Children First Act 2015


Child Safeguarding Statement


Sarah Ryan looks at the statutory obligations now placed on organisations and individuals who work with or have any contact with children to carry out a risk assessment and to put in place a child safeguarding statement. Sarah Ryan is an Associate Solicitor in our Family Law Unit.


The final stage of the Children First Act 2015 came into effect on the 11th December 2017.


The Act now places a number of statutory obligations on specific groups of professionals and on particular organisations providing services to children (called “relevant services”) including in particular the obligation to carry out a risk assessment of any harm to a child and to put in place a child safeguarding statement.


Relevant Services


A relevant service is defined as a service involved in any work or activity which consists mainly of persons having access to, or contact with children.


Those affected include:


  • Hospitals, hospices, health centres or other centres who provide physical or mental health services to children

  • Schools or other centres of education

  • Creches\pre-schools

  • Accommodation centres for asylum seekers


Any professionals who may come into contact with children as a result of their work or activity are also affected, including:


  • An Garda Siochana

  • Priests, ministers

  • Persons who provide counseling or therapy to children

  • Drivers or other conductors or supervisors on vehicles used only for the purpose of conveying children who are unaccompanied by a parent/guardian


Child Safeguarding Statement


This is a written statement that specifies the service being provided and the principles and procedures to be observed to ensure as far as practicable that a child availing of the service is safe from harm.


The Children Act, 2015 set outs that the statement must:


Specify the service being provided

Include a written statement of any potential risk/harm

Set out the principles and procedures that are in place in relation to:


  • Managing any identified risk

  • Any member of staff who is subject to an investigation

  • Selecting or recruiting staff with regards their suitability with children

  • The provision of child protection information, instruction and training to staff

  • Reporting to TUSLA (The Child and Family Agency)

  • Maintaining a list of persons to report any knowledge or suspicion of harm to TUSLA

  • Appointing a relevant person to be the first point of contact with regards the child safeguarding statement

  • Regard to be had to TUSLA published guidelines


Deadlines


If you are already providing a relevant service, your child safeguarding statement must be put in place by the 11th March 2018.


If you commence providing a relevant service after 11th December 2017, you will have three months from the date of commencement of the service to prepare the statement.


Display and Provision of Statement


The child safeguarding statement must be displayed in a prominent place where the service is being provided.


A copy of the statement must also be provided to members of staff and, if requested, to parents and guardians, TUSLA and members of the public.


Review of Statement


The child safeguarding statement must be reviewed every two years or after a “material change” is made to the statement.


Non-Compliance


The Act provides that TUSLA can request to inspect a statement and where same is not provided, the organisation could be served with a notice of non-compliance. If there continues to non-compliance, the notice will be recorded in a publicly available register of non-compliance, maintained by TUSLA.


Conclusion


One of the objectives of the Children First Act, 2015 is to improve child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children. All organisations and individuals who work with children or who may come into contact with children must therefore ensure that a child safety statement is in place in order to be fully compliant with the Children First Act 2015.


About the author: Sarah Ryan is an Associate Solicitor at Dermot G. O'Donovan's office.

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