Today the Saving Childhood group has welcomed the newly published Children First Bill 2014 by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, TD. The group comprising Barnardos, CARI, Children’s Rights Alliance, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Empowering People in Care (EPIC), ISPCC and One in Four said that this long overdue piece of legislation is essential to ensuring a more consistent and robust approach to the reporting and responding to child protection and welfare concerns.
The group congratulates the Minister for her commitment to enacting this legislation and is encouraged to see many positive elements in the Bill. The group specifically welcomes the following provisions:
- The statement of the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration
- The requirement of all organisations providing services to children to have a child safeguarding statement which outlines policy and procedures in relation to child protection
- The establishment of a Children First Inter-Departmental Implementation Group on a legislative basis whose purpose will be to promote compliance and monitor implementation by various Departments.
- The requirement on the authorised person within the Child and Family agency to respond in writing to all reports made.
Catherine Joyce, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said; “Today marks an important milestone in Ireland’s journey towards better protecting children. As has been uncovered in recent years, far too many children have been shamefully failed by a State that did not intervene to protect them from abuse. We hope the Children First Bill 2014, along with the ongoing reform of child protection services, will ensure a consistent approach to child protection in future. However, the Bill must not be let fall at the first hurdle due to lack of resourcing. It is essential that the Child and Family Agency be sufficiently resourced to assist parents and professionals understand and support the implementation of the law.”
While welcoming the principles of the Bill and acknowledging the high quality work undertaken by the Minister and her Department, the group has some concerns around certain aspects of the legislation;
- Mandated professionals should also include those working in organisations focused on child protection/welfare/rights services
- There are no sanctions in place for those who fail to comply with the requirements set out in the Bill.
- There is no reference in the Bill to retrospective allegations
- The level of resources required to ensure that all stakeholders in particular parents are informed of and can act in an informed way is not outlined
Ashley Balbirnie, CEO, ISPCC said; “We are concerned that the list of mandated professionals does not cover national organisations working with children and families as their main purpose. While so many organisations and services are doing great work and already adhering to best practice, many large service providers including my own organisation, the ISPCC are not explicitly mandated to comply with the protocols set out in the Children First Bill. It is imperative that all organisations providing services to children, whether statutory or non-statutory be obliged to take a consistent approach to ensure the best possible responses for children.“
Maeve Lewis, CEO One In Four stated; “This long-awaited Bill was intended to provide for the reporting of child protection concerns, to ensure that both statutory and non-state funded bodies would be legally obliged to follow protocols in reporting any concerns regarding the safety and welfare of a child. Without any clear sanctions for failure to comply included in the legislation, it is hard to see how a completely consistent approach from all will result.”
Tanya Ward, CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance said; “The Saving Childhood group very much welcomes the publication of this Bill and must commend the Minister and her Department on the excellent work they have put in to get the Bill this far. However we believe that the legislation could be more robust if greater resources were made available. We will be engaging with the Minister to articulate to her our concerns and areas we feel require further attention.”
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said: “We in Dublin Rape Crisis Centre are very pleased to see the Bill published today and we are confident that it will be possible to find solutions to the concerns the group have raised.”
The Saving Childhood group will be making contact with Minister Francis Fitzgerald to seek a meeting with her to discuss all of these areas.
For further information please contact:
Caroline O’Sullivan, ISPCC 087 691 4399
Catherine Joyce, Barnardos 086 398 0441 (Barnardos Press Office)
Maeve Lewis, One in Four 087 758 4080
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 01 661 4911/086 809 9618