Children First 2017: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children

On 2nd October 2017, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs launched the revised Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and announced the commencement of remaining sections of the Children First Act 2015 from 11th December 2017. The newly commenced provisions of the Children First Act, including mandated reporting, will come into effect from 11th December 2017.

Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children is intended to help people to recognise child abuse and neglect, and report concerns to Tusla. The Guidance has been updated to reflect the provisions of the Children First Act 2015 and it includes specific information for people and organisations who will acquire legal obligations under the legislation when it is fully commenced in December 2017.

Tusla has produced a suite of information documents and a universal e-learning programme to support the launch of the revised Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and the commencement of remaining sections of the Children First Act 2015.

What is going to change?

From 11th December 2017, certain groups of people will be legally obliged to report concerns of child harm to Tusla. These people are known as ‘mandated persons’. Mandated persons must report child protection and welfare concerns to Tusla and help Tusla, if requested, in assessing a reported concern.

Also, organisations which work with children and families and which are defined as providers of ‘relevant services’ in the Children First Act 2015 will have additional obligations relating to the protection of children.

How do I know if I am a mandated person?

Mandated persons are people who have ongoing contact with children and/or families and who are in a key position to protect children from harm. They include teachers, doctors, nurses, Gardaí, foster carers, youth workers and people working in many other professions.

For more information, see Tusla’s guide for reporting concerns about children: A Guide for the Reporting of  Child Protection and Welfare Concerns, which is mentioned in the Support Documents.

What additional obligations are there for organisations?

The Children First Act 2015 requires organisations that are providers of ‘relevant services’ to prepare a Child Safeguarding Statement, which is circulated to all staff, displayed publicly and made available to parents, guardians, Tusla and members of the public upon request.

What is a 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 to ensure, as far as practicable, that a child availing of the service is safe from harm. It also includes an assessment of risk of harm to a child while availing of your service and specifies the procedures in place to manage any identified risks.

Who needs to write a Child Safeguarding Statement?

Organisations which are defined in the Children First Act 2015 as providers of ‘relevant services’ must have a Child Safeguarding Statement in place within three months of the commencement of relevant sections of the Children First Act 2015 (on 11th December 2017). This includes organisations providing cultural activities to children and young people, such as youth orchestras.

Support Documents

Tusla has produced a suite of information documents and a universal e-learning programme to support the launch of the revised Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and the commencement of remaining sections of the Children First Act 2015.

A Guide for the Reporting of Child Protection and Welfare Concerns: This guide is intended for people who have ongoing contact with children and / or families through professional, voluntary or other roles and who are classified as mandated persons under the Children First Act 2015. Under the Children First Act 2015, mandated persons must:

  • Report harm of children above a defined threshold to Tusla;
  • Help Tusla, if requested, in assessing a concern which has been the subject of a mandated report.

This Guide will help you when considering reporting a child protection or welfare concern to Tusla. The Guide should be read along with Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children.

Best Practice Principles for Organisations in Developing Children First Training Programmes

This document sets out guidance to assist organisations in identifying and achieving specific child protection and welfare training for staff as identified in Children First: National Guidance. It includes information on:

  • The requirements for organisations to provide child protection and welfare training for staff and volunteers;
  • Tusla’s e-learning training programme ‘Introduction to Children First’;
  • The roles of staff in safeguarding children;
  • Suggested outlines for Children First training programmes;
  • Best practice principles in the delivery and evaluation of training programmes.

 Guidance on Developing a Child Safeguarding Statement

The Children First Act 2015 requires organisations that are providers of ‘relevant services’ to prepare a 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. It also includes an assessment of risk of harm to a child while availing of your service and specifies the procedures in place to manage any identified risks.

This Guidance provides information for organisations required to develop a Child Safeguarding Statement, including an example template Child Safeguarding Statement.

 Mandated Assisting Protocol for Tusla Staff

The Children First Act 2015 imposes a legal obligation on certain people called ‘mandated persons’ to report child protection concerns above a defined threshold to Tusla. Mandated persons are people who have ongoing contact with children and/or families and who, because of their qualifications, training and experience, are in a key position to protect children from harm. Mandated persons can also be mandated to assist Tusla in their assessment of child protection and welfare concerns about children who have been the subject of a mandated report.

The protocol sets out Tusla’s internal processes for formally requesting assistance and for dealing with a refusal to assist or a failure to engage.

Child Protection and Welfare Report Form

The Child Protection and Welfare Report Form will be available following commencement on 11th December 2017. If you have a concern about a child please visit www.tusla.ie to access the Children First Standard Report Form that is in operation until then.

E-Learning: Introduction to Children First

Tusla has also developed an e-learning training programme called ‘Introduction to Children First’, which covers topics including:

  • Recognising and reporting child abuse;
  • The role of mandated persons;
  • The responsibilities of organisations working with children to safeguard children;
  • The role of designated liaison persons.

The programme is available to members of the public and organisations working with children and families and can be completed in approximately 90 minutes. Access the e-learning programme on www.tusla.ie.

All of the above resources are available at www.tusla.ie.