Date announced by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs for the commencement of all remaining provisions of the Children First Act 2015

Statement by Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Monday 2nd October 2017 Minister Katherine Zappone T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, announced that following almost two years of preparations all remaining provisions of the Children First Act 2015 will be commenced on 11th December 2017.  These include the provisions in relation to mandatory reporting of child abuse and in relation to placing a legal obligation on organisations providing services to children to prepare and publish a Child Safeguarding Statement.

Minister Zappone was speaking at the launch of Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children [2017] which revises and replaces the 2011 edition of the Children First Guidance. The revised Guidance includes reference to the provisions of the Children First Act and is available on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs at www.dcya.gov.ie. At the same launch, Tusla published an accompanying suite of Children First resource documents for those individuals and organisations who will acquire legal obligations under the Children First Act 2015.  Tusla also launched a comprehensive 90 minute basic Children First training programme, to be universally available on line, free of charge. The Tusla suite of Children First resource materials and information on access to the e-learning module is available at www.tusla.ie.

The revised Children First guidance and the Tusla Children First resources are being launched in anticipation of the full commencement of the Act on 11th December, in order to allow for time for preparations by those individuals and organisations who will acquire legal obligations under the Children First Act 2015 from 11th December.  The Minister stated: “By announcing a date of full commencement of all remaining provisions of the Children First Act 2015 on 11th December, I am fulfilling a longstanding Government commitment in relation to mandatory reporting of child abuse.”  She added: “While I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge for individuals and organisations to comply with their responsibilities under the Children First Act, I believe our children deserve no less. 

The comprehensive range of resources being launched today, are intended to help them in their preparations to discharge these responsibilities”. The Minister acknowledged and commended all those who work so hard to make sure that every child they interact with is cared for, supported and protected.  She said “Practitioners in the professional and voluntary sectors, medical professionals, Gardai, youth workers, teachers, and coaches all over Ireland have already adopted and applied best practice in child protection. These people already implement Children First in full and understand their duty to keep children safe.”

“We must continually do our utmost to protect children and young people from harm and assist them in achieving their full potential and I want to encourage and support people who work with children to continue to do so. I hope that families, communities and those who work with children will find the revised Children First Guidance a practical and supportive reference resource, together with the resource documents now being made available by Tusla”.

ENDS//

Note for Editors

The primary purpose of the Children First Act 2015 is to put key elements of Children First Guidance on a statutory basis.  A number of provisions of the Act have been commenced to date on a phased basis. These include the abolition of the common law defence of reasonable chastisement for parents or those acting in loco parentis in relation to corporal punishment and the establishment of the Children First inter-Departmental Implementation Group on a statutory basis.

On commencement on 11 December 2017 the remaining provisions will impose statutory obligations on key professionals to report child protection concerns over a certain threshold to Tusla and on providers of relevant services to children to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of their services and develop Child Safeguarding Statements.  The obligations on mandated reporters will take effect immediately on the date of commencement, i.e. 11th December, while organisations will have 3 months from that date to comply with their obligations in relation to publishing a Child Safeguarding Statement. Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children was first published in 1999 and was revised and updated a number of times, most recently in 2011. The principles and substance of this document (2017) are unchanged from the earlier editions. The guidance is intended to assist people in recognising child abuse and neglect, and in reporting reasonable concerns to Tusla. The guidance has been updated to reflect the provisions of the Children First Act 2015 and it includes specific information for those persons and organisations who will acquire legal obligations under the legislation when it is fully commenced on 11 December 2017.

The Guidance also outlines the roles of the main statutory bodies involved in child welfare and protection: Tusla - Child and Family Agency, and An Garda Síochána. It contains details of how to report a concern about a child and what happens once the report is received by Tusla. The revised Guidance is just one of the resources available to assist with child protection. A free, online child welfare and protection e-learning programme has been prepared by Tusla and is now available for everyone, free of charge. This, and a number of additional child protection and safeguarding information resources, can be found on the Tusla website, www.tusla.ie. Taken together, the Children First Act, the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012-2016, represent a significant legislative framework to promote the safety and protection of children.