CHILD PROTECTION POLICY
School Name: St Manchan’s N.S, Mohill, Co.Leitrim
Date: November 2002, September 2010, January 2012
Title: Child Protection Policy
This policy document has been drawn up by staff, parents and Board of Management of St. Manchan’s National School 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 the 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 well being of the child and intervene when necessary to protect their rights
• Help school personnel recognise the signs of neglect or abuse
• Provide a safe environment for our school community
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 care¬giver and a a chld 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)
The recognition of abuse normally runs along three stages:
1. 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
2. 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 Garda). 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.
3. 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 retains 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, 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 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 (pink reporting form) should be given to and retained by the DLP
DESIGNATED LIAISON PERSONS (DLP) (2.2 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)
All Boards of Management must designate a senior member of staff to have specific responsibility for child protection. This person will be the Designated Liaison Person for the school in dealing with the Health Boards, Garda Siochana and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. Those other parties should be 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 should be in place for another nominated member of staff to assume his/her responsibility..i.e. the Deputy Designated Liaison Person.
The Principal, Brid Cahill will act as DLP following ratification by the Board of Management. The Deputy Liaison Person is Mary Scollan. The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with Health Boards, Garda Siochana 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 the school employee 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. It may be useful to note:
1. A report should be made to the Health Board in person by phone and writing. Each Health Board has a social worker who is available during certain hours to meet with, or talk on the telephone, to persons wishing to report child protection concerns
2. It is generally most helpful if persons wishing to report child abuse concerns make personal contact with the duty social worker. This will facilitate the social worker in gathering as much information as possible about the child and his parent/carers
3. In the event of an emergency, or the non availability of health board staff, the report should be made to the Garda. This may be done at any Garda Station.
It is recommended that all reports should include as much as possible of the information sought in the Standard Reporting Form. Since all information requested may not be available to the person making the report, the form should be completed as comprehensively as possible. When such a report is being made to the health board, the Chairperson of the Board of Management should be informed.
In the case where the school personnel have concerns about a child, but are not sure whether to report the matter to the appropriate health board, they should seek appropriate advise. To do so, the DLP should 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 should be made, the DLP should act on that advice.
In following the discussion outlined, the DLP decides that the concerns of the school employee should not be referred to the relevant Health Board, the school employee should be given a clear statement, in writing, as to the reason why the action is not being taken. The school employee should 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 (see template) of these guidelines should 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 should be only shared on a need to know basis, in the interest 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 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 Siochana should 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 should 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 Siochana should be contacted immediately.
Under no circumstances should 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 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.
The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 came into operation on 23rd January 1999. It main provisions are:
1. The provision of immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse reasonably and in good faith to designated officers of Health Board or any member of the Garda Siochana
2. The provision of significant protections for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to and including dismissal
3. The creation of a new offence of false reporting of child abuse where a person makes a report of child abuse to the appropriate authorities knowing that statement to be false. This is a new criminal offence designed to protect innocent persons from malicious reports.
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 Garda Siochana), 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 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
1. DES Guidelines
2. 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.
PREVETIO OF CHILD ABUSE THROUGH CURRICULAR PROVISIO
The following programmes are already in place in the school
• Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Stay Safe, Alive – O, Walk Tall
• Self esteem enhancement programmes/activities – circle time, anti-bullying week (September, annually)
• Parental involvement; parents are made aware of programmes taught in school at induction meetings and information seminars on related topics. Parents also get feedback throughout the course of programmes e.g. Stay Safe and RSE worksheet completed in collaboration with parents.
• Mediation and conflict resolution inservice for whole staff with ongoing advice support and expertise
• Whole school climate and ethos child friendly, supportive environment, display children’s work/creativity, assemblies, adults modelling good behaviour, celebrating achievements, acknowledging effort and success.
• Visiting drama groups presenting related topics – Team Theatre
Staff development and in service. The DLP will inform staff of current practices and relevant in service training courses; staff in – service in school on related topics.
EXISTING SCHOOL POLICIES
The following school policies which compliment the Child Protection Policy are already in place in the school:
• Substance Misuse Policy
• Code of Behaviour and Anti Bullying Policy
• Health & Safety Statement
• Mission Statement
• Healthy Lunch Policy