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Child Protection Policy

This document has been drawn up as a response to recent changes in legislation and takes account of

The Education Act 1998

The Child Welfare Act 2000

 

References

 

In all instances of suspicion or allegations of abuse or neglect, the following three resource books will be referenced:

“Children First” – Department of Health & Children 1999

“Child Protection” – Department of Education and Science 2001

“Child Protection Guidance” – Health Service Executive, Local Health

Office 7 (2006)

 

Aims and Objectives

This Child Protection Policy was drawn up with the following aims and objectives:

  • To promote the welfare of all the children in our care and to recognise that the welfare of the child is of paramount importance.
  • To improve the identification and reporting of any form of child abuse in the school.
  • To ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to initiate effective prevention, detection and treatment of child abuse.
  • To ensure that all members of staff are familiar with, and supportive of the procedures laid out.

 

What is Child Abuse

 

Child abuse can be categorised into four different types:

  • neglect,
  • emotional abuse,
  • physical abuse and
  • sexual abuse.

 

Neglect: This is “ an abuse of omission rather than commission” and may involve frequent “home alone” situations, malnourishment, lack of appropriate supervision, absence of proper clothing or hygiene, poor attendance at school or exposure to danger of any kind.

 

Emotional Abuse: This is more difficult to recognise and refers to “ the habitual verbal harassment of a child by disparagement, criticism, threat or ridicule and the inversion of love; whereby verbal and non-verbal means of rejection and withdrawal are substituted”.

Staff will be alert to any of the following possible indicators of emotional abuse:

Rejection, lack of praise/encouragement/comfort/love/attachment, lack of proper stimulation, lack of continuity of care, over-protectiveness, inappropriate punishments, family conflict/violence, inappropriate expectations of a child’s behaviour relative to age and stage of development.

 

Physical Abuse tends to be easier to spot. Staff will be vigilant for any of the following signs when accompanied by suspicious or unsatisfactory explanations: Bruises, fractures, swollen joints, burns and scalds, lacerations, haemorrhages, organ damage, poisonings, failure to thrive.

 

Sexual Abuse: C ases of abuse come to light through disclosure by the child or a sibling, the suspicions of an adult or from observation of physical symptoms.

The staff will be vigilant for physical signs of abuse as well as behavioural indicators and will always be available to a child who wishes to talk / confide.

 

A child may be subjected to more than one form of abuse at any given time. More comprehensive definitions for each type of abuse are detailed in “Children First” (Dept. of Health & Children) , Chapter 3 Sections 3.2 – 3.5 pages 31 – 33.

 

Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse

 

A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Appendix 1 “Children First” Pages 125 – 131. It is important to remember 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 generally three stages in the identification of child abuse. These are:

  • Considering the possibility
  • Looking out for signs of abuse
  • Recording of information

 

Each of these stages is developed in “Children First” Pages 34- 35 Section 3.9

Procedures to be Followed in the Event of a Disclosure or suspicion of any Form of Child Abuse

 

“Child Protection” – Page 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 staff member 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.

 

Any staff member with a reasonable cause for concern is obliged to act on that concern. The concern may stem from

  • Specific indication from a child;
  • An account by a witness;
  • Physical /behavioural evidence;
  • Consistent indicators of emotional or physical neglect.

 

  • The staff member will act with tact and sensitivity in responding to a disclosure/suspicion of abuse. In the case of a disclosure from a child, the staff member will respond by reassuring the child, listening carefully and calmly, recording the details and explaining that further help and advice may be sought.

 

  • The staff member with concerns will contact the Designated Liaison Person (DLP). At present the DLP is the Principal, Mairead Shiel. Should circumstances warrant it, the Deputy Principal, Margaret Quille, shall act as DLP. Further information on the responsibilities of the DLP is included in “Child Protection DES” page 8 Section 2.2. A record will be kept of the discussion between the staff member and the DLP.

 

  • If the DLP and the staff member are satisfied that there are indeed reasonable grounds for the uspicion/allegation, the DLP will then inform, as he/she deems appropriate the Chairperson of the Board of Management and/or the parents or guardians. 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 should be taken for the safety of the child. In this case the Chairperson will be informed after the report has been submitted.

(“Children First” Section 4.5.1 page 39 details what should be included in this report.)

Parents/ Guardians should be informed if a report is being submitted to the HSE or to the Gardai – unless doing so is likely to endanger the child.

 

  • The next step is to report the concerns to the Duty Social Worker in the HSE. If the DLP is unsure hether a report should be made, he/she should ask the advice of the Duty Social Worker. A standard reporting form must be filled out as comprehensively as possible. (Reporting procedure: “Children First” Section 4.4 page 38). Standardised reporting forms may be photocopied from “Children First” Appendix 8 page 159.

 

  • In emergency cases or when the HSE cannot be contacted, the DLP may deem it appropriate to contact the Gardai. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.

 

Area Social Worker for our Catchment Area:

 

Community Services Area 7 :

Duty Intake Points – 22 Mountjoy Sq. Phone 8557318 (New Jan. 2103)

Ballymun Phone 8420011

 

Child Care Manager Area 7 : Tom O’Donnell, Civic Offices , Ballymun

(Secretary Enda Wade 8467139)

 

An Garda Siochana : Garda Kevin Lynn, Unit D Mountjoy

Phone 6668600 (Main Desk)

Phone 6668474 Child Protection Unit

Also Garda Aoife Moroney and Garda Michelle Doyle

Above information received 10 th Dec. 2012.

