Reflecting on the Past & Hoping for the Future at NICCY

27 February 2023

Today marks the 20th anniversary of The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.

This piece of legislation set out the statutory remit, duties and powers of the Commissioner and details the aim of the organisation i.e :

“to safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young persons”

As we reflect on the work of NICCY, we remember in particular the organisation’s first time in using the ‘formal investigation’ powers to review the care & experiences of ‘Vicky’.

A month ago today, we launched ‘Looked After? A Formal Investigation into the Life of a Child in the Care of the State.’

This investigation details the experience of ‘Vicky’ (not her real name), who was subject to breaches of her rights due to systemic failings throughout her life.

It shines a light on significant and persistent failings of Vicky’s ‘Corporate Parent’ – i.e. the Health and Social Care Trust – as well as other authorities, which have resulted in Vicky being placed in England for over four years, away from her family and community.

“She is not a case and she is not number; she is a young woman whose life could and should have been very different.” – NI Children’s Commisisoner Koulla Yiasouma.

NICCY is pleased with the response from the relevant authorities thus far and will continue to monitor implementation of the report recommendations

Our dearest hope for Vicky is that appropriate support is put in place to ensure her long-term health and happiness. We agree with Vicky’s words – “I want it to work this time.”

This week also sees the final days of the current Commissioner – Koulla Yiasouma – in office after eight years in post.

On Friday past, the Speaker Alex Maskey thanked Koulla for all her work as Commissioner. A member of the Youth Assembly noted that it had been 20 years since the initial NICCY legislation and said:

“It has been this country’s pleasure to have Koulla Yiasouma serve as Commissioner for 8 of those 20 years.”

This feeling is shared by all NICCY staff past and present, who have been privileged to work with such a determined and tireless advocate of children’s rights in Koulla.

As messages of thanks come in, it seems that one of the simplest says it best. One young person summing up their thoughts of Koulla with:

“I always felt listened to.”

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