Child Protection Policy
This policy document has been drawn up by Coiste Choláiste Árainn Mhóir in response to recent changes in legislation. The policy takes account of the provisions of the following legislation:
The Education Act 1998 The Education Welfare Act 2000 The Protection of Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1993 Education for Persons with Special Educational needs Act 2004 Safety, Health at Work Act, 2005
In all instances of suspicion or allegations of abuse or neglect, the following guidelines will be referenced.
Children First (Department of Health & Children, 1999) Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, 2001)
AIMS OF POLICY
The aims of this Child Protection Policy are to:
- Put in place clear procedures for dealing with and reporting suspected/alleged cases of child neglect or abuse
- Endeavour to safeguard the wellbeing of the child and intervene when necessary to protect their rights
- Help school personnel recognise the signs of neglect or abuse
- Provide a safe, trusting, responsive and caring environment for our school community.
- Put in place procedures for good practice to protect all children and staff of Coláiste Árainn Mhóir.
DEFINITION OF ABUSE
Child abuse can be categorised into four different types:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual Abuse
DEFINITION OF NEGLECT: Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults (3.2.Children First)
DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE: Emotional Abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between caregiver and a child rather than in specific events or patterns of events. It occurs when a child’s needs for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. Unless other forms of abuse are present, it is rarely manifested in terms of physical signs or symptoms (3.3 Children First)
DEFINITION OF SEXUAL ABUSE: Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his/her gratification or sexual arousal (3.5 Children First). More details of each type of abuse is contained in Appendix 1, p.125, Children First)
GUIDELINES FOR RECOGNISING THE SIGNS OF ABUSE (3.9.) Children First) Recognition of abuse normally runs along three stages:
- Considering the possibility – if a child appears to have suffered an inexplicable and suspicious injury, seems distressed without obvious reason, display usual behaviour problems or appears fearful in the company of parents/carers
- Observing signs of abuse– a cluster of pattern of signs is the most reliable indicator of abuse. Children may make direct or indirect disclosures, which should always be taken seriously. Less obvious disclosures may be gently explored with a child, without direct questioning (which may be more usefully be carried by the Health Board or Gardaí). Play situations such as drawing or story telling may reveal significant information which could be considered in relation to the child’s social and family context, and it is important to always be open to alternative explanations.
- Recording of Information- it is important to establish the grounds for concern, by obtaining as much information as possible. Observations should be recorded and should include dates, times, names, locations context and any information which could be considered relevant or which might facilitate further assessment/investigation.
HANDLING DISCLOSURES FROM CHILDREN (2.4 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)
An abused child is likely to be under severe emotional stress and staff members may be the only adult whom the child is prepared to trust. Great care should be taken not to damage that trust.
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 consequence, 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. While the basis for concern must be established as comprehensively as possible, school personnel will adhere to the following procedures:
Procedures in dealing with a disclosure/suspicion from a Child/Third Party
- Teachers who suspect child abuse/neglect should report their concerns to the DLP at the first instance and carefully record their observations over a period of time.
- Disclosures of child abuse/neglect from a third party will be reported to the DLP. If a third party starts to tell a teacher about an alleged abuse incident, the teacher will ask them to speak to the DLP. If the person does not inform the DLP the teacher will do so.
- Where a child discloses alleged abuse/neglect to a staff member, the person receiving that information will listen carefully and offer support. IT IS NOT THE ROLE OF ANY STAFF MEMBER OR DLP TO INVESTIGATE AN INCIDENT, ALLEGATION OR SUSPICION. HIS/HER ROLE IS TO LISTEN AND RECORD INFORMATION. Great care must be taken not to abuse the child’s trust.
Staff are advised to:
- Listen to the child
- Do not ask leading questions nor make suggestions to the child
- Offer reassurance but do not make promises
- Do not stop a child recalling significant events
- Do not react
- Explain that further help may have to be sought
- Record the discussion accurately and retain the record.( see staff reporting from)
This written information should be given to and retained by the DLP. All records will be held in a central, securely locked location.
DESIGNATED LIAISON PERSONS (DLP) (2.2 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)
The Committeet has designated a senior member of staff to have specific responsibility for child protection. This person is the Designated Liaison Person for the school in dealing with the Health Boards, Gardaí Síochána and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. All other parties are advised that they should conduct all matters pertaining to the processing or investigations of alleged child abuse through the Designated Liaison Person (DLP).
Where the Designated Liaison Person is unavailable for whatever reason, arrangements are in place for another nominated member of staff to assume his/her responsibility i.e. the Deputy Designated Liaison Person. Príomhoide an chúrsa will act as DLP following ratification by the Board of Management. The Deputy Liaison Person is the Leas-Phríomhoide. The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with Health Boards, Garda Síochána and other parties, in connection with allegations of abuse. ACTION TO BE TAKEN BY THE DESIGNATED LIAISON PERSON (3.2 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)
If a staff member and the designated liaison person are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion or allegation, the DLP should report the matter to the relevant Health Board immediately. This will be done by phone and writing. In the event of an emergency or the non-availability of Health Board Staff the report will be made to the local Gardaí. The report should include as much information as possible on the standard Reporting Form.
WHEN SUCH A REPORT IS BEING MADE TO THE HEALTH BOARD THE RÚNAÍ OF THE COMMITTEE WILL BE INFORMED.
In the case where a staff member has concerns about a child, but are not sure whether to report the matter to the appropriate health board, they will seek appropriate advice. To do so, the DLP will consult the appropriate health board staff. In consulting the appropriate health board staff, the DLP would have to give identifying details as are required when a report is being made. If the health board advises that a referral will be made, the DLP will act on that advice.
