MID WEST SPINA BIFIDA AND HYDROCEPHALUS ASSOCIATION
CHILD PROTECTION POLICY Statement
REVISED JANUARY 31st 2019
This policy outlines Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association’s procedures relating to Child Protection.
This policy applies to all Employees and Volunteers of the Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association.
The Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association want to make sure that Children are protected and kept safe from harm while they are with Employees and Volunteers in this Organisation. We do this by:
- Giving Parents, Children, Employees and Volunteers information about what we do and what is expected of us
- Making sure that our Employees and Volunteers are carefully selected, trained and supervised
- Letting Parents and Children know how to voice their concerns or complaints if there is anything about which they are not happy
This policy is underpinned by the Child Care Act 1991, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Children First.
(It should be noted that “Children” as used in this document refers to all members under the age of 18 years.)
Dealing with Child Protection and Welfare Concerns
All employees, and volunteers of Named Service, will be made aware of and be familiar with the childcare services child protection policy through an in-house induction, on-going training and they will sign up to the overall child protection policy of the childcare service. All staff and volunteers will sign up to the overall child protection policy of the childcare service. The Designated Liaison Person acts as a liaison with outside agencies and a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child protection concerns. The Designated Liaison Person is responsible for reporting allegations or suspicions the Child and Family Agency Tusla or An Garda Siochana. (See Children First 3.3) Named service has put in place a standard reporting procedure for dealing with disclosures,
DEFINITIONS OF ABUSE
There are four types of abuse. These are as follows:
Where the Child is being deprived of affection, food, clothing, hygienic practice, intellectual stimuli, supervision and safety.
Where the Child is being physically abused; in these cases, the Child will show bruising on the skin or appear to be in physical pain. The Child could be being abused by a Parent or someone they trust. Non-accidental bruising can be spotted relatively easily. It is important to be aware of signs of abuse as the Child may not want to come forward and admit this for fear of the abuse getting worse.
Like neglect, when a Child’s need or desire for consistent approval, affection and / or security are surplus to requirements. This type of abuse is usually found in the Child and Care-giver dynamic.
Where the Child is used by another person to satisfy their own sexual needs, or that of others.
Children with Spina Bifida and/or Hydrocephalus will usually display the same signs and symptoms of abuse as other Children. However, these may be incorrectly attributed to the Child’s disability.
All people who work with our Children will need to be alert to the possibility of abuse and seek advice from appropriately trained professionals.
Our Children may have additional special vulnerabilities and abuse may take the form of:
- Deprivation of basic rights
- Harsh disciplinary regimes
- Inappropriate use of medication or physical restraint
Children with Disabilities may be more at risk of abuse for the following reasons:
- Communication difficulties
- Dependence on the goodwill of Carers
- Power differences
- Limited assertiveness
- Vulnerability due to isolation
- Need for intimate care such as washing and toileting
- Limited ability to recognize inappropriate sexual behaviour
- Compliant behaviour towards adults
- Need for attention, friendship or affection
- Limited sense of danger and inability to see warning signs
Limitations of Personal Choice
Children with disabilities are accustomed to being directed. They are rarely offered choices or provided with enough information to make a choice. This may mean they are less able to recognise and withdraw from abusive situations.
Where a Child with a disability requires intimate care, which may often be undertaken by a few different Carers, it may be difficult for a Child to distinguish between appropriate and non-appropriate touching and their right of choice about who carries out such care. This may also be true for Children who have experienced a high level of medical interventions and treatment.
Harm can be defined as the ill treatment or impairment of the health or development of a Child. Whether it is significant is determined by his/her health and development as compared to that which could be reasonably expected of a Child of a similar age.
Repeated aggression, be it verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against others.
