Children First Guidance and Legislation
Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017
Children First, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children was launched on October 2nd 2017. This Guidance is a primary reference for all citizens to report concerns and includes the new legislative obligations. It provides clarity between the legislation and the existing non-statutory obligations which will continue to operate for all sectors of society.
Children First Guidance describes the four main types of abuse and sets out the steps which should be taken to ensure that the child or young person is protected from harm. It has been updated to include new information about the Children First Act 2015 and it includes specific information for the professionals and organisations that now have legal obligations to keep children safe. . In January 2019 the Children First Guidance was amended by way of an addendum to ensure that online safety is specifically accounted for in child safeguarding statements, as required under the Children First Act.
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.
Children First Act 2015
The Children First Act 2015 was enacted on 19th November 2015 and commenced in full on December 11th 2017.
The Act places a number of statutory obligations on specific groups of professionals and on particular organisations providing services to children.
Through the provisions of the Act, it is intended to:
- Raise awareness of child abuse and neglect
- Provide for mandatory reporting by key professionals
- Improve child safeguarding arrangements in organisations providing services to children
- Provide for cooperation and information-sharing between agencies when Tusla – Child and Family Agency, is undertaking child protection
The legislation also contains a provision that removes the defence of reasonable chastisement in relation to corporal punishment as part of court proceedings.
The policy intent is that the legislation will operate side-by-side with the existing non-statutory obligations provided for in Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2017).
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 are additional key pieces of complementary legislation designed to improve child safety and protection.
The full text of the Children First Act 2015 is available here.