Child Protection Policy

This document has been drawn up as a response to recent changes in legislation. It further develops previous policy in this area and takes account of the provisions of the following pieces of legislation.

The Education Act 1998
The Child welfare Act 2000

References

In all instances of suspicion or allegations of abuse or neglect, the following two books will be referenced.

‘Children First’ - Department of Health & Children 1998
‘Child Protection’ - Department of Education & Science 2001

Designated Liaison Person – (DLP)

The Principal will act as DLP, following ratification by the Board of Management. The DLP has specific responsibilities for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with Health Boards, An Garda Siochána and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. All matters pertaining to the processing or investigation of child abuse should be processed through the DLP.

The Deputy Principal will act as Deputy DLP.

Confidentiality

All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse should only be shared on a need to know basis in the interests of the child.

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 who is submitting a report to the Health Board or An Garda Siochána 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 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 Siochána should be contacted immediately.
A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.

Rules and Responsibilities

The Board of Management has primary responsibility for the care and welfare of its pupils.

The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection in the school.

All staff have a general duty of care to ensure that arrangements are in place to protect all children.

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 Siochána.

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. (Child Protection DES Book Page 6.)

Definition and recognition of child abuse

Child abuse can be categorised into four different parts

Signs of neglect might include

  • abandonment
  • malnourishment, lacking food
  • lack of adequate clothing
  • failure to attend school
  • failure to care for child’s medical needs
  • lack of supervision and protection

Signs of emotional abuse might include

  • rejection
  • lack of comfort and love
  • inappropriate non physical punishment
  • family conflict
  • lack of stimulation (fun and play)

Signs of physical abuse

  • bruises
  • fractures
  • swollen joints
  • burns / scalds
  • failure to thrive

Signs of sexual abuse

  • noticeable and uncharacteristic change of behaviour
  • in-appropriate understanding of sexual behaviour
  • uncharacteristic sexual play with peers
  • reluctance to join in normal activities which involve undressing i.e. swimming

General signs of child abuse might include

  • mood changes
  • lack of concentration
  • change in school performance
  • bed wetting / soiling
  • separation anxiety
  • running away
  • delinquency

Handling Disclosures From Children

When information is offered in confidence the member of staff will need tact and sensitivity in responding to the disclosure.
The following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a 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 discussions accurately and retain the record

This information should then be passed onto the DLP.
If the reporting person or member of the school staff and the DLP are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion /allegation, the procedures for reporting as laid out below.
The Chairman 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 to be taken for the safety of the child in which case the Chairman may be informed after the report has been submitted.

Reporting

Staff should initially inform the DLP orally of their concerns and in certain cases where appropriate the DLP will contact the parents/guardians involved to try and resolve the concern.

  • Disclosures and allegations must be put in writing and presented to the DLP.
  • The DLP should inform the Chairperson of the Board of Management and seek advice from the Health Board and if necessary the INTO and CPSMA. Depending on the advice offered a report should then be sent to the Health board using the standardised reporting form.
  • In the event of an emergency or the non availability of health board staff, the report should be made to the Garda Siochána.

Procedures for cases of allegation of child abuse by a school employee

  • DLP will seek a written statement from the person making the allegation. In the event of the allegation being made against the DLP the DDLP will seek the written statement and act from then on in place of the DLP.
  • The DLP will inform the Chairperson of the BOM and seek advice from the Health Board and possibly other agencies such as I.N.T.O. and C.P.S.M.A
  • The Chairperson should privately inform the employee about the allegation, the nature of the allegation and whether the matter has been reported.
  • The employee should be given a written copy of the allegation and should be requested to apply in writing to the B.O.M. by a specified date. This reply will also be forwarded to the Health Board.
  • If the Chairperson feels the nature of the allegation warrants immediate action then he/she should direct the employee to absent themselves from school with immediate effect. The Department of education and Science should be contacted in such cases. In all decisions of this kind advice should be sought from the Health Board, Gardai and also the legal advisers to the B.O.M.
  • This allegation will be discussed at a B.O.M. meeting and all agencies involved i.e. the person making the allegation, the employee and parents will be given opportunities to the state their case.
  • The Board will attempt to make a decision based on the evidence and inform all parties mentioned above of their decision.



Organisational Implications

Yard Supervision
A rota is in place for yard supervision. All teachers have opted for supervision duty. Children are not permitted to leave the play area without permission. Children who are injured or sick can be sent to ‘Sick Bay’ accompanied by another child.

On wet days children remain seated in their classrooms and are supervised by teachers on duty.

Bus

In the event of bus breakdown every effort will be made to contact parents of the children affected.

Illness/Injury
Every effort will be made to contact parents in the event of sudden illness or injury to their child. In emergency situations the child may be brought directly to the doctor or hospital. Another adult or 2 children will accompany the driver to ensure everyone’s safety, when a child has to be driven home.

Swimming
Every effort will be made to ensure proper supervision of children in the pool and changing areas. Parents help may be sought where more supervision is required.

Extra Curricular

For travelling to games staff should ensure that no one child is alone with either a parent or staff member.

Specialist

Where outside personnel are engaged to work with children during school hours a teacher should be present at all times.

Teaching
Where teachers deal with children on a one to one basis an open door/glass partition policy is in place.

The DLP is responsible for informing all staff about the school child protection policy. All new staff appointed to the school will also be informed about the policy.
A Garda clearance will be sought before the appointment of new staff.

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