11 December, 2017 - Minister Bruton welcomes commencement of the Children First Act 2015 and announces publication of new child protection procedures for schools

The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton TD, today welcomed the full commencement of the Children First Act 2015 and announced that his Department has published new child protection procedures for schools which take into account the new statutory mandated reporting and child safeguarding requirements.

New provisions in the Act mean that teachers will be required to follow new reporting requirements in respect of their role as mandated persons. The Designated Liaison Person however will still maintain their central role in the school’s child protection arrangements. The new procedures for schools set out the reporting requirements for registered teachers in respect of their role as mandated persons.

Schools will now have a statutory obligation to produce a Child Safeguarding Statement under the changes. This Statement set outs a school’s commitment to keep children safe from harm. Procedures published today will give guidance and direction for schools to help them to produce this Statement and meet their obligations. In that regard, the Department has published user friendly templates to assist schools in preparing, publishing and reviewing their Child Safeguarding Statement.

Minister Bruton stated “I’d firstly like to thank all involved in the development of these important new procedures. The protection of children is of utmost importance to me and my Department and these new procedures give direction and guidance to schools authorities and to school personnel in relation to meeting their new statutory obligations under the Children First Act, 2015 and in the continued implementation of the best practice (non-statutory) guidance set out in Children First National Guidance 2017. My Department is committed to ensuring that there is full compliance with the new procedures.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors

The Children First Act 2015 has been fully commenced by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs from Monday 11th December 2017.   It has put elements of the Children First-National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children on a statutory footing. The Act provides for a number of key child protection measures that are relevant to schools, as follows: 

  • A requirement on organisations providing services to children, which includes all schools, to keep children safe and to produce a Child Safeguarding Statement;
  • A requirement on defined categories of persons (mandated persons), which includes registered teachers, to report child protection concerns over a defined threshold to the Child and Family Agency (Tusla);
  • A requirement on mandated persons which includes registered teachers, to assist Tusla in the assessment of a child protection risk, if requested to do so by Tusla;

The Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children has also recently been updated by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to outline the new statutory obligations that apply to mandated persons such as registered teachers and the new statutory obligations that apply to organisations (such as schools) under the Act. It also sets out the best practice (non-statutory) obligations which are in place for all individuals (including teachers) and for all sectors of society. The Children First Act, 2015 operates side-by-side with the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017.

The commencement of the 2015 Act and the publication of a new Children First National Guidance has necessitated changes to the existing Child Protection Procedures for schools.  

The updated Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools 2017 published today have been developed following extensive consultation with the education partners and take account of the new statutory obligations under the Children First Act, 2015 and the updated Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children.

Their purpose is to give direction and guidance to schools authorities and to school personnel in relation to meeting their new statutory obligations under the Children First Act, 2015 and in the continued implementation of the best practice (non-statutory) guidance set out in Children First National Guidance 2017.  

The procedures include -

a)     the reporting procedures to be followed by registered teachers in respect of their role as mandated persons, including a requirement to liaise with the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and, where applicable, to submit mandated reports jointly with the DLP to Tusla

b)     Guidance and direction for schools in relation to meeting their statutory obligations in relation to Child Safeguarding Statements. In that regard, the procedures require that all boards of management use templates published by the Department when preparing, publishing and reviewing their Child Safeguarding Statement.

c)     Enhanced oversight measures which are aimed at ensuring full compliance by schools with the Children First Act 2015, Children First National Guidance 2017 and with the Department’s requirements as set out in the procedures for schools.  

The procedures for schools are available at the following link;

https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/Child-Protection/Information.html

The Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children is available at the following link

https://www.dcya.gov.ie/documents/publications/20171002ChildrenFirst2017.pdf