DÍNIT CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE ADULT PROTECTION POLICY

INTRODUCTION

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DÍNIT personnel primarily work in communities abroad, however we believe that it’s important to have a policy in place to protect children and vulnerable adults no matter where personnel are deployed or based.

We wish to set a positive example to our volunteers and inspire trust that should someone have concerns, that DÍNIT have measures in place to address any issues that may arise.

DÍNIT takes our role in the community very seriously and we will not ignore concerns raised or suspicions of abuse.

All personnel are required to read this policy, understand and adhere to the mechanisms contained within.  Should further clarification be sought, personnel are advised to inform their supervisor or person in charge, who will ensure that explanations are provided as appropriate.

If any personnel are unsure about their legal requirements or obligations on reporting suspicions of child abuse, or procedures to be followed, we recommend that they seek legal advice as the safety of the child must be protected at all times.

DÍNIT personnel must be vigilant at all times, however we must also stress that we do not wish our personnel to become cynical or constantly suspicious of the intent of others.  We must maintain a genuine belief that people are inherently good, kind and deserving of trust.

Being observant does not equate to being mistrusting.

POLICY STATEMENT

DÍNIT is committed to safeguarding the physical and mental well-being of children, young people and vulnerable adults and to ensuring its volunteers and any person working on its behalf (eg directors, contractors, students, volunteers) are aware of their personal and professional responsibilities to ensure children’s and vulnerable adult’s safety, dignity and welfare at all times.

Our policy is designed to assist all personnel in meeting best practice in relation to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults and it is mandatory that all personnel familiarise themselves and adhere to the guidelines within this policy and legislative requirements.

As DÍNIT personnel operate in countries outside Ireland, the legislative requirements of that country will apply in addition to our policy.

Children and vulnerable adults will be protected at all times regardless of legislative requirements as part of DÍNIT policy and commitment.

This policy will be reviewed at least every two years and more frequently if needed in response to changes in legislation or national guidance.

This purpose of this policy is to:

  • establish procedures for child and vulnerable adult safeguarding matters
  • ensure best practice and adherence to the recruitment policy for staff and volunteers, which includes Garda vetting, reference checks, verification of qualifications, induction training and ongoing supervision and management
  • ensure that staff members and volunteers are aware of how to recognise signs of child abuse or neglect
  • develop guidance and procedures for staff and volunteers who may have reasonable grounds for concern about safety and welfare of children associated with the organisation
  • identify person responsible for receiving allegations or suspicions of child, to act as a liaison with outside agencies, in accordance with this policy and complaints procedure

Application of Policy

This policy is applicable to all people who have a current agreement or contract with DÍNIT in all countries.

In relation to partner organisations or organisations outside Ireland, the Policy should be read in conjunction with the relevant policy of the partner organisation

This policy will be reviewed annually from date of implementation.  Should there be changes in legislative requirements prior to the review date, Dinit will comply with the current legislation in place.

International legislation

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

The UNCRC recognises the human rights of children, defined as persons from birth up to the age of 18 years. It was adopted by the UN in 1989 and ratified by Ireland in 1992. It pledges to protect and promote the rights of a child to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential.

Irish legislation

The Childcare Act

The Childcare Amendment Act, December 2015 defines a child is a person under 18 years of age who is not or has not been married. It establishes the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount

Children First Act 2015

The Children First Act 2015 obliges certain professionals and others working with children to report child protection concerns to the Child and Family Agency and to assist the Agency, if requested to do so, in its assessment of a child protection risk. The Act obliges a provider of services to children to undertake an assessment of the potential for risk of harm to a child while that child is availing of its services and to prepare an appropriate Child Safeguarding Statement in accordance with the Bill.

The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998

The Act Provides for the protection from civil liability of persons who have reported suspected child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of the Child and Family Agency or to any member of An Garda Síochána. This protection applies to organisations as well as to individuals. This means that even if a communicated suspicion of child abuse proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that the person who communicated the concern had not acted reasonably and in good faith in making the report. The Act also provides protection from penalisation by an employer.

