Child Protection Policy

Child Protection Policy for Holy Family N.S. Tubbercurry 2009

This document has been drawn up and revised by the staff of Holy Family N.S. as a response to the recent changes in legislation. It further develops previous policy in this area and takes account of the provisions of the following pieces of legislation:

  • The Childcare Act 1991
  • The Education Act 1998
  • The Child Welfare Act 2000
  • The Children’s Act 2001
  • The Criminal Justice Act 2006

References
In all instances of suspicion all allegations of abuse of neglect, the following two resource books will be referenced:
“Child First” (Department of Health & Children)
“Child Protection” (Department of Education & Science)

Designated Liaison Person (DLP)

The Principal will act as the DLP following ratification by the BOM. Should circumstances warrant it the Deputy Principal shall act as DLP. The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with the HSE., An Garda Siochana and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. All matters pertaining to the processing or investigation of child abuse should be processed through the DLP. (Pg 8 Section 2.2 .. “Child Protection”) Action to be taken by the DLP in cases where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion or where an allegation has been made. (“Child Protection” Chapter 3 Section 3.2)

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Confidentiality

All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse should only be shared on a need to know basis in the interests of the child. Giving information to those who need to have that information for the protection of a child who may have been or has been abused is not in breach of confidentiality.

The DLP who is submitting a report to the HSE or Gardai should inform a parent/guardian unless doing so is likely to endanger the child or place that child at further risk. A decision not to inform a parent/guardian should be recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.

In emergency situations where the HSE cannot be contacted and the child appears to be at immediate and serious risk An Garda Siochana should be contacted immediately. A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending HSE intervention. School personnel do not investigate.

Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse.

The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 provides immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse “reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of HSE and Gardai.

This means that even if a reported suspicion of child abuse proves unfounded a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that the reporter had not acted reasonably and in good faith making the report.

The act provides significant protection for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to and including dismissal.

Qualified Privilege

While the legal protection outlined above only applies to reports made to the appropriate authorities, Common Law qualified privilege continues as heretofore. Consequently, should a BOM member or school personnel furnish information with regard to suspicions of child abuse to the DLP or

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the chairperson of the BOM. Such communication would be regarded under common law as having qualified privilege.
A further definition of qualified privilege is outline in section 1.4.2. and 1.4.3. pg. 6 0f Child Protection –Guidelines & Procedures.

Freedom of Information Act 1997
Reports made to the HSE may be subject to provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 which enables members of the public to obtain access to personal information relating to them which is in the possession of public bodies. However the act also provides that public bodies may refuse access to information obtained by them in confidence.

The Data Protection Acts 1988/2003
These acts give the right to every individual to access data relating to him/her and to have inaccurate data rectified.

Definition and Recognition of Child Abuse

Child abuse can be categorized into four different types.
neglect (willful and circumstantial)
emotional abuse
physical abuse
sexual abuse
The threshold of significant harm is reached when the child’s needs are neglected to the extent that his/her well being and/or development are severely affected. A child may be subjected to one form of abuse at any given time. Definitions: “ Children First” Chapter 3 pgs 31-33.

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Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse

A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Appendix 1 “Child First” pg125-131. It is important to stress that no one indicator should be seen as conclusive in itself of abuse: it may indicate conditions other than child abuse. All signs and symptoms must be examined in the total context of the child’s situation and family circumstances. Reasonable grounds for concern may include a disclosure by a child, an account by a witness, injuries or other indications of abuse.

There are commonly three stages in the identification of child abuse.
These are:

Considering the possibility
Looking out for signs of abuse
Recording of information

Each of these stages is developed in “Child First” pgs 34-35
All personnel should be familiar with signs and symptoms of abuse.

Handling Disclosures from Children

“Child Protection” pg 9 gives comprehensive details of how disclosures should be approached.

When information is offered in confidence the member of staff will need tact and sensitivity in responding to the disclosure. The member of staff will need to reassure the child and retain his/her trust while explaining the need for action and the possible consequences, which will necessarily involve other adults being informed. It is important to tell the child that everything possible will be done to protect and support him/her but not to make promises that cannot be kept e.g. promising not to tell anyone else.