- Constant hunger
- Lack of supervision
- Inadequate or Inappropriate clothing
- Poor hygiene
- Untreated illness
- Lack of Relationships
- Low Self Esteem
- Compulsive stealing or begging
- Bite marks
- Bruises in places difficult to mark e.g. behind ears, groin
- Burns, especially cigarette burns
- Untreated injuries
- Self-harm tendencies
- Chronic runaway
- Aggressive or withdrawn
- Fear of returning home
- Undue fear of adults
- Fear of being watched
- Soreness, bleeding in genital or anal areas
- Itching in genital areas
- Stained or bloody underwear
- Stomach pains or headaches
- Pain on urination
- Difficulty walking / sitting
- Bruises on inner thighs or buttocks
- Anorexic / bulimic
- Chronic depression
- Inappropriate language, carnal knowledge for age group
- Making sexual advances to adults or Children
- Low self esteem
- Afraid of dark
- Wariness of being approached by anyone
- Substance / drug abuse
- Sudden speech disorders
- Lack of bladder or colon control
- Signs of self-harm
- Frequent vomiting
- Rocking, thumb sucking
- Fear of change
- Frequent runaway
- Poor relationships with peers
- Constant need for attention
Record Keeping/Recording of information
If suspected neglect or abuse is to be reported to Tusla then it is important to establish the grounds for concern by getting as much information as possible. Great care must be taken to accurately record as much details as possible and include any observations noted by all those involved. These records should include, dates, times, names, locations, context and any other relevant details. This information should be carefully locked away and kept private by the Designated Liaison Person and shared only with those involved under the guidelines of the Children First National Guidance of 2017
Reporting procedure for dealing with disclosures, concerns or allegations of child abuse
- The employee or volunteer who has received a disclosure of child abuse or who has concerns about a child should bring them to the attention of the Designated Liaison Person immediately.
- Under no circumstances should a child be left in a situation that exposes him or her to harm or of risk to harm pending Tusla intervention. In the event of an emergency where you think a child is in immediate danger and you cannot get in contact with Tusla, you should contact the Gardaí. This may be done through any Garda station.
- Where the Designated Liaison Person considers that a child protection or welfare concern meets the reasonable grounds for concern criteria outlined below, then the Designated Liaison Person can refer to Tusla. Examples of reasonable grounds for concern are:
• specific indication from the child that he/she was abused;
• an account by the person who saw the child being abused;
• evidence, such as an injury or behaviour which is consistent with abuse and unlikely to be caused in another way;
• an injury or behaviour which is consistent with abuse and with an innocent explanation but where there are corroborative indicators supporting the concern that it may be a case of abuse.
An example of this would be a pattern of injuries, an implausible explanation, other indications of abuse, dysfunctional behaviour;
• Consistent indication over a period of time that a child is suffering from emotional or physical neglect ( visit: FAQ on www.tusla.ie/services/child-protection-welfare/children-first/)
- Where the Designated Liaison Person remains uncertain he/she should contact the Child and Family Agency Tusla for informal advice relating to the allegation, concern or disclosure.
- The Designated Liaison Person will ensure that the parents/ carers are informed that a report/ referral had been made to Tusla. The Designated Liaison Person will make an appointment with parents to inform them that the report has been made to Tusla unless to do so would be likely to endanger the child.
- After consultation with the Duty Social Worker the Designated Liaison Person will then take one of two options:
- Report the allegation, concern or disclosure to the relevant authority (e.g. Tusla, An Garda Síochána, etc.) using the standard reporting form from Children First and in the case of out of hours or immediate danger contact An Garda Siochana.
- In those cases where a childcare service decides not to report concerns to Tusla or An Garda Siochana, the individual employee or volunteer who raised the concern should be given a clear written statement of the reasons why the childcare service is not taking such action. The employee or volunteer should be advised that if they remain concerned about the situation, they are free as individuals to consult with, or report to, the Tusla or An Garda Siochana.
The provisions of the Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 apply once they communicate ‘reasonably and in good faith’ (see Paragraph 3.10.1 of Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children). In making a report on suspected or actual child abuse, the Designated Liaison Person must ensure that the first priority is always for the safety and welfare of the child/ young person and that no child/ young person is ever left in a situation that could place a child/young person in immediate danger.