The Criminal Justice Act (2006)

Section 176 Reckless Endangerment of Children states that “a person, having authority or control over a child or abuse, who intentionally or recklessly endangers a child by:

(a) causing or permitting any child to be placed or left in a situation which creates a substantial risk to the child of being a victim of serious harm or sexual abuse  

(b) failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child from such risk while knowing that the child is in such a situation.”

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016

The Act provides a statutory basis for the vetting of persons carrying out relevant work with children or vulnerable persons. The Act also creates offences and penalties for persons who fail to comply with its provisions.  The Act stipulates that a relevant organisation shall not permit any person to undertake relevant work or activities on behalf of the organisation, unless the organisation receives a vetting disclosure from the National Vetting Bureau in respect of that person.

“… the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016 placed the vetting process on a statutory footing and will make it a statutory requirement for all organisations conducting relevant work with children and vulnerable persons to vet their prospective employees/volunteers prior to their commencing relevant work.

In addition, the Act allows for the disclosure of specified information, i.e. information concerning an allegation of harm to a child or vulnerable person which might reasonably give rise to a bona fide concern that that person may harm attempt to harm a child or vulnerable person.  The Act sets out an independent appeal process in relation to the disclosure of specified information.

Furthermore the Act puts in place requirements regarding retrospective vetting of staff that are currently employed in relevant work but have never received vetting.”

For further information on legislation for child protection in Ireland, please visit www.dcya.gov.ie and www.irishstatutebook.ie

DEFINITIONS AND RECOGNITION OF ABUSE

DÍNIT are fully aware that personnel do not have to be medical professionals to recognise or suspect abuse, nor does being a medical professional mean that it’s easier to recognise.  However our policy remains that if there is a suspicion of abuse, it must be reported.  Given that abuse can be subtle or occur over a period of time, it can be difficult to notice or even prove.

Definition of a vulnerable adult

A vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 years or over who may require assistance to care for themselves, or protect themselves from harm or from being exploited. This may be because they have a disability (either mental health, intellectual or physical), a sensory impairment, are old and frail, or have some other form of illness.

Definition of a vulnerable person for the purposes of Garda vetting The Garda Vetting Bureau (children and vulnerable persons) Act 2012 defines a vulnerable person as a person, other than a child, who

(a) is suffering from a disorder of the mind, whether as a result of mental illness or dementia

(b) has an intellectual disability

(c) is suffering from a physical impairment, whether as a result of injury, illness or age

(d) has a physical disability, which is of such a nature or degree— (i) as to restrict the capacity of the person to guard himself or herself against harm by another person, or (ii) that results in the person requiring assistance with the activities of daily living including dressing, eating, walking, washing and bathing.

Vulnerable adult abuse is any mistreatment that violates a person’s human and civil rights. The abuse can vary from treating someone with disrespect in a way which significantly affects the person’s quality of life, to causing actual physical suffering. A vulnerable adult may be subjected to more than one form of abuse at any given time.

Physical abuse such as hitting, pushing, pinching, shaking, misusing medication, scalding, restraint, hair pulling.

Sexual abuse such as rape, sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not or could not have consented, or to which they were pressurised into consenting.

Psychological or emotional abuse such as threats of harm or abandonment, being deprived of social or any other form of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, being prevented from receiving services or support.

Financial or material abuse such as theft, fraud or exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property, or inheritance, misuse of property, possessions or benefits.

Neglect such as ignoring medical or physical care needs and preventing access to health, social care or educational services or withholding the necessities of life such as food, drink and heating. Discriminatory abuse such as that based on race or sexuality or a person’s disability and other forms of harassment or slurs.

Institutional abuse can sometimes happen in residential homes, nursing homes, hostels, holiday centres or hospitals when people are mistreated because of poor or inadequate care, neglect and poor practice that affects the whole of that service.

