Children First Act 2015
Mandatory Reporting and Child Safeguarding Statements – New Requirements
There are new legal obligations for early year’s service providers in the area of child protection and welfare. This article looks at what they are and what they mean for early years services.
Mandatory reporting of child abuse concerns and the requirement to publish a Child Safeguarding Statement are about to become law. From December 11, 2017, when the Children First Act 2015 is fully commenced, there will be new legal requirements in the area of child protection for professionals and services with a key role in the lives of children and families. Early Years services and the people who work in them will have new legal obligations under the act.
|On December 11, 2017|
|On March 11, 2018|
Mandated persons are people who have contact with children and families and who, because of their qualifications, training and/or employment role, are in a key position to help protect children from harm. All persons carrying on or running a registered pre-school service and all who are employed in them as childcare staff are Mandated Persons. Mandated Persons will have a legal obligation to report child protection concerns over a certain threshold to Tusla.
You are a mandated person if you are:
- A person carrying on a pre-school service within the meaning of Part VIIA of the Child Care Act 1991.
- A childcare staff member employed in a pre-school service within the meaning of Part VIIA of the Child Care Act 1991
Child Safeguarding Statement
A Child Safeguarding Statement is a written statement that specifies the service being provided and the principles and procedures to be observed in order to ensure, as far as practicable, that a child availing of the service is safe from harm. It includes a risk assessment, measures to manage any risks and a number of mandatory safeguarding policies and procedures. Early years services (including preschools and school age services) who employ at least one other person will have a legal obligation to publish a Child Safeguarding Statement. Services will have 3 months from December 11, 2017 to comply.
If you are a pre-school or a school-age service who employs more than one person you are legally required to have a Child Safeguarding Statement.
New Children First National Guidance
Children First National Guidance for the Protection & Welfare of Children has been updated to include these new provisions and contains important information for professionals working with children and organisations providing services to children. Everyone working in an early year’s service should read and be familiar with the new Guidance document. All early years services will be provided with a copy over the coming weeks.
The Children First Guidance, the e-learning course and a number of other useful resources can be found at www.tusla.ie
These new requirements are a further, welcome step towards keeping children safe from harm by ensuring that all child protection concerns are passed to Tusla and that organisations providing services to children have taken all the measures necessary to protect the children in their care.
- The Early Years Child Protection Programme will run regional briefing sessions in early 2018 on the new requirements.
- Tusla have launched an e-learning programme, Introduction to Children First, an interactive course that provides introductory information on the new legal requirements and it recommended that all staff and providers of early years services complete it. It can be accessed at www.tusla.ie
- Children First Guidance and questions and answers can be found here.
Questions and Answers for Early Years Services Providers
Children First, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 was launched on October 2nd 2017. This Guidance is a primary reference for all citizens to report concerns and includes the new legislative obligations. It provides clarity between the legislation and the existing non-statutory obligations which will continue to operate for all sectors of society.
Children First Guidance describes the four main types of abuse and sets out the steps which should be taken to ensure that the child or young person is protected from harm. It has been updated to include new information about the Children First Act 2015 and it includes specific information for the professionals and organisations that now have legal obligations to keep children safe. 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.
Garda Vetting in Early Years Services
Statutory obligations for Early Years services in relation to Garda vetting requirements for persons working with children and vulnerable adults are set out in the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012–2016 and in the Childcare Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016.
Under this legislation, it is compulsory for early year’s services to obtain vetting disclosures in relation to anyone who is carrying out relevant work with children or vulnerable adults. The National Vetting Bureau Act 2012 -2016 creates offences and penalties for persons who fail to comply with its provisions.
Early years services can obtain Garda Vetting through Barnardos (see link below) or through Early Childhood Ireland if they are subscribed members.
Link to Barnardos information pack and vetting application: https://www.barnardos.ie/media-centre/news/latest-news/barnardos-vetting-service-downloads.html
If the early year’s practitioner is a person who has lived or worked outside of the state for periods of time a Garda Vetting Form should be completed listing the addresses both in Ireland and other countries that the person has resided in. Additionally, the person is required to provide an original Police Clearance Certificate/s from the country/countries that they have lived/worked in (see useful link below) This applies to international applicants as well as Irish applicants who have resided/worked abroad. Early years services should take reasonable steps to verify Police Clearances from other countries and these attempts should be recorded on the personnel file.
Link for practitioners that have lived outside Ireland: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/medical-police/police-certificates/how.html
A full list of Questions and answers on management and staffing in early years / pre-school services giving particular attention to: Employee References, Qualifications & Garda Vetting is available here: http://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content/Q_and_A_Vetting_December_2015.pdf.