Children First, which launched in 2011, is National Guidance that promotes the protection of children from abuse and neglect. It states what organisations need to do to keep children safe, and what different bodies, and the general public should do if they are concerned about a child’s safety and welfare. The Guidance sets out specific protocols for HSE social workers, Gardaí and other front line staff in dealing with suspected abuse and neglect.
Consistent with the principles of Children First, every organisation, both public and private, that is providing services for children or that is in regular direct contact with children should:-
- Ensure best practice in the recruitment of volunteers, which includes Garda vetting, taking up of references, good HR practices in interviewing, induction training, probation and on-going supervision and management;
- Ensure that staff members or volunteers are aware of how to recognise signs of child abuse or neglect;
- Develop guidance procedures for staff and/or volunteers who may have reasonable grounds for concern about the safety of children involved with the organisation. These procedures should not deviate from the current Children First: National Guidance, but may offer further elaboration to ensure local relevance and applicability.
- Identify a designated person to act as a liaison with outside agencies and a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child protection concerns. The designated person is responsible for reporting allegations or suspicions of child abuse to the HSE Children and Family Services or to An Garda Síochána
The following documents are essential reading for Childcare Practitioners
Child Protection and the Pre-School Regulations
Childcare Providers are obliged under Regulation 9 of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 to have a Child Protection Policy based on Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children in operation. Clear written guidelines on identifying and reporting child abuse should be developed by the childcare service.
Child Protection Training for Early Years Settings
From January 2014, a new standardised child protection training course is being delivered by the City & County Childcare Committees for Early Years Workers. The first level of training is Child Protection & Welfare: Basic Level. This training is a quality assured child protection training course tailored to the needs of the sector. It will be rolled out over 3 years to workers in both services and home-based settings.
The new programme has been developed in partnership with the HSE and the roll out is being co-ordinated by the National Early Years Children First Committee, an interagency committee tasked with the implementation of Children First in the Early Years Sector. The Programme has been developed by the National Early Years Children First Committee and funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Children First is Ireland’s national guidance for the protection and welfare of children.
This coordinated approach to child protection training aims to provide access to a standardised training module for everyone, at minimum cost and to ensure consistent implementation of child protection policy and procedures across the sector. Early Years Workers are in almost daily contact with children and their families and therefore are in a position often to recognise and identify concerns about the safety, welfare or well-being of a child in their care and have a responsibility for safeguarding these children through their policies, procedures and practices.
The one-day accredited training course looks at what constitutes child abuse, the roles and responsibilities in reporting child protection and welfare concerns, child protection policies and safe work practices This is a HSE accredited module that has been developed specifically for the Early Years sector.
It will replace all other HSE accredited training and the ‘Keeping Children Safe’ Training. It is aimed at childcare workers who are currently working in a service, childminders and boards of management. Designated Liaison Person training and an online information resource will be developed for childcare students and will be launched in 2015.
For information on Child Protection training, please contact Sheena in Offaly County Childcare Committee on 057-9135878.
Children First Bill 2014
On 13th April 2014, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs published the Children First Bill, 2014. It is important to note that this Bill has not yet been passed into law. The Bill is currently going through the Oireachtas.
The Bill is designed to strengthen the safeguarding of children, puts key elements of Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011 on a statutory footing and introduces the mandatory reporting of child protection concerns for key groups of people providing services to children. Responsibilities outlined in Children First Guidance 2011 and any later guidance issued by the Minister for Children will operate alongside the Bill.
The Criminal Justice (Withholding of information on offences against children and vulnerable persons) Act 2012 and the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 (Still to be enacted) are key pieces of complementary legislation designed to improve child safety.
Designated Liaison Person
In anticipation of the new Child Protection Legislation, every organisation providing services for children or in direct contact with children should have a Designated Liaison Person (DLP) to act as a liaison with outside agencies and as a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child protection concerns. The DLP ensures the standard reporting procedure is followed and that suspected cases of child neglect or abuse are referred promptly to the Child and Family Agency Duty Social Worker or in an emergency, where a child is in immediate danger and where the Social Worker cannot be contacted, to An Garda Síochana. The DLP should be knowledgeable about child protection and undertake any training necessary to keep themselves updated on new developments.
In order to access the new DLP Training, which should be available later this year, you must have completed the Child Protection and Welfare Training. Please contact Sheena on 057 9135878 to put your name on a waiting list for the training.