CHILD PROTECTION POLICY
This Policy has been drawn up as a response to Circ. 65/2011. It further develops previous policy in this area and takes account of the provisions of the following pieces of legislation.
a) The Education Act 1998
b) The Child Welfare Act 2000
The Board of Management and staff of St. Kilian’s Senior National School have been entrusted with the care of every pupil in our school. Our duty of care is regarded as a primary responsibility and will be achieved within a climate of positive co-operation and mutual respect.
- The complete “Stay Safe” prevention and skills programme is taught in Fourth class to pupils whose parents/guardians give their consent in writing.
- SPHE is part of the Revised Primary School Curriculum and is taught to all classes.
- The core principles of our school ethos are modelled and upheld by all staff members who, through co-operation and teamwork, provide a secure, safe, empowering learning environment for all pupils.
In all instances of suspicion or allegations of abuse or neglect, the following resources books will be referenced. These publications are available from the office.
1) “Children First” Department of Health & Children 1999
2) “Child Protection” Department of Education and Science 2001
3) “Children First” National Guidance for the Protection & Welfare of Children 2011
1) Childcare Act, 1991
2) Freedom of Information Act, 1997
3) Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998
4) Stay Safe Programme (Amended 1998)
5) SPHE Curricular Plan for St. Kilian’s Senior National School
8) www.hse.ie (Child Protection & Welfare handbook)
Designated Liaison Person (DLP):
The Principal, Orla Higgins, will act as DLP, following ratification by the Board of Management. The Deputy Principal, Ms. Margaret Meagher, shall act as DDLP. The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with Health Boards, An Garda Síochana 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. Further information on the responsibilities of the DLP is included in ‘Child Protection DES’ – Pg. 8 – Section 2.2. Action to be taken by the DLP in cases where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion or where an allegation has been made are in ‘Child Protection DES’ Chapter 3 – Section 3.2 pg 11 – 12.
All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse should only be shared on a need to know basis in the interests of the child. The test is whether or not the person has any legitimate involvement or role in dealing with the issue.
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 a breach of confidentiality.
The DLP who is submitting a report to the Health Board or An Garda Síochana 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 briefly recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.
In emergency situations, where the Health Board cannot be contacted, and the child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, An Garda Síochana should be contacted immediately. A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.
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 Health Boards or any member of An Garda Síochana.
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. (Child Protection DES Book page 6).
While the legal protection outlined above only applies to reports made to the appropriate authorities (i.e. The Health Boards and An Garda Síochana), Common Law qualified privilege continues to apply as heretofore. Consequently, should a Board of Management member or school personnel furnish information with regard to suspicions of child abuse to the DLP or the Board of Management Chairperson, such communication would be regarded under common law as having qualified privilege.
A further definition of qualified privilege is outlined in Section 1.4.2 and 1.4.3, page 6 of Child Protection – Guidelines & Procedures.
Freedom of Information Act 1997:
Reports made to Health Boards 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.
Definition and Recognition of Child Abuse:
Child abuse can be categorised into four different types:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
A child may be subjected to more than one form of abuse at any given time. Definitions for each form of abuse are detailed in ‘Children First’ – (Department of Health & Children) Chapter 3 Sections 3.2 – 3.5 pgs 31 – 33.
Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse:
A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Appendix 1 ‘Children First’ – pg 125 – 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.
There are commonly three stages in the identification of child abuse. These are:-
I. Considering the possibility
II. Looking out for signs of abuse
III. Recording of information
Each of these stages is developed in ‘Children First’ pg 34 – 35 Section 3.9.
Handling Disclosures from Children:
‘Child Protection’ – pg 9 Section 2.4 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.
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 but 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 and retain the record
This information should then be passed on to the DLP.
If the reporting person or member of the school staff and the DLP are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion/allegation, the procedures for reporting as laid out in ‘Children First’ – Section 4.4 pg 38 will be adhered to. Standardised reporting forms may be photocopied from ‘Children First’ Appendix 8 – pg 159.
The Chairperson of the Board of Management will be informed before the DLP makes contact with the relevant authorities unless the situation demands that more immediate action to be taken for the safety of the child in which case the Chairperson may be informed after the report has been submitted. Details of what should be included in the report are outlined in ‘Children First’ – Section 4.5.1 – pg 39.
Any Professional who suspects child abuse should inform parents/carers if a report is to be submitted to the Health Board or An Garda Síochana unless doing so is likely to endanger the child.
In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be in immediate and serious risk, and a Duty Social Worker is unavailable, An Garda Síochana should be contacted. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.
Allegations or Suspicions Re: School Employees:
The most important consideration for the Chairperson, Board of Management or the DLP is the safety and protection of the child. However, employees also have a right to protection against claims, which are false or malicious.
As Employers, the Board of Management, should always seek legal advice as the circumstances can vary from one case to another.
There are two procedures to be followed (Section 4.1.3 pg 15 ‘Child Protection’):
I. The Reporting Procedure
II. The Procedure for dealing with the Employee
The DLP has responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board. The Chairperson, Board of Management has responsibility, acting in consultation with his/her board, for addressing the employment issues.
If the allegation is against the DLP, the Board of Management Chairperson will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board.
When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in Ch 3, Section 3.2, pg 11 – ‘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 Board of Management.
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 with the DLP. The procedures outlined in Section 4.2.3, pg 16 – ‘Child Protection’ will then be followed.
The Employee, the Chairperson and the DLP should make the employee aware privately:
a) An allegation has been made against him/her
b) The nature of the allegation
c) Whether or not the Health Board or Gardaí 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 Board of Management within a specified period and told that this may be passed to the Gardaí, Health Board and legal advisers.
The priority in all cases is that not child be exposed to unnecessary risk. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the Chairperson should take any necessary protective measures. These measures should be proportionate to the level of risk and should not unreasonably penalise the employee in any way unless to protect the child.
If the nature of the allegations warrants immediate action in the Chairperson’s opinion, the Board of Management should be convened to consider the matter. This may result in the Board of Management directing that the employee absent him/herself from the school forthwith while the matter is being investigated (administrative level).
When the Board of Management is unsure as to whether this should occur, advice should be sought from the Gardaí and/or the Child Care Manager of the Health Board and the legal advisers to the Board of Management and regard be had to this advice.
Should the Board of Management 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).
Board of Management:
The Chairperson should inform the Board of Management 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.
A copy of this Policy, which includes the names of the designated liaison person (DLP) and Deputy (DDLP) shall be made available to all school personnel and the Parents’ Association and will be readily available to parents on request.
The name of the DLP and the DDLP will be prominently displayed in the reception area of the school.
At each Board of Management meeting the Principal’s Report shall include:
- Reports involving pupils in the school submitted by the HSE
- Advice sought from HSE regarding the welfare of an individual pupil
- Chid Protection will be placed on the Agenda of every Board of Management Meeting
The Board of Management will undertake an annual review of its Child Protection Policy and its implementation by the school. The checklist included in Circ. 65/2011 Appendix 2 will be used. The Chairperson of the BOM shall initiate any action plan required to address any areas for improvement identified by the review.
School personnel will be informed that the review has been undertaken. Written notification that the review has been undertaken shall be provided to the Parents’ Association. A record of the review and its outcome shall be made available, if requested, to the Patron and the Department.
This Policy was ratified by the Board of Management on the 29th November 2011, following consultation with staff in October 2011.
It will be reviewed annually at the first Board of Management meeting of each school year.