On Friday 12th May 2017, The Men & Boy’s Initiative held one of our most important meetings to date at the Health & Social Care Head Office in Belfast.

After a long wait (with initial discussions dating back to November 2016), founding members Peter Morris & Gary Quinn met with Brendan Whittle (Director of Children’s Services and Executive Director of Social Work) and Marie Roulston (Director of Women, Children and Families Division) to discuss the lack of trust present between men (and families in general) and Social Workers, the apparent lack of empathy/understanding of men and boy’s emotions within Social Work staff and key examples of Social Workers breaching their own guidelines in an attempt to bully and intimidate families we currently represent.

The meeting was of crucial importance to The Men & Boy’s Initiative as it provided not only an opportunity to represent the concerns of families who have struggled with Social Care, but it was also an opportunity to strengthen our own working relationship with all Trusts across NI.

During our discussions we presented our experiences with individuals and families we represent, and also presented court documents from a specific case in which a Judge confirmed his belief that one Social Worker in particular had acted inappropriately and well outside their advised guidelines, in this document it was declared in court that Social Services had not only failed this family, but had vastly mistreated them and the family had every right to be angry.

These concerns and all other points raised were received with sincere consideration and all views were given great attention. We’re pleased to state that both Brendan and Marie engaged in meaningful dialogue and that great strides have been made to not only rectify problems which were highlighted, but to enhance the working relationship between ourselves and Social Services as a whole.

Investigations of all cases where we recognised a breach of Social Service policies are imminent, and The Men & Boy’s Initiative will now become official consultee’s to the Health & Social Care Trust.

In our discussion we suggested many changes to policy which we believe would protect the interests of both families and Social Workers a like, one such suggestion was the recording of all meetings between families/individuals and their Social Workers, it was agreed that this could play an important role in providing clarity and that this measure could indeed be valuable in high conflict cases, we were also happy to see that a previous suggestion (made at a prior meeting) of a facility to allow families and individuals to leave feedback of their experiences with the Trust, had been implemented directly onto the Trusts website, this showed both a sincerity in the Trusts desire to hear our views and also the desire to take the services they provide seriously.

Our meeting was summarised with an agreed follow up to take place via email, where all referenced court documentation would be sent so that investigations could take place and justice could be sought for the families we represent.