FAMILY welfare services are to move centre stage as the new director of Social Welfare, Mr Ian Strachan, turns his attention to preventing suicides by school children.
''Prevention is the key and that's where the Family Life Education Programme run by the Social Welfare Department is going to play a major role,'' said the man who until last month was deputy Secretary for Security.
Mr Strachan said: ''Most governments talk about the family, but don't take it seriously. People need to qualify to drive a car, but no one needs qualifications to bring children into the world.
''Preventing marriage break-ups and keeping families together and getting parents to talk to their children is going to be our No 1 target.'' Up to now, the focus had been on opening youth centres. The emphasis would shift to going out to children in crisis, to playgrounds and schools and areas where troubled young people were found.
''Clearly what we need is a multi-disciplinary approach to kids in crisis, and this department will have to work very closely with other government departments, non-government organisations and the police on the problem,'' he said.
''We put a lot of money into preventing crime, but surely it is more important to prevent family break-ups,'' he said.