How to Make a Report: If the report is in relation to the safety and welfare of children / young people, the report should be made to the Designated Liaison Person (in the childcare Service name) Guiding principles to reporting child abuse:
- The safety and well-being of the child or young person must take priority;
- Reports should be made without delay to the Child and Family Agency Tusla, Local Health Office area where child resides.
- A suspicion, which is not supported by an objective indication of abuse or neglect, would not constitute a reasonable suspicion or reasonable grounds for concern.
However, these suspicions should be recorded or noted internally by the Designated Liaison Person as future suspicions may lead to the decision to make a report and earlier suspicions may provide important information for the statutory child protection agency or An Garda Siochana.
Who can make a report to Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus (MWSB)?
Reports can be made by:
- Children / young people;
- Parents / guardians;
- Employees, volunteers of MWSB
- Other advocates on behalf of children / young people.
How to Handle a Report of Abuse by a Child / Young Person:
In the event of a child / young person disclosing an incident of abuse it is essential that this is dealt with sensitively and professionally by the employee / volunteer involved. In such circumstances, the employee / volunteer should:
- React calmly;
- Listen carefully and attentively; take the young person seriously;
- Reassure the young person that they have taken the right action in talking to you;
- Do NOT promise to keep anything secret;
- Ask questions for clarification only. Do not ask leading questions, this is not an interview, but rather receiving a disclosure from a child;
- Check back with the child/young person that what you have heard is correct and understood;
- Do not express any opinions about the alleged abuser;
- Record the conversation as soon as possible, in as much detail as possible. Sign and date the record;
- Ensure that the child/young person understands the procedures which will follow;
- Pass the information to the Designated Liaison Person do not attempt to deal with the problem alone;
- Treat the information confidentially
Retrospective Disclosures by Adults
Parents and staff who are working with children and young adults or who attend child protection training may disclose abuse which took place during their childhood. A disclosure of abuse by an adult which took place during their childhood must be noted or recorded. In these cases, it is essential that consideration is given to the current risk to any child who may be in contact. If any risk is deemed to exist to any child who may be in contact with the alleged abuser, a report of the allegation should be made to the Child and Family Agency Tusla without delay.
Investigation of disclosures by adult victims of past abuse frequently uncovers current incidents of abuse and is therefore an effective means of stopping the cycle of abuse. An increasing number of adults are disclosing abuse that took place during their childhoods. Such disclosures often come to light when adults attend counselling. It is essential to establish whether there is any current risk to any child who may be in contact with the alleged abuser revealed is such disclosures. If any risk is deemed to exist to a child who may be in contact with an alleged abuser, the Designated Liaison Person should report the allegation to the Child and Family Agency Tusla without delay.
The National Counselling Service is in place to listen to, value and understand those who have been abused in childhood. The service is a professional, confidential counselling and psychotherapy service and is available free of charge in all regions of the country,(see http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/Mental_Health_Services/National_Counselling_Service/).
The service can be accessed either through healthcare professionals or by way of self-referral. Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998*
Immunity from civil liability to persons who report child abuse
Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus wish to draw the attention of the staff and volunteers to this Act. Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 provides immunity from civil liability to persons who report child abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to the HSE or An Garda Síochána. Section 3(1) of the Act states: “A person who, apart from this section, would be so liable shall not be liable in damages in respect of the communication, whether in writing or otherwise, by him or her to an appropriate person of his or her opinion that—
- a child has been or is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused, or
- a child’s health, development or welfare has been or is being avoidably impaired or neglected, unless it is proved that he or she has not acted reasonably and in good faith in forming that opinion and communicating it to the appropriate person”.
This protection applies to childcare services and to individuals.
Role of the Designated Liaison Person
The Designated Liaison Person in Mid- West Spina Bifida (MWSB) has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the child protection and welfare policy is promoted and implemented. The role of the Designated Liaison Person involves the following duties:
- To be familiar with “Children First”, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and “Our Duty to Care”, the principles of good practice for the protection of children & young people and to have responsibility for the implementation and monitoring of the child protection and welfare policy;
- The MWSB Designated Liaison Person provides support to staff members who are dealing with/have dealt with a child protection concern or disclosure.