 

A copy of all referrals to the HSE should also be sent to the Child Protection Unit, Mountjoy Garda Station.

Code of Best Practice

 

Guidelines for Staff

 

It is important that procedures and practices in the school are such as to provide protection for pupils and for staff. In this context some ground rules apply and will be observed by all staff members.

 

Staff members will avoid situations which could be misconstrued or misinterpreted:

 

  • Staff involved in games or swimming will ensure that there are always at least two members of staff present at matches, training or swimming sessions.
  • In the event of an accident/illness, when a pupil must be taken to hospital or elsewhere, the child must be accompanied by other pupils, a sibling or parent as well as the staff member.
  • Learning Support, Resource and Language Support Teachers will generally take pupils at least two at a time, or, alternatively, if working alone with a pupil, will be clearly visible as their rooms will be equipped with clear glass panels so as to facilitate child protection.
  • The taking of photographs will not be permitted at any time if any pupil is in a state of undress, e.g. during class outings to swimming pools etc.
  • Visitors to the school will be bound by the same guidelines as those which apply to the staff.

To All Staff Members:

 

Summary of Procedures to be followed in the event of suspicions/disclosures of emotional, physical or sexual abuse or neglect.

 

Staff member informs DLP of suspicions/disclosure if he/she feels there is a “reasonable cause for concern”.

Staff member records date and time, the nature of the suspicions and the reason for the suspicions. In the event of a disclosure from a child, the staff member records the child’s actual words.

 

The following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse:

Listen to the child.

Do not ask leading questions.

Offer reassurances but do not make promises.

Do not stop child recalling significant events.

Do not over react.

Explain that further help may have to be sought.

Record accurately – do not paraphrase.

Retain the record.

Report to DLP.

 

The DLP will then

Inform the Chairperson of the Board of Management;

Contact the Duty Care Officer of the HSE and seek advice;

Complete the standard referral form if a referral is to go ahead;

Contact the parents if appropriate;

In an emergency, contact the Gardai.

 

Staff members and DLP are protected under the P rotection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 if making a “bona fide report”. This act provides immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to designated officers of HSE or any member of An Garda Siochana (Child Protection DES Book page 6).

 

In recording suspicions/ allegations, remember that all information recorded is subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 (Child Protection DES Book page 7).

 

In the case of continued/frequent absenteeism, the school Principal is obliged to inform the NEWB if staff members are concerned and in all cases when a pupil has been absent for 20 school days. All notes explaining pupil absences must be retained within the school and the absence of such notes must be recorded.

Responsibilities of the Board of Management

 

It is the responsibility of the Board of Management to :

 

  • have clear procedures which teachers and other school staff must follow where they suspect, or are alerted to, possible child abuse, including when a child discloses abuse
  • designate a senior member of staff to have specific responsibility for child protection. The Principal or Designated Liaison Person (DLP) is responsible for ensuring that the standard reporting procedure is followed so that suspected cases of child abuse are referred promptly to the local HSE or to An Garda Siochana
  • monitor the progress of children considered to be at risk
  • contribute to the prevention of child abuse through curricular provision
  • promote in-service training for teachers and members of Boards of Management to ensure that they have a good working knowledge of child protection issues and procedures
  • have clear written procedures in place concerning action to be taken where allegations are received against school employees.

 

 

Allegation 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 may be false or malicious.

 

As employers, the Board of Management should always seek legal advice as the circumstances may vary from one case to another.

 

The procedures to be followed are outlined in “Child Protection” Page 15 Section 4.1.3. The DLP has responsibility for reporting the matter to the HSE. The Chairperson of the Board of Management has responsibility, acting in consultation with Board members, for addressing the employment issues.

 

If the allegation is against the DLP, the Chairperson of the Board will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the HSE.

 

When an allegation is made against a school employee, the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in “Child Protection” Chapter 3, Section 3.2 page 11.

 

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 the conduct of another school employee should consult with the DLP. The procedures outlined in “Child Protection” page 16 Section 4.2.3 will then be followed.

 

The employee, the Chairperson of the BoM and the DLP should make the employee aware privately

 

  • that an allegation has been made against him/her
  • the nature of the allegation
  • whether or not the HSE or Gardai has been/will be/must be/should be informed.

 

The employee should be given a copy of the allegation and any other 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 Gardai, HSE and legal advisers.

 

The priority in all cases is that no child should be exposed to unnecessary risk. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the Chairperson should take any necessary preventive 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, in the Chairperson’s opinion, the nature of the allegations warrant immediate action, 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 leave).

 

When the Board is unsure as to whether this should occur, advice should be sought from the Gardai and/or the Child Care Manager of the HSE and the legal advisers of the BoM.

 

Should the Board 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” page 17)

 

The Chairperson should inform the members of 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.

 

Agreed by Board of Management : 9 th May 2006

 

Reviewed: March/April 2008; March 2010, Dec. 2010. Amended Dec. 2012

 

Reviewed _____________ ____________________________

Spring 2014 Chairperson, Board of Management