Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Extent of adequate support for children possibly subjected to a threat
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth if he is satisfied that adequate support exists for all children insofar as is possible who might be subjected to a threat from any quarter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy is aware, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is the statutory body with responsibility for child protection and welfare services. If I, or my officials, become aware of a situation in which a child is considered to be at risk, that concern is communicated to Tusla as a matter of urgency.
The Children First Act 2015 places a number of statutory obligations on specific groups of professionals and on particular organisations providing services to children. Children’s First Guidance 2017 includes information on the statutory obligations for those individuals and organisations under the Act. It also sets out the best practice procedures that should be in place for all organisations providing services to children.
Under the Act, mandated persons are required to report child protection concerns at or above a defined threshold to Tusla. Mandated persons are people who have contact with children and/or families and who, because of their qualifications, training and/or employment role, are in a key position to help protect children from harm. Organisations classed as providers of relevant services under the Act are required to undertake a risk assessment and develop a Child Safeguarding Statement (CSS) setting out the procedures in place to manage any risk identified.
The Children First Act operates side-by-side with the non-statutory obligations provided for in Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children. The guidance sets out how reports about reasonable concerns of child abuse or neglect should be made by the general public and professionals to Tusla and what organisations need to do to keep children safe.
If a child appears to be at risk of harm or neglect, the concerns should be reported to Tusla. Anyone can report a concern about a child to Tusla, and information on how to do so is available on the Tusla website. If a child is at immediate risk or in danger, An Garda Síochána (AGS) should be alerted without delay.
Tusla acts urgently on notification of an immediate risk to a child. Children who are in a situation of immediate risk may initially be dealt with by AGS or by Tusla, but in the main both agencies work together in such cases.
Tusla has an out of hours emergency number for AGS which provides advice to the AGS based on the circumstances and also can identify where a child is listed on the Child Protection Notification System. There is a 24/7 ‘out of hours’ social work team available in Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare and Cork and on call social workers in other areas. Tusla has a network of emergency foster care placements for children in need of emergency care out of hours.
Gardaí have specific powers under Section 12 of the Child Care Act to remove a child from a situation of danger, and under Section 13 of that same act, to deliver that child into the custody of Tusla. Tusla will at that point carry out an assessment to determine the child’s needs. This may in some cases include applying for an Emergency Care Order. In all cases, a plan will be put in place to ensure that the child is safe from harm. Where a child is already in care, Tusla will make a determination as to whether the child is safe in their placement or if they need to be moved.
As previously advised, the Department chairs a statutory interdepartmental committee on Children First where matters of risk and safeguarding, across all Government areas, are reviewed regularly.
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