- To receive reports of alleged / suspected or actual child abuse and act on these in accordance with the guidelines;
- To ensure that training is provided for all new and existing staff in MWSB on the child protection policy;
- To build a working relationship with the Child and family Agency Tusla, An Garda Síochána and other agencies, as appropriate;
- To ensure that supports are put in place for the young person, employees or volunteers in cases of allegations being made;
- To keep up to date and undertake relevant training on child protection policy and practice, in order to ensure the relevance and appropriateness of MWSB Service policy and procedures in this area;
- To review the MWSB policy and procedures on child protection on an annual basis and amend as appropriate;
- To ensure that systems are in place for recording and retaining all relevant documentation in relation to child protection issues.
REPORTING PROCEDURES -DLP
DESIGNATED PERSON FOR CHILD PROTECTION / VUNERABLE ADULTS IN Mid-West SPINA BIFIDA and hydrocephalus ASSOCIATION (AND ACTING DESIGNATED PERSON)
Our Association recognises the need for one point of contact within the Organisation for dealing with Child protection / and, to this end, we designate a two people (one main contact and one alternate) who will be responsible for being a source of advice in Child protection / matters, for coordinating action within the Organisation, and for liaising with the HSE and An Garda Síochána and other agencies about suspected or actual cases of Child abuse.
The Association has the right and responsibility to appoint a person(s), with adequate training and experience, to the role of Child protection / Liaison Officer(s).
The role of the designated person is to:
- establish contact with the senior member of community services responsible for Child protection / venerable adults in the Organisation’s catchment area
- provide information and advice on Child protection / venerable adults within the Organisation
- ensure that the Organisation’s Child protection / venerable adults policy and venerable adults and procedures are followed and, particularly, to inform community services of relevant concerns about individual Children
- ensure appropriate information is available at the time of referral and that the referral is confirmed in writing under Confidential Cover
- Liaise with community services and An Garda Síochána and other agencies as appropriate
- Keep relevant people within the Organisation informed
- ensure that an individual case record of the action taken by the Organisation is maintained
- advise the Organisation of Child protection / venerable adults needs
As a mandated person, you may make a report jointly with any other person, whether that person is also a mandated person or not. For example, this could arise in situations where a child is admitted to the hospital emergency department and could be seen by a number of health professionals, or in a school where the teacher, the special needs assistant (SNA) and the principal al have concerns about the same child and wish to make a joint report to Tusla.
Informing the family that a report is being made
- The Children First Act 2015 does not require you to inform the family that a report under the legislation is being made to Tusla. However, it is good practice to tell the family that a report is being made and the reasons for the decision.
- It is not necessary to inform the family that a report is being made if by doing so the child will be placed at further risk or where the family’s knowledge of the report could impair Tulsa’s ability to carry out a risk assessment. Also, you do not need to inform the family if you reasonably believe that by doing so it may place you at risk of harm from the family.
Informing the employer or designated liaison person
As part of their child protection reporting procedures or internal human resources (HR) policy, employers may require mandated persons to inform them if a mandated report has been made and to provide a copy of the report. You should be familiar with your employer’s procedures and follow them.
Nessa O’Driscoll FSW
Mid-West Spina Bifida Association
Delta Retail Park
061-439990 or 087-2879373
Mid-West Spina Bifida Association
Delta Retail Park
This section of the document aims to familiarise readers with procedures for reporting suspected or disclosed abuse. It is important to note, at this stage, that any judgement about abuse must be left to the professionals; you have a supportive and non-investigative role. Do seek advice and do record and date all observations of worrying marks/behaviour.
The effective protection of Children hangs on the willingness of Employees in Statutory or Voluntary Organisations to share any and all relevant information. Thus, it is vital that the role of the designated person be clear and understood by all members of the Association especially with regard to confidentiality.
Giving information to others for the protection of the Child is not a breach of confidentiality. Information that is gathered for one purpose will not be used for another without consulting the person who provided the information.
