Child Protection Policy

Child Protection Policy

St. Anne's School

Roll Number 19277B

 

 

Table of Contents  

1       Rational  

2       Introduction.  

3       Aim. 

4       References.  

5       Designated Liaison Person (DLP)  

6       Confidentiality.  

7       Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse.  

8      Qualified Privilege.  

9      Freedom of Information Act 1997.  

10    Definition and Recognition of Child Abuse.  

11    Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse.  

12    Handling Disclosures from Children.  

13    Allegations or Suspicions re: School Employees.  

14    Reporting.  

15    Administrative Leave.  

16    Board of Management  

17    School Procedures to Protect Pupils in our Care.  

 

1      Rational 

 

This document has been reviewed in response to changes in national policy. It has been drafted for the information and guidance of the school community of St. Anne’s Special School. It is envisaged that this policy will be read and implemented against the background of the school ethos and Mission Statement. This policy is necessary to give accessible strategies and procedures to the school in meeting its obligations and duties under the following acts of the Oireachtas:-

 

  •  Freedom of Information Act 1997
  • The Education Act 1998
  • The Child Welfare Act 2000
  • Children First – National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011.

 

 The revised procedures are based on the Children First – National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of children and Youth Affairs 2011), and Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools (Department of Education & Skills, 2011) 

 

 2      Introduction 

The Board of Management has adopted and will implement fully and without modification the Department of Education and Skills Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools (2011) as part of this overall child protection policy. 

 The Board of Management is also committed to ensuring that, as a special school, St. Anne’s school personnel will be made aware of the particular vulnerabilities of the pupils as described in Section 2.3 (DES 2011) and Ch. 8 Section 8.9.1 Children First, Department of Children and Youth Affairs 2011)  

This policy is read in conjunction with the Code of Behaviour, (Anti-Bullying Policy), Pupil Attendance Policy and the Supervision of Pupils Policy. 

 

3      Aim 

This policy and the materials and resources to which it refers aims: 

  • To acquaint the school with best practice in the area of Child Protection.
  • To put in place accessible and practical procedures
  • To equip the school with unambiguous guidelines
  • To clearly state the roles and responsibilities of school personnel. 

 In keeping with the ethos of St Annes School, this policy aims to create a climate of support and encouragement for children, parents, staff and Board of Management.  

 

4      References 

The books referred to in this policy are:- 

  • “Children First - National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children” Department of Children and Youth Affairs 2011
  • “Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools” – Department of Education and Science 2011 

Note: Copies of these books will be available in the School/Principals Office.  

 

5      Designated Liaison Person (DLP) 

The principal will act as DLP. Should circumstances warrant it, the Deputy Principal shall act as DLP.  

The Designated Liaison Person is Pauline Dempsey – Principal  

The Deputy Designated Liaison Person is Mary Fleming – Deputy Principal  

Both members of staff have undertaken training from the Child Abuse Prevention Programme (CAPP).

  The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings the Health Boards, An Garda Síochána and other parties in connection with allegations of child abuse.  All matters pertaining to the processing or investigation of child abuse should be processed through the DLP. (DES Procedures 3:2) 

 Further information on the responsibilities of the DLP is included in ‘Child Protection Procedures DES’ – Page 18 Section 3.2.    

Action will be taken by the DLP in cases where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion or where an allegation has been made. (‘Child Protection DES’ Chapter 3 – Section 3.4.4.).  

 

6      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. 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 a child who may have been abused, is not a breach of confidentiality.  

The DLP who is submitting a report to the Health Board or An 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 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 Siochana should be contacted immediately.  

A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention  

 

7      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 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. (Child Protection DES Book Page 6). The school has no role in investigating or adjudication on the veracity of allegation.  

 

8        Qualified Privilege 

While the legal protection outlined above only applies to reports made to the appropriate authorities (i.e. the 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 Board of Management chairman, such communication would be regarded under common law as having qualified privilege.  

A further definition of qualified privilege is outlined in Section 1.11 Child Protection – Guidelines and Procedures.  

 

9      Freedom of Information Act 1997 

Reports made to Health Boards may be subject to provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1997, which enables members of the public to obtain access to personal information relation 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.  

 

10     Definition and Recognition of Child Abuse 

Child abuse can be categorised into four different types:  

  1. Neglect
  2. Emotional abuse
  3. Physical abuse
  4. Sexual abuse 

A child may be subjected to more than one form of abuse any given time. Definitions for each form of abuse are detailed in ‘Children’s First’ – (Department of Children and Youth Affairs) Chapter 2 Section 2 page 8.  

 

11    Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse 

A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Appendix 1 ‘Children First’ – Pg 70 - 74. It is important to stress that, no one indicator should be seen as conclusive in itself of abuse; it may indicate conditions other than child abuse. All signs and symptoms must be examined in the total context of the child’s situation and family circumstances.  

There are commonly three stages in the identification of child abuse.  

These are:-  

  1. Considering the possibility
  2. Looking out for signs of abuse
  3. Recording of information 

Each of these stages is developed in ‘Children First’ Chapter 2 Pages 8 - 12.   

 

1   Handling Disclosures from Children 

‘Child Protection’ – Pg. 20 Section 3.5 gives comprehensive details of how disclosures should be approached.  

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 retain his/her trust, while explaining the need for action and the possible consequences, 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.  

The following advised 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 discussion accurately and retain the record.  

This information should them 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 procedure for reporting as laid out in ‘Children’s First’ – Section 3.4 Pg. 14 will be adhered to. Standardised reporting forms maybe photocopied from ‘Children First’ Appendix 3 – Pg. 78.  

Particular attention is drawn to the guidelines to seek advice from the Health Board as to the appropriateness of making a report.  

