commissioner. Working with design agency Citigate 19/20, chosen by a panel including young people, we have developed the idea of using the abbreviation NICCY for the office, and the symbol of a friendly, alert watchdog – based on the border collie so familiar on Northern Ireland farms.”

The Commissioner’s initial priorities will be to recruit his staff team involving young people in the recruitment process and get the office established. He will also be listening carefully to the views of children and young people, their parents, and others caring for or working with children about the priorities for the Commissioner’s office.

He said the research project announced today will also be an important element in this priority setting exercise.

Notes To Editors:

  • The Commissioner is based in temporary premises on 7th Floor, Lancashire House, Linenhall Street, Belfast, telephone 90311616 until March 2004, when he will move to permanent accommodation, also in the Belfast area.
  • Biography – Nigel Williams

    Born in Devon, Nigel lived in Limavady until the age of 12, when he then moved with his family to Portadown. He attended Portadown College and finished his formal education with a degree in Geography from Cambridge University.

    In 1976 Nigel joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service as a graduate trainee, and had a number of jobs in the former Department of Economic Development, including being head of the Industrial Sites Branch. In 1984 Nigel set up his own business in computer training, and in 1988 was recruited by the charity CARE (Christian Action) Research and Education) to be Head of Public Policy in Westminster.

    In 1995 Nigel left CARE to found a new charity, Childnet International, focused on promoting the rights and best interests of children on the Internet. Nigel was a Board member of the Internet Watch Foundation, and of the Internet Content Rating Association and was appointed by the Home Secretary in 2001 to the Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet.

    He was a Liberal Democrat councillor in the London Borough of Southwark from 1994-1998 has resigned his membership of the party on taking up the post of Commissioner.

    Nigel has been a school governor, chair of a Parents Teachers Association, and clerk to a school governing body. He was secretary of the local Tenants and Residents Association where he lived, and helped establish a youth club on the local housing estate. He was also vice chair of the Parochial Church Council of All Saints Church in Peckham.

    While living in Northern Ireland Nigel wrote a number of articles in his spare time for the Belfast Telegraph, and his series on places to visit throughout Northern Ireland, “Off the Beaten Track” won an award in 1982. While at CARE he authored a book on the impact of pornography “False Images”, and at Childnet has had a number of articles published including one on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and media use. He was also technical consultant to the Usborne Children’s book ‘’101 things to do on the Internet”.

    Nigel enjoys cycling, watching sport (especially rugby), reading biographies and travel. He is married to Heather, who comes from Newtownhamilton, is a graduate of Stranmillis/QUB and now works as an advocate for children with learning difficulties. They have four children aged 17-23.
  • Media enquiries to Emma Flynn Davies telephone 02890 378107 or mobile 07798 676462.