Response to the launch of the Health and Wellbeing 2026 report in Northern Ireland


The Fostering Network Northern Ireland welcomes the assertion in the Health and Wellbeing 2026 report, which was launched by Health Minister Michelle O'Neill today, that the Northern Ireland Government will ‘honour our corporate parenting responsibilities to the fullest extent and will be as ambitious for children in care as we are for our own children.’

Kathleen Toner, Director of The Fostering Network Northern Ireland, said: ‘While outcomes for looked after children are improving they still fall behind those of other children. At The Fostering Network we have very high aspirations for looked after children. We want them to have the same life chances as their peers.

‘Our experience is that when the dedication and commitment of foster carers and kinship foster carers is matched and fully supported by government, looked after children and young people have a much greater chance of fulfilling their potential. It’s very encouraging, therefore, to hear Minister O’Neill pledging to take corporate parenting responsibilities for looked after children as seriously as seriously as any parent would for their  own children.

‘We completely agree with the Minister’s statement that “we shouldn't start the conversation about money”. Decision making about looked after children must not be driven by financial priorities and motivations, the needs of children must come first.

‘We also welcome the increase in early intervention and support for families whose children may otherwise be at risk of coming into care. Our Step Up Step Down programme is one such example of early intervention. Delivered in partnership with the South Eastern HSCT and funded by the Big Lottery this programme involves foster carers building the capacity of families on the edge of care.’