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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.6 Access to quality services

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/08/2020 - 14:02

On this page
  1. Housing
  2. Social services
  3. Health care
  4. Financial services
  5. Quality assurance


Social Service departments located within Health and Social Care Trusts are responsible for supporting young people who are 16 or 17 with housing needs. The latter are generally unable to return to live with their parents or guardians because of a relationship breakdown, or because there is a risk to their health or wellbeing. Social Services will undertake an assessment of the housing needs of the young person in question and will work closely with the Housing Executive to find somewhere suitable for them to stay whilst the assessment has taken place.

If the young person is found to be homeless following this assessment of their needs, they will be classed as a 'child in need', meaning that Social Services are responsible for finding suitable accommodation for them. If Social Services provides the young person with additional support alongside finding suitable accommodation, the young person will be classed as 'looked after'. Health and Social Care Trusts have ongoing responsibilities towards looked after individuals until they turn 21, or older if the young person in question is still in education at this age.

Hostels, night shelters and foyers are available for homeless individuals across Northern Ireland. Whilst hostels and night shelters may cater for young people and adults, and may work with particular individuals, temporary foyers are supported housing developments for young people (normally aged 16-25). Foyers offer additional support for the young people living in them to develop skills and prepare them for independent living. Young people living in a foyer must sign up to an education or training programme with the support of foyer staff.

All individuals over the age of 18 who pay rent are eligible to apply for housing benefit if they are on a low income. It provides help for all or part of an eligible applicant's rent. The amount available to those aged under-35 with no children is restricted to bed-sit accommodation or a single room in shared accommodation.

Social services

Health and Social Care Trusts, funded by the Department of Health, are responsible for delivering social services for children and young people in Northern Ireland, including safeguarding children and young people from harm and overseeing the care of looked after children. The relevant responsibilities, strategies and initiatives related to young people's social services are described throughout this chapter.

Health care

All children under the age of 16 and young people in full-time education under the age of 19 are entitled to free prescriptions, dental treatment, sight tests and wigs and fabric supports. They may also receive vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses.

Young people not in full-time education over the age of 16 and under the age of 18 are entitled to free dental treatment and help with the travel costs to and from a hospital for treatment.

Mental health

CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) are the NHS services that work with children and young people who experience difficulties in their emotional or behavioural wellbeing. They are multidisciplinary teams, often consisting of:

  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • social workers
  • nurses
  • support workers
  • occupational therapists
  • psychological therapists – this may include child psychotherapists, family psychotherapists, play therapists and creative art therapists
  • primary mental health link workers
  • specialist substance misuse workers

Young people might be referred to CAMHS to help them deal with disorders or issues, such as anxiety; autism; behavioural problems; bullying; depression; eating disorders; obsessive compulsive disorder; psychotic disorders including schizophrenia; and alcohol and substance abuse.

CAMHS are locally organised. In 2012, a document setting out the preferred structure for CAMHS in Northern Ireland was published.

Financial services

There is no legal age limit for opening a bank account, but a bank manager can decide whether to allow a child or young person to open an account. It is a criminal offence to send to people under 18 years of age material inviting them to borrow money or obtain goods or services on credit or hire purchase. However, those between 14 and 18 years can enter into a credit or hire purchase agreement, if an adult acts as their guarantor.

It is possible to borrow money at any age, but access to loans may be limited because a lender will not usually be able to take a young person to court if they break the terms of a loan. This is because a contract entered into when one of the parties is aged under 18 is not considered legally binding. Under-18s can be added to an adult's credit card as an authorised user or may apply for prepaid cards, but they will not be given their own card.

Money and Pensions service

The Money and Pensions Service came into existence in early 2019, as a new money guidance body, merging the functions of the Money Advice Service (MAS) with the Pensions Advisory services and Pension Wise.

MAS previously brought together a large number of stakeholders to draw up a strategy to improve financial capability across the UK. The strategy, launched in October 2015, aims to improve people's ability to:

  • manage money well, both day to day and through significant life events
  • handle periods of financial difficulty.

It has a focus on developing people’s financial skills and knowledge, and their attitudes and motivation. This, combined with an inclusive financial system, can help people improve their financial well being. The strategy sets a number of priorities to better support young people:

  • Improve understanding of the different capabilities or barriers faced by post-school young adults in managing money and making key financial decisions
  • Identify effective approaches to supporting young adults affected by welfare reform
  • Identify effective approaches to support young adults impacted by changes to student finance both during their studies and after they graduate
  • Trial financial capability interventions with leading employers of young adults.

The strategy discusses children in care, young care leavers, young careers, and young adults as vulnerable and in need of extra support to acquire financial capability. It also discusses the challenges faced by young adults as they transition towards independent living (between 16 to 18 and continuing to their mid-20s). Two of the key themes of the strategy relate to children and young people and young adults

The Money and Pensions Service is currently consulting on a new strategy as a newly merged organisation.   

Financial Conduct Authority 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is an independent financial regulatory body in the United Kingdom which is financed by charging fees to members of the financial services industry. It publishes a series of occasional discussion papers on specific issues relevant to the FCA's work. Two of these papers, although not focused on young people, are of interest:

Consumer Vulnerability, which aims to broaden understanding and stimulate interest and debate around vulnerability.

Quality assurance

Youth Health and Social Care Services

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is the independent body responsible for monitoring and inspecting the availability and quality of health and social care services in Northern Ireland, and encouraging improvements in the quality of those services.  This encompasses youth, specifically organisations, including Children’s Homes, which are inspected against four key measures: Safety, Effective, Compassionate and Well-led.

There is also a rolling programme of inspections for Children’s Services including Childrens Homes, Hospitals and Clinics.  

There are also specific initiatives which include periodic reviews such as the Review of the Governance Arrangements for Child Protection in the HSC in Northern Ireland (May 2018)


The Department for Communities is the Regulatory Authority for Registered Housing Associations (RHAs) in Northern Ireland.  

Financial Services

The Money and Pensions Service (an arms-length government body sponsored by the Department of Work and Pensions) commissions a Financial Education Quality Mark, delivered through Young Enterprise.  This signals quality-assured financial education resources that:

  • Have been developed in consultation with a teacher of educationalist and tested with young people
  • Have dedicated theory of change and evaluation plan
  • Have principal focus on financial education
  • Include opportunities for structured learning
  • Are engaging and relevant for young people
  • Are clearly written and easy to use
  • Contain accurate, up to date information and be free of branding. 

The Money and Pensions Service has plans to work to promote and expand use of the Quality Mark for resources in all UK nations and for vulnerable children and young people beyond purely school settings.