Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland social workers 'go beyond call of duty'

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Media captionMaeve Duffin is a team leader in a care home that looks after vulnerable children

A social worker has told the BBC staff often go beyond the call of duty when trying to protect young people in care.

Maeve Duffin is a team leader in a care home that looks after vulnerable children.

She said they have to follow cars and to go to train stations to remove teenagers who are in potential danger.

Earlier, this week it emerged that 30 people have been arrested as part of the investigation into the sexual exploitation of at least 22 teenagers.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Duffin said teams across Northern Ireland are constantly gathering information to pass onto the police to help bring about convictions.

Giving one example, she said: "Whenever the young person left I was alerted, so I was able to watch the situation, see the young person getting into a car, take that registration number, follow the car and pass that number on to the police.

"That young person was missing for a period of time. When they came back we were very concerned obviously about what might have happened to them.

"Myself and my team are going above and beyond I think even what the public would expect we might do.

"We're following young people, we're following buses, following cars, going to train stations."

'Corporate parents'

According to the social worker, the staff act as corporate parents to the teenagers.

"We care for these young people, we want them to be safe, we're doing everything that we can to bring that about," she said.

"We have to work within the legislation, within our guidelines.

"If a young person's at imminent risk, with maybe a car waiting outside the door, or we think a young person is maybe in an intoxicated state and they want to leave the unit, then they can be physically prevented from doing that and that does happen at times.

"But it's not the general rule. What we try to do is use our relationships, try and offer them alternatives."

Ms Duffin said she was satisfied that the current procedures and practices that are in place in the social care system are sufficient to help them carry out their role of protecting children.

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