In the context of Child safety, the issue of confidentiality is defined by certain parameters aimed at protecting the Child and other Service Users. Confidentiality cannot be guaranteed under the following circumstances:
- Where the Child is at risk
- Where another person is at risk
- Where the law has been broken
Suspicions and disclosure of abuse, however, will be confined to the designated person and those directly involved.
It is of the utmost importance that suspicions, and disclosures of abuse be shared only with the designated person. All Employees, no matter how small their role is, have a duty to cater for the well-being and general safety of the Children they come in contact with during working hours. To do this, Employees may have to relinquish information given to them by a Child, to the Designated Officer, so that these concerns can be adhered to in a satisfactory and if necessary, legal manner. All concerns relating to the welfare and health of the Child should be recorded and shared with the Designated Officer.
All members should be informed of the duties of the designated Child protection / Officer and the name of that person so that they can go to them with their concerns.
If a Child hints or tells an Employee that he or she is being abused, the situation will be handled in a very delicate manner. Children have the right to be heard, listened to and above all, their concerns will be taken seriously.
Employees will be taught effective ways to respond adequately in the event of a Child disclosing their abuse. Employees must record disclosures of abuse adequately.
Please refer to the Association’s sample Standard Form for Reporting Child protection / and/or Welfare Concerns to Tusla.
All Members, Parents, Employees and Volunteers will be issued with a copy of the Association’s Policies and Procedures when they join the Association. Members will be informed of any subsequent changes in the Policies and Procedures if and when they occur.
A copy of information recorded during disclosure process will be kept, under lock and key, by the Designated Officer. All Employees and Volunteers will be aware of the recording system and their responsibility with regard to recording observations where a suspicion of abuse has been identified. In cases of emergency, where a Child appears to be in immediate danger or at risk, the duty social worker of the HSE or the An Garda Síochána, should be contacted.
ALLEGATIONS AGAINST EMPLOYEES / VOLUNTEERS
Any allegation of abuse will be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately. Similar procedures regarding confidentiality and disclosures will be followed in the case of allegations against Employees and/or Volunteers.
It is important to note that a parallel process will take place, the reporting procedure in respect of the Child, as outlined above, and the procedure for dealing with the Employee or Volunteer.
When our Association (MWSB) becomes aware of an allegation of abuse by an Employee or Volunteer, the standard procedures for reporting allegations to the HSE will be followed without delay. This action will only be taken based on an opinion formed reasonably and in good faith. If it is established that there are reasonable grounds for concern, a formal report will be sent to the HSE.
When an allegation has been made during the execution of an Employee’s duties, the Association will privately inform the Employee of the following:
- The fact that the allegation has been made
- The nature of the allegation
The Employee will be afforded an opportunity to respond. A record will be made of the response and this information will be included when making any formal report to the HSE.
The Chairperson or equivalent will be informed as soon as possible. The first priority will ensure that no Child is exposed to unnecessary risk.
Measures taken will be proportionate to the level of risk and will not unreasonably penalise the Employee, financially or otherwise, unless necessary to protect Children.
Where protective measures such as suspension are deemed necessary, the Association’s formal disciplinary procedure will be utilised, but immediate consideration will be given to the case.
RECRUITMENT AND CHILD PROTECTION
All advertisements, screening and recruitment for vacant posts within the childcare service will reflect the childcare service’s commitment to equality. We will ensure that interviewers conduct interviews in a non-discriminatory way. Interviews will be undertaken by a minimum of two representatives of the childcare service using an agreed set of questions. All assessments and workplace tests, including psychometric testing for job applicants and performance assessments for employees, will be conducted in a fair and non-discriminatory way, bearing in mind the principles of equality of opportunity.
All employees’ contracts will include signing up to the Named Service Child Protection Policy. These guidelines will apply both to the recruitment of new employees and to the selection of internal candidates for promotion or job change.
MWSB will not employ, contract or involve as a volunteer, any person to work with children or young adults who has a criminal conviction for violent crime, sexual crime, drugs related offences, or any other offences deemed inappropriate in relation to work with children.
