Children First: Child Protection Legislation Ireland

What Is Children First? 

Children First refers to the National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 and the Children’s First Act 2015. It calls upon and provides guidance for professionals, organisations and individuals to help keep children safe and protected.

What Is The Children First Act 2015?

The Children First Act 2015 (“the Act”) was signed into law by the President on 19 November 2015. The Act places a legal obligation on defined categories of people who provide services to children to report any protection concerns involving a child. It also outlines best practice procedures for all organisations dealing with children. 

The Children First Act is a watershed moment in the history of the overall protection of children in Ireland where far too often in the past, child abuse was silent and unreported. 

What Are The Main Provisions Of The Act?

The main provisions of the Children First Act outline a number of key child protection measures including;

  • A requirement on organisations who provide services to children to protect children and produce a Child Safeguarding Statement which will identify how they will manage a child at risk of harm
  • A requirement of Mandated Persons to report information regarding child abuse above a defined threshold which comes to their attention in the course of their professional duties
  • The removal of reasonable chastisement as a defence for administering physical punishment to a child 

Who Is Children First For? 

Mandated Persons

Mandated persons are those professionals who either work with children or young people or are in service sectors that encounter children where there is risk of abuse and neglect.

Examples of mandated persons include; 

  • Teachers
  • medical professionals
  • Gardai
  • Clergy, 
  • Social care workers
  • Child care staff in a pre-school service
  • Youth workers

Provider of Relevant Service 

A provider of a relevant service is defined as any work or activity which is carried out by a person, consisting mainly of the person having access to, or contact with, children. 

Examples of providers of relevant services include; 

  • An early years’ service, 
  • School
  • Hospital
  • Centre for children with disabilities
  • Priest

The definition also extends to any work or activity providing educational or recreational, leisure, social and physical activities to children, whether for commercial use or not. The Act therefore covers a broad range of services including the voluntary and sporting sector such as children’s GAA, rugby and soccer teams.

Everyone

Children First calls upon every individual in society to report any concern they may have about a child’s protection and welfare. 

Child Safeguarding Statement

A provider of relevant service is required to produce a Child Safeguarding statement. The purpose of the statement will be to identify how the provider of a service will manage any risks identified in the risk assessment.

The provider will also be obliged to display the statement in a prominent place where the service is being provided. A provider will also be obliged to furnish a copy of the statement to members of staff and on request to a parent or guardian of a child availing of the service and to members of the public.

Who Can You Report Concerns Of Child Abuse To?

The Children First National Guidance outlines Tusla Child and Family Agency and An Garda Síochána as the main statutory bodies involved in child welfare and protection. Therefore, if you ever have reason to believe that a child may have been or is at risk of being abused, you should report your concern to the local social work duty service in the area where the child lives. All contact details can be found on Tusla’s website.

Summary On Children First Ireland

  • Children First provides legislative obligations and guidance for citizens to report concerns about the welfare of children
  • Organisations and mandated persons providing services to children need to be fully aware of the provisions of the Children’s First Act 2015 to ensure they are fully compliant
  • If you have any concerns about the safety of a child you should report to Tusla or An Garda Síochána

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