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The following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse:

Listen to the child
Take all disclosures seriously
Do not ask leading questions or make suggestions to the child
Offer reassurance do not make promises
Do not stop a child recalling significant events
Do not over react
Explain that further help may have to be sought
Record the discussion accurately

This information should be then passed on to the DLP
A verbal report should be followed by a written report. If the reporting person and the DLP are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion/allegation, the procedures for reporting as laid out in “Child
First” –Section 4.4 pg 38 will be adhered to. Standardised reporting forms may be photocopied from “Child First” Appendix 8 pg 159

The Chairman of the BOM will be informed before the DLP makes contact with the HSE authorities in person by phone or in writing. It is generally most helpful if the DLP makes personal with the duty social worker. However if the situation demands that more immediate action be taken for the safety of the child in which case the Chairman may be informed after the report has been submitted. Details of what should be included in the report are outlined in “Children First” pg 39.

Any professional who suspects child abuse should inform parents/carers if a report is to be submitted to the HSE or An Garda Siochana unless doing so is likely to endanger the child.

In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk and a duty social worker is unavailable the Garda Siochana should be contacted. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending HSE intervention. (See photocopy included)

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Role of HSE

Once a referral has been received by HSE they decide what action if any will be taken.
HSE must inform the school of the outcome.

Allegations or Suspicions RE: School Employees.
The most important consideration for the chairperson of the BOM or the DLP is the safety of the child. However Employees also have a right to protection against claims which are false or malicious.
As employers the BOM should always seek legal advice as the circumstances can vary from one case to another.

There are two procedures to be followed (Section4.1.3 Page 15 “Child Protection”

The Reporting Procedure
The Procedure for dealing with the Employee.

The DLP has the responsibility for reporting the matter to the HSE. The Chairperson/BOM has responsibility, acting in consultation with the board for addressing the employment issues.
If the allegation is against the DLP the BOM Chairperson will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the HSE.

Reporting
When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in Chapter 3 section 3.2.pg11-Child Protection.
A written statement of the allegation should be sought from the person/agency making the report. The DLP should always inform the Chairperson of the BOM.
School employees other than the DLP who receive allegations against another school employee should immediately report the matter to the DLP.
School employees who form suspicions regarding conduct of another school employee should consult the DLP. The procedures outlined in section 4.2.3. pg16 “Child Protection” will then be followed.

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The Employee, The chairperson and the DLP should make the employee aware privately

The allegation has been made against him/her
The nature of the allegation
Whether or not the HSE or Gardai has been/will be/ must be/ should be informed.

The employee should be given a copy of the written allegation and any other relevant documentation. The employee should be requested to respond to the allegation in writing to the BOM within a specified period and told that this may be passed to the Gardai, HSE and legal advisers.

The priority in all cases is that no child be exposed to unnecessary risk. Therefore as a matter of urgency the chairman should take any necessary protective measures. These measures should be proportionate to the level of risk and should not unreasonably penalize the employee in any way unless to protect the child.

If the nature of the allegations warrant immediate action in the chairperson’s opinion the BOM should be convened to consider the matter. This may result in the BOM directing that the employee absent him/herself from the school forthwith while the matter is being investigated (administrative leave).

When the BOM is unsure as to whether this should occur, advice should be sought from the Gardai and/ or the Child Care Manager of the HSE and the legal advisers to the BOM .

Administrative Leave
Should the BOM direct that the employee absent him/herself as above such absence of the employee would be regarded as administrative leave of absence with pay and not suspension and would not imply any degree of guilt. The DES should be immediately informed. (Children First-pg 17)

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Board of Management

The chairperson should inform the BOM of all the details and remind the members of their serious responsibility to maintain strict confidentiality on all matters relating to the issue and the principles of due process and natural justice.

Time Frame

This policy is being adhered to at the moment.

Ratification

This policy was ratified by the BOM of Holy Family N.S. on: