Vice Chancellor, Distinguished guests, graduates, families and friends – thank you for inviting me to address your graduation ceremony this afternoon.

It is an honour for me to not only address such a significant gathering, but one at which I can celebrate with you your achievement as students and look forward with you to your future careers.

I am delighted to speak to you as both Children’s Commissioner for NI and as a mother and grandmother for I know very well the job that you will undertake will touch and impact on many lives. Its not so long ago that I faced the challenges, demands and rewards in bringing up children and I have been blessed to be able to repeat that experience with my own children’s children albeit in a position where I get to do more of the good things with them and can them hand them back to their parents!

Midwives, health visitors, children’s community and school nurses all played an important role in the health of my own children and in the support and sources of advice that I obtained over the years. That is also the experience of many children in Northern Ireland and of course their parents.

I believe you are embarking on your professional careers at a time of great change structurally within in the HPSS and professionally within nursing. We are also going through huge political, economic and social change in NI as you know.

As Children’s Commissioner my role is to safeguard and promote the rights and best of children and young people to support them challenge and change the world they live in. Its also about ensuring government comply with their responsibilities under the UNCRC. The UNCRC also has a lot to say about children’s health. I encourage you to read Articles 23 and 24. But In summary these say that children have the right to have the highest possible health and wellbeing. In this regard nurses have a huge role to play and there are very few aspects of children’s lives that are not impacted on by nurses.

  • In the area of public health initiatives designed to improve the health and well being of children and families
  • In the promotion of positive parenting messages as part of HV and Midwives universal and non stigmatising intervention with families
  • Through CAMHS services and therapeutic services to children in need and in dealing with mental health problems in parents
  • In preventing, reporting , and treatment of child abuse and as a key member of case conferences
  • Through to working with the health needs of looked after children, some of our most vulnerable children in NI
  • School nurses and in screening programme
  • Providing expert advice to meet the health needs of disabled children and those with life limiting illness.

These are but a few ways in which the nursing profession contribute to improving the lives of children in NI

The state of children’s health in NI is of growing concern from simple issues like dental care to the services in Mental Health with many gaps in provision which are not meeting the needs of our children and young people.

Only yesterday I launched a report on the under spend in Social services for children and young people we spend 226 less per child in N.I than the rest of the UK

A child of 5 in need of speech and language therapy cannot wait two years for resources, measures, task forces, meetings and budget rounds. Because each week without therapy is a week’s development lost

A teenage boy in desperation and depressed cannot wait for procedures, policies and investment – he needs help now.

A learning disabled child kept apart from her family because there are no community places being funded will not understand why a review has been delayed over social services spending – her family will only understand that we do not value them enough to make a difference

Conclusion

Promoting and improving children’s health and the well being of their parents will significantly contribute to the well being of all children in NI. As Commissioner I what to see tangible changes to the lives of our children and young people. And I am sure that as we seek to improve health outcomes those in the Nursing professions and in fact many of you in this room today will play a key part in achieving that aim.

Thank you