All workers employed, contracted to work, or volunteering to work with children through MWSB will be required to sign a declaration form outlining any previous criminal convictions and granting permission for vetting from An Garda Síochána to be sought. Garda Vetting will be undertaken for all MWSB Board and staff.
Guidelines for Management & Staff
Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus (MWSB) provides monthly work reports to Line Managers. Formal Support & Supervision meetings take place monthly or more frequently if the workload requires it. Informal Support & supervision is available to staff members as requested or as required. Full Team Meetings take place a minimum of twice per year. Individual teams meet fortnightly as work demands require. In accordance with the MWSB Staff handbook all staff undergoes an induction process including the Child Protection Policy and will confirm in writing that the induction process has taken place.
MWSB Child Protection Policy training has taken place for existing staff through an in-house training programme. On-going training will be provided following annual review or statutory/ guideline changes.
RELEVANT LEGAL DOCUMENTS
It is important that all staff of Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus are familiar with the following legislation in relation to Child Safeguarding.
- Criminal justice (Reckless Endangerment of Children) Act 2006
- Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offenses against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012
- Protected Disclosures Act 2014
- Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998
The Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 makes provision for the protection from civil liability of persons who have communicated child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of Tusla or to any member of An Garda Síochána. This protection applies to organisations as well as to individuals. This means that even if a communicated suspicion of child abuse proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that the person who communicated the concern had not acted reasonably and in good faith in making the report.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Notwithstanding the requirement of all professionals involved in child protection and welfare cases to share relevant information, records are nevertheless confidential. They do not belong to individuals (except for independent practitioners) and are the property of the organisations that keep them. Under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003, members of the public have a right of access to records concerning them held by any public body and a right to have official information about themselves amended where it is incorrect, incomplete or misleading. Members of the public also have a right to be given reasons for decisions made concerning themselves. Requests to see records are processed in the first instance through the public body that holds the records. In the event of refusal of access, the decision may be appealed, and the ultimate arbiter is the Information Commissioner. At present, these Acts apply to the HSE, but not to An Garda Síochána.
The Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 afford similar rights to individuals to access personal data held about them by any entity whether in the public or private sector. The right to access applies to records held by the HSE and An Garda Síochána. However, the right to access does not apply in a range of circumstances that may be relevant in a child welfare context. Equally, the right of access does not extend to any information that identifies a third party where that third party had an expectation of confidence. Accordingly, it would not be necessary to provide any information that would identify a person making a child welfare report in response to a request under the Data Protection Acts.
Code of Behaviour
All employees and volunteers of the Mid-West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus (MWSB) must make themselves aware of the childcare service’s good practice guidelines and must be familiar with the overall child protection policy of the childcare service and sign up to it;
- Parents of children involved with our work must be informed of our policy and procedures;
- MWSB has appointed a Designated Liaison Person to deal with any complaints or issues arising which concern the safety or welfare of any child / young person (see above for identity of the Designated Liaison Person of the childcare service). This person is appropriately trained and familiar with the procedures to be followed in the event of an allegation, concern or disclosure of child abuse;
- MWSB has put in place an anti-bullying policy and will not tolerate any bullying behaviour by children/young people or adults and will deal with any incidents immediately in accordance with the DCYA anti-bullying policy when working with children and young people. Where bullying amounts to any form of abuse it will be treated as such and be recorded and reported as appropriate; (see appendix 3).
- MWSB Staff show respect and understanding for the rights, safety and welfare of the children and young people;
- MWSB has put in place a complaints procedure, (See Appendix 4) Employees and volunteers should avoid working in isolation with children and favouritism.
- MWSB respects and promotes the principles of equality and diversity and works with all children in a culturally sensitive way within the context of the Irish Constitution and law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child i.e. staff should never physically punish or be in anyway verbally abusive to a child, nor should they ever tell jokes of a sexual nature in the presence of children.
- MWSB will review their Child Protection Policy on an annual basis. The next review will take place in November 2019. Notification of our policy and any changes devised will be displayed on the MWSB website.
Signed by: _________________________________ on behalf of Management
*This Policy will be reviewed in November 2019 in collaboration with staff