National Guidelines – The Protection and Welfare of Children 1999 and The Child Protection Guidelines for Post Primary Schools – DES 2004 have been drawn up by the Department of Education & Science, the HSE and Organisations representing school management, parents and teachers to guide and direct us in our duty of care.
These guidelines emphasise that the safety and welfare of children must be a priority, and it is incumbent on school authorities and personnel to adhere to the guidelines.
If school personnel have any concerns that a child may have been abused, is being abused, is at risk of being abused or has sought a staff members advice on the issue, it should be reported without delay to the school Designated Liaison Person.
The guidelines apply to all school personnel; teachers, secretaries, caretakers, cleaners etc.
The Board has appointed Mr. J. Bean as Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and Ms. A. Kelly as Deputy Liaison Person in the absence of the DLP.
Child abuse is complicated and can take different forms, but usually consists of one or more of the following:
Neglect: Where a child’s needs for food, warmth, shelter, nurturance and safety are not provided, to the extent that the child suffers significant harm.
Emotional abuse: Where a child’s needs for affection, approval and security are not being met and have not been met for some time by their parent or carer.
Physical abuse: Where a child is assaulted or injured in some way that is deliberate.
Sexual abuse: Where a child is used for the sexual gratification of an adult.
The Primary responsibility of the person who first suspects or is told of abuse is to report it to the Designated Liaison Person Mr. J. Bean and to ensure that their concern is taken seriously. The guiding principles in regard to reporting child abuse may be summarised as follows:
• The safety and well-being of the child or young person must take priority.
• Reports should be made without delay.
• The principle of natural justice should apply, which means that a person is innocent until proven otherwise.
• The principle of confidentiality should apply, whereby only those who need to know should be told of a suspicion / allegation / disclosure of abuse and the number that need to be kept informed should be kept to a minimum.
The 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 Siochana.
A worker who knows or suspects that a young person has been or is at risk of being harmed has a duty to convey this concern to the designated person in the organisation who will report the information to the HSE.
The HSE will, in turn, notify An Garda Siochána. In an emergency, a report must be made directly to An Garda Siochána.
It is important that everyone in the organisation is aware that the person who first encounters a case of alleged or suspected abuse is not responsible for deciding whether or not abuse has occurred. That is a task for the Health Board or An Garda Siochána.
Under no circumstances should any individual member of staff or volunteer or the organisation itself attempt to deal with the problem of abuse alone.
It is part of everyone’s duty to make themselves aware of the requirements of these guidelines.
Department of Education and Science,
Tullamore, Co. Offaly.