In following the discussion outlined, the DLP decides that the concerns of the school employee will not be referred to the Health Board; the school employee will be given a clear statement, in writing, as to the reason why the action is not being taken. The school employee will be advised that, if he/she remains concerned about the situation, he/she is free to consult with or report to the Health Board. Again, the standard reporting form will be used. Any such report would be covered by the Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998.
CONFIDENTIALITY (1.2 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)
All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse will only be shared on a need to know basis, in the interest of the child.
Giving information to those who need to have that information for the protection of the 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 Aboard or Garda Síochána will 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 will be briefly recorded together with the reason for not doing so.
In emergency situations, where the health board cannot be contacted, and the child appears at immediate and serious risk, an Garda Síochána will be contacted immediately.
Under no circumstances will a child be left in a dangerous situation pending health board intervention.
PROTECTION FOR PERSONS REPORTING CHILD ABUSE (1.3 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures: 2.4 Children First)
The protection for persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998, provides immunity from civil liability to any person who reports suspicions of child abuse reasonably and in good faith to designated officers of Health Boards, or any member of an Garda Síochána. 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 (1.4.DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)
While the legal protection outlined above only applies to reports made to the appropriate authorities (i,e, Health Boards and an Gardaí Síochána), Common Law qualified privilege continues to apply as heretofore. Consequently, should a committee member or staff member furnish information with regard to suspicions of child abuse to the DLP or Chairperson of the Board of Management, such communication would be regarded under common law as having qualified privilege.
Qualified privilege arises where the person making the communication has a duty to do so, or a right, or interest to protect the child and where the communication is made to a person with a similar duty, right or interest. The person making the report, acting in loco parentis, would be expected to act in the child’s best interests and in making the report would be regarded as acting in such a manner. Privilege can be displaced only where it can be established that the person making the report acted maliciously.
Furthermore, those reporting a child’s disclosure are not regarded as making an allegation as a matter of charge, but simply carrying out of their duty in good faith. They are not accusing or bringing a charge.
Freedom of Information Act 1997
- DES Guidelines
- Children First
Reports made to Health Boards may be subject to provisions of Freedom of Information Act 1997, which enables members of 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.
Reporting to the College Committee
At each College Committee meeting the principal’s report shall:
- state the number of reports made to the HSE by the DLP, since the last committee meeting and
- state the number of cases, since the last committee meeting, where the DLP sought advice from the HSE and as a result of this advice, no report was made, or
- where there were no such cases at (1) or (2) above, state this fact.
The minutes of the Board of Management meeting shall record the above.
Note: the Principal’s report shall state only the number of cases at (1) or (2) and shall not include any other details of these cases.
Allegations against an Employee:
- Procedures followed are similar to those of a disclosure
- Employee is made aware of the allegation against him/her
- Employee will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegation in writing and at a meeting of the Committee
- Committee meeting to review the allegation, giving due consideration to any advice given by Health Board and Gardaí
- The Committee will consider placing the employee on administrative leave, with full pay, pending the outcome of investigations by the Health Board and Gardaí
- On conclusion of any investigation the Committee will then determine the employment status of the employee
Where the employer has directed an employee to absent himself/herself from the school, such an absence would not imply any degree of guilt on the part of the school employee. Where such an absence is directed, the Department of Education and Skills shall immediately be contacted with regard to:
- formal approval for the payment of remuneration or ex-gratia payments in lieu of remuneration as appropriate, and
- Departmental sanction for the employment of a substitute teacher where necessary.
The following areas have been considered by the staff and the board of management of this college as areas of specific concern in relation to child protection. Following discussion and consultation the staff and board of management have agreed that the following practices be adopted.
- a) Physical contact
It is advisable for staff not to make inappropriate physical contact with the children in the college. Physical contact between college personnel and the child should always be in response to the Health & Safety needs of the child and not the needs of the adult.
While physical contact may be used to comfort, reassure or assist a child the following should be factors in determining it’s appropriateness:-
- It is acceptable to the child
- It is open and not secretive
- The age and developmental stage of the child
College personnel should avoid doing anything of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves.
- b) Visitors / Guest Speakers:
The college (principal/teachers) has a responsibility to check out the credentials of the visitor/guest speaker and to ensure that the material in use by guests is appropriate. The teacher will be present with his/her class while visitors/guest speakers are in the classroom.
- c) Children with specific toileting/intimate care needs:
In all situations where a pupil needs assistance with toileting /intimate care a meeting will be convened, after enrolment and before the child commences a course, between parents/guardians, class teacher, special needs assistant, principal and if appropriate the pupil . The purpose of the meeting will be to ascertain the specific needs of the child and to determine how the college can best meet those needs. The staff to be involved in this care will be identified and provision will be made for occasions when the particular member of staff involved is absent. A written copy of what has been agreed will be made and kept in the child’s file. The Board of Management should know precisely what care needs the SNA is carrying out.
Any deviation from the agreed procedure will be recorded and notified to the DLP and the parents/guardians.
- d) One- to One teaching
It is not policy for one-to-one instruction to take place at Coláiste Árainn Mhóir
Work being carried out by special needs assistants will be carried out under the direction of the class teacher in an open environment.
- e) Mná Tithe
All houses and family members have been Garda Vetted and approved and are to be considered as normal family homes. Bean an Tí’s have undergone specific training programmes to aid and assist in caring for young visiting students and their welfare.
While every effort will be made to adhere to best practice as agreed and outlined above, in the event of an emergency where this is not possible or practicable a full record of the incident should be made and reported to principal and parents.
EXISTING COLLEGE POLICIES
The following college policies which complement the Child Protection Policy are already in place in the college:
- Code of Behaviour and Anti Bullying Policy
- Health & Safety Statement
Review and Monitoring
This policy will be monitored and reviewed on an on-going basis and/or when the need arises.