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. Details of what should be included in the report are outlined in ‘Children’s First’ Section 3.5.1 – Pg. 14.  

Any Professional who suspects child abuse should inform parents/ carers if a report is to be submitted to the Health Board or An Garda Siochana should be contacted. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.  

 

13     Allegations or Suspicions re: School Employees 

The most important consideration for the Chairperson, Board of Management or the DLP is the safety and protection of the Child. However, Employees also have a right to protection against claims, which are false or malicious.  

As employers, the Board of Management should always seek legal advice as the circumstances can vary from one case to another.  

There are two procedures to be followed (Section 5.1.4 Pg 30 ‘Child Protection’)  

  1. The reporting procedure in respect of the allegation/suspicion
  2. The Procedure for dealing with the Employee.  

The DLP has responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board. The Chairperson, Board of Management has responsibility, acting in consultation with his/her Board, for addressing the employment issues.  

If the allegation is against the DLP, the Board of Management Chairperson will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board.  

A parent/guardian may make a statement on behalf of a child.

 

14     Reporting 

When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in Chapter 5, Section 5.1.5, Pg. 30 – ‘Child Protection’.  

A written statement of the allegation should be sought from the person/agency making the report. The DLP should always inform the Chairperson of the Board of Management.  

School employees, other than the DLP who receive allegations against another school employee, should immediately report the matter to the DLP. The procedure outlined in Section 4.2, Pg. 23 ‘Child Protection’ will then be followed.  

The employee, the chairperson and DLP should make the employee aware privately  

  1. An allegation has been made against him/her
  2. The nature of the allegation
  3. Whether or not the Health Board or Gardai has been/will be/must be/should be informed.  

The employee should be given a copy of the written allegation and any other relevant documentation. The employee should be requested to respond to the allegation in writing to the Board of Management within a specified period and told that this may be passed to the Gardai, Health Board and legal advisers.  

The priority in all cases is that no child be exposed to unnecessary risk. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the Chairman should take any necessary protective measures. These measures should be proportionate to the level of risk and should not unreasonably penalise the employee in any way unless to protect the child.  

If the nature of the allegations warrants immediate action in the Chairperson’s opinion, the Board of Management should be convened to consider the matter. This may result in the Board of Management directing that the employee absent him/herself from school forthwith while the matter is being investigated (administrative leave).  

When the Board of Management is unsure as to whether this should occur, advice should be sought from the Gardai and /or the Child Care Manager of the Health Board and the legal advisers to the Board of Management and regard be had to this advice.  

 

15     Administrative Leave 

Should the Board of Management direct that the employee absent him/herself as above, such absence of the employee would be regarded as administrative leave of absence with pay and not suspension and would not imply any degree of guilt. The DES should be immediately informed (Children First – Section 5.4.7 Pg. 33)  

 

16     Board of Management 

The Chairperson should inform the Board of Management of all the details and remind the members of their serious responsibility to maintain strict confidentiality on all matters relating to the issue and the principals of due process and natural justice. 

 

17    School Procedures to Protect Pupils in our Care 

In all areas of Health and Safety, common sense should prevail in order to protect the children in the school and the staff who care for them. 

  In relation to this, certain points should be noted: 

1. St. Anne’s School fully implements the Stay Safe programme in each class every year. 

2. St. Anne’s ensures that all children will have full access to the SPHE curriculum at the appropriate level.   

3. A copy of the school’s child protection policy, which includes the names of the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and Deputy DLP, will be made available to all school personnel and is readily accessible to parents on our website.   

4. The name of the DLP and other relevant support services are displayed in a prominent position near the main entrance to the school.   

5. At the first staff meeting of each new school year staff are reminded of our Child Protection Policy and their roles within this. The procedures to be followed when there are suspicions of abuse are outlined and confirmed. This is further reinforced at individual review meetings with staff throughout the school year.   

6. Appropriate supervision will be provided to support staff who are involved in intimate care programmes, swimming, Tac Pac etc. Supervision requirements are based on individual children’s needs and will be outlined in the Pupil Care Needs document, Intimate Care Plan and Manual Handling Document. These documents are retained in the Pupil Record File.   

7. Many of our pupils are taught on a one to one basis in rooms attached to the classrooms and many use other rooms e.g. sensory integration, multi-sensory room etc on a one to one basis with an SNA. Staff are mindful of this Child Protection Policy when teaching/working with these pupils. Most of those doors have glass panels thus rendering the occupants visible at all times. Where no glass panel exists best practice is that the door will remain open.   

8. The Board of Management will implement fully, as an essential element of child protection practice, the requirements of DES Circular 0063/2010 “Recruitment Procedures – requirements for Garda vetting”   

9. In addition to informing the Board of Management of those cases where a report involving a child in the school has been submitted to the HSE, the DLP shall also inform the school authority of cases where the DLP sought advice from the HSE and as a result of this advice, no report was made. The Principal may also report to the Board those issues identified by staff under Child Protection but which subsequently turn out not to be of concern   

8. At each meeting of the Board of Management, the agenda includes an item on Child Protection; the Principal shall inform the Board of the number of all such cases and this shall be recorded in the minutes of the board meeting.   

9. The Board of Management will undertake an annual review of its Child Protection Policy and its implementation by the school. The checklist to be used in undertaking the review is included in Appendix 1. The school will put in place an action plan to address any areas for improvement which might be identified in the annual review.   

10. The Board of Management shall make arrangements to inform school personnel that the review has been undertaken. Written notification that the review has been undertaken shall be provided to the school community, via the website. A record of the review and its outcome shall be made available, if requested.    

 

 This policy was reviewed and ratified by St. Anne’s Board of Management at its meeting on 16th February 2015