The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone T.D., has today marked the first anniversary of the full commencement of the Children First Act 2015.
Speaking today the Minister said, “11 December 2018 marks the first anniversary of a significant milestone in our efforts to protect children from abuse and neglect. This day last year I commenced the final provisions in the Children First Act, placing a legal obligation on certain categories of persons to report serious child protection concerns to Tusla and improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children”.
The Minister highlighted the significant impact that the Act has had, noting that “between December last year and the end of September this year Tusla received almost 9,500 mandated reports of children who may have been harmed or who may be at risk of harm and have been able to take steps to support the children that need help.”
The Minister also highlighted the work that has been done, in organisations that provide relevant services to children, to prepare and publish Child Safeguarding Statements saying “Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility and I would like to commend the organisations across the country that have put time and effort into developing their Child Safeguarding Statements. Your work will help to keep children safe as they engage in educational, sporting and other activities.”
The Minister also encouraged all organisations working with children to check their responsibilities under Children First to ensure that they are in compliance and reminded people that a range of resources are available to support the implementation of Children First, saying “Tusla has produced a range of great resources to support you in implementing Children First. In particular, a 90 minute e-learning training module is available free of charge on their website. I would urge anyone working with children or anyone who is unsure of what to do when they suspect a child is at risk to complete the training. Almost 177,000 people have so far taken the time to do this and they are now better equipped to recognise and respond to child protection concerns”.
Taken together, the Children First Act, the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012-2016, represent a significant legislative framework to promote the safety and protection of children. Recognising this the Minister said “Much has been achieved in recent years to safeguard and protect our children but we cannot afford to become complacent. We must all continue to work together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child.”
Note for Editors
The primary purpose of the Children First Act 2015, enacted in November 2015, is to put key elements of Children First Guidance on a statutory basis.
On commencement of all remaining provisions of the Act on 11 December 2017 the statutory obligations were imposed on key professionals to report child protection concerns over a certain threshold to Tusla, and on providers of relevant services to children to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of their services and develop Child Safeguarding Statements. The obligations on mandated reporters took effect immediately on the date of commencement, i.e. 11th December, while organisations had 3 months from that date to comply with their obligations in relation to publishing a Child Safeguarding Statement.
Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children was first published in 1999 and was revised and updated a number of times, most recently in 2017. The principles and substance of this document (2017) are unchanged from the earlier editions. The guidance is intended to assist people in recognising child abuse and neglect, and in reporting reasonable concerns to Tusla. The guidance has been updated to reflect the provisions of the Children First Act 2015 and it includes specific information for those persons and organisations who acquired legal obligations under the legislation when it was fully commenced on 11 December 2017.
The Guidance also outlines the roles of the main statutory bodies involved in child welfare and protection: Tusla – Child and Family Agency, and An Garda Síochána. It contains details of how to report a concern about a child and what happens once the report is received by Tusla.
The revised Guidance is just one of the resources available to assist with child protection. A free, online child welfare and protection e-learning programme has been prepared by Tusla and is now available for everyone, free of charge. This, and a number of additional child protection and safeguarding information resources, including in relation to the development of Child Safeguarding Statements and a Guide for Reporting Child Welfare and Protection Concerns can be found on the Tusla website, www.tusla.ie.
Number of reports
From the date of commencement of the mandated reporting provisions of the Children First Act 2015 in December 2017 to end September 2018 almost 9,500 mandated reports were received by Tusla. A total of 1,169 mandated reports were received in September 2018, 264 more than August 2018 and the first increase after three consecutive decreases. Mandated reports account for one in four (26%; 1,169/4,541) child protection referrals to Tusla.
Breakdown by type of abuse
Since commencement the highest number of reports has been for emotional abuse (3,215; 34%) followed by physical abuse (2,645; 28%), sexual abuse (1,799; 19%) and neglect (1,786; 19%).
Source of Reports
Since commencement the highest number of reports has been from members of An Garda Síochána (2,634; 28%) followed by teachers (1,957; 21%) and social workers (1,262; 13%).