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Child Protection

(Please click here to see a pdf version of the Child Protection Policy)

 

Child Protection Policy

The Board of Management of Lusk National School recognises that child protection and welfare considerations permeate all aspects of school life and must be reflected in all of the school’s policies, practices and activities. Accordingly, in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Education and Skills Child Protection Procedures for Primary Schools, the Board of Management of Lusk National School has agreed the following child protection policy.

 

  1. The Board of Management has adopted and will implement fully and without modification the Department’s Child Protection Procedures for Primary Schools as part of this overall child protection policy. (available on the Department of Education website and in print form in the school office)

 

  1. The Designated Liaison Person (DLP) is the Principal, Mr. Paul Comiskey.

 

  1. The Deputy Designated Liaison Person (Deputy DLP) is the Deputy Principal, Ms. Liz Scott.

 

  1. In its policies, practices and activities Lusk National School will adhere to the following principles of best practice in child protection and welfare:

The school will

  • Recognise that the protection and welfare of children is of paramount importance, regardless of all other considerations
  • Fully co-operate with the relevant statutory authorities in relation to child protection and welfare matters
  • Adopt safe practices to minimise the possibility of harm or accidents happening to children and protect workers from the necessity to take unnecessary risks that may leave themselves open to accusations of abuse or neglect;
  • Develop a practice of openness with parents and encourage parental involvement in the education of their children; and
  • Fully respect confidentiality requirements in dealing with child protection matters
  1. School policies, practices and activities that are particularly relevant to child protection include the school Behaviour Policy, Attendance Policy, Anti-Bullying Policy, Custody and Separation Policy, Health and Safety Policy, School Outings/Sporting Activities Policy and Teacher Induction Policy.       The Board has ensured that the necessary policies and practices as appropriate are in place in respect of each of the items listed above.

 

  1. This policy has been made available to school personnel and the Parents’ Association and is readily available to parents on request. A copy of this policy will be made available to the Department and the patron if requested.

 

  1. This policy will be reviewed by the Board of Management once in every school year.

 

 

  

Appendix 1: Child Protection Procedures

 

This document takes account of the provisions of The Education Act 1998 and The Child Welfare Act 2000.  Mr. Paul Comiskey, Principal, will act as Designated Liaison Person (DLP) as ratified by the Board of Management.   In the absence of the Principal the Deputy Principal, shall act as DLP.   The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with Health Boards, An Garda Siochana and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse.   All matters pertaining to the processing or investigation of child abuse will be processed through the DLP.

 

Confidentiality

All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse will 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, when submitting a report to the Health Board and/or An Garda Siochana, 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 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 Siochana will be contacted immediately.

 

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 Siochana.   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

While the legal protection outlined above only applies to reports made to the appropriate authorities i.e. An Garda Siochana and the Health Boards, 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.

 

Definition of Child Abuse

Child abuse can be categorised as:

  • Neglect (wilful or circumstantial)
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuseA 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, chapter 3, section 2.1 – 2.5.

Recognition of Child Abuse

A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Children First section 2.7 and in Appendix 1 of the Children First document.   It is important to stress that no one indicator should be seen as conclusive 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.   Generally speaking, there are three stages in the identification of child abuse:

  • Considering the possibility
  • Looking out for signs of abuse
  • Recording of information Each of these stages is developed in Children First section 2.7.2 – 2.7.6. A copy of the School Child Protection Recording Sheet is attached to this document (Appendix 2)

Disclosures from Children

There are comprehensive details of how disclosures should be handled in Children First Section 3.   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 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 verbal or written 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 must then be passed on to the DLP.

Reporting of Child Abuse

Where the reporting person and DLP have reasonable grounds for concern that a child may have been abused, is being abused or is at risk of abuse the procedures for reporting to the HSE as laid out in Children First – section 3.4 will be adhered to.   A copy of the Health Board reporting form is attached to this policy (appendix 3).

The following would constitute reasonable grounds for concern:

  • Specific indication from the child that (s)he was abused
  • An account by a person who saw the child being abused
  • Evidence such as an injury or behaviour which is consistent with abuse and unlikely to be caused another way
  • An injury or behaviour which is consistent both with abuse and with an innocent explanation but where there are corroborative indicators supporting the concern that it may be a cause of abuse eg a pattern of injuries, pattern of unusual behaviour
  • Consistent indication over a period of time that a child is suffering from emotional or physical neglectThe 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 be taken for the safety of the child in which case the Chairperson may be informed after the report has been submitted.   In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, and a duty social worker is unavailable, An Garda Siochana will be contacted.   Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.
  • When the DLP suspects child abuse, they shall inform parents/carers if a report is to be submitted to the Health Board or An Garda Siochana unless doing so is likely to endanger the child.
  •  

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

  • The reporting procedure
  • 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.

 

Reporting

When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in Children First.

A written statement of the allegation should be sought from the person/agency making the report.   The DLP will always inform the Chairperson of the Board of Management.   School employees, other than the DLP who receive allegations against another school employee, will immediately report the matter to the DLP.   School employees who form suspicions regarding the conduct of another school employee will consult with the DLP.   The procedures outlined  in Children First will then be followed.   The chairperson and DLP will make the employee aware privately that:

  • An allegation has been made against him/her
  • The nature of the allegation
  • Whether or not the Health Board or Garda has been/will be/must be/should be informed.

The employee will be given a copy of the written allegation and any other relevant documentation.   The employee will 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, Health Board and legal advisers.   The priority in all cases is that no child be exposed to unnecessary risk.   Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the Chairperson will 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 allegation warrants immediate action in the Chairperson’s opinion, the Board of Management will be convened to consider the matter.   This may result in the Board of Management directing that the employee absent him/herself from the school while the matter is being investigated (administrative leave).

When the Board of Management is unsure as to whether this should occur, advice should be sought from the Gardai 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 will be regarded as administrative leave of absence with pay and not suspension and will not imply any degree of guilt.   The DES will be immediately informed.

 

Board of Management

The Chairperson will 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.

 

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.