From 11 December 2017, the Children First Act 2015 introduces new statutory obligations for professionals and organisations who provide a service to children and families. We examine the scope of these obligations and the significant implications for affected organisations and professions who provide a service to children.
Changes to the reporting of child protection concerns
Certain professions and organisation are now obliged to report to TUSLA Child and Family Agency, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been harmed, is being harmed or is at risk of being harmed.
New child safeguarding statements
There is also a new statutory requirement for all relevant services to produce a child safeguarding statement for staff members. This must be made available for inspection by TUSLA, service users and members of the public within three months of the commencement date i.e. by 11 March 2018.
Over the past number of years, there has been increased focus on the responsibility of the wider community to recognise, record and report concerns.
This focus has included recognition of the complexity of child protection and the need to provide a clearer framework for professionals and organisations.
The Children First Act 2015 is a key element of this new framework, which should be considered with reference to the new vetting legislation National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts, 2012-2016 and the Child Care Act 1991.
What you need to consider
When reviewing the relevant policies and procedures and drafting the necessary Child Safeguarding statement, you will need to consider:
Are you a mandated person?
You need to review the list of mandated persons, which are referred to in Part 3 of the Act and listed in Schedule 2 of the Act. The list includes a wide range of professional groups and workers, including GP, nurses, midwives, psychologists, medical staff, teachers, Gardaí and probation and welfare officers.
If you are a mandated person or your organisation employs mandated persons, you need to ensure that you understand the new obligations for reporting child protection concerns and provide appropriate training to mandated persons and other staff members.
Are you a relevant service?
If you provide a service to children and your service is included in the list in Schedule 1 of the Act, you need to prepare a child safeguarding statement within three months of the commencement of the legislation i.e...