Domestic abuse refers to the use of physical or emotional force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence in close adult relationships. This includes violence perpetrated by a spouse, partner, son or daughter or any other person who has a close or blood relationship with the victim. The term ‘domestic violence’ goes beyond actual physical violence. It can also involve emotional abuse; the destruction of property; isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support; threats to others including children; stalking; and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone.

Elder Abuse is defined as ”A single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person or violates their human and civil rights.” 65 years of age is taken as the point beyond which abuse may be considered to be elder abuse. Concerns in relation to elder abuse should be reported to the relevant Public Health Nurse or to the HSE Senior Case Worker for the Protection of Older People

DÍNIT STAFF AND VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT

The DÍNIT volunteer programmes may involve working with children and vulnerable adults.  As such, DÍNIT has a duty of care to protect the well-being of everyone connected to the programme, particularly children.  It is the responsibility of Dinit to ensure best practice when recruiting personnel and that relevant checks and procedures are adhered to in the recruitment process.

All Dinit personnel must conduct themselves in a manner respectful of child rights, dignity and safety.

All staff and volunteers must be alert to the possibility of abuse and alert to their obligation to report reasonable concerns or suspicions to the appropriate authorities.

All personnel are encouraged to exemplary professional, courteous behaviour at all times and adhere to the good practice guidelines outlined in this policy.

Two written references must be provided, one of which must be from your most recent employer.

Certified confirmation of educational and professional qualifications must be provided.

Certified confirmation of membership of professional bodies must be provided.

Where the role applied for is to exclusively to work with children, relevant training and qualifications are required.

Training will in child and vulnerable adult safety will be provided prior to commencement and all personnel must be familiar with this police and the procedures contained herein.

If clarification on any part of the process or obligations is required, personnel should speak to their manager or seek independent legal advice.

Garda and Police Vetting

DÍNIT policy requires that all personal submit for mandatory Garda Vetting in Ireland in accordance with the Children and Vulnerable Persons Act, 2012.

A copy of your Clearance will be retained on file and the original returned to you.

If you have resided in countries outside of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for a period of 6 months or more, it will be mandatory for you to provide a Police Clearance Certificate from those countries stating that you have no convictions recorded against you while residing there.

You will need to provide a separate Police Clearance Certificate for each country you have resided in.   Clearance must be dated after the date you left the country/countries.

Seeking security clearances from other countries (eg  UK, USA etc) are the responsibility of the candidate which can be lengthy process.

Helpful websites for International Police Vetting:

Top of Form

United Kingdom

London: www.met.police.uk/dataprotection

Metropolitan Police Service – Your right to information

www.disclosurescotland.co.uk

www.south-wales.police.uk/fe

www.north-wales.police.uk

www.police.uk/forces/forceslist.asp

Australia            www.afp.gov.au

New Zealand            www.courts.govt.nz

United States of America    https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks

Other Countries        contact the relevant embassies

Recognising Child Neglect or Abuse

Child neglect or abuse can often be difficult to identify and may present in many forms. 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 context of the child’s situation and family circumstances.

Guidelines for Recognition

The ability to recognise child abuse can depend as much on a person’s willingness to accept the possibility of its existence as it does on their knowledge and information.

There are commonly three stages in the identification of child neglect or abuse:

    1. considering the possibility;

looking out for signs of neglect or abuse;

recording of information.

Stage 1: Considering the possibility

The possibility of child abuse should be considered:

      • if a child appears to have suffered a suspicious injury for which no reasonable explanation can be offered.

if the child seems distressed without obvious reason or displays persistent or new behavioural problems.

if the child displays unusual or fearful responses to parents/carers or older children.

a pattern of ongoing neglect should also be considered even when there are short periods of improvement.

Stage 2: Looking out for signs of neglect or abuse

Signs of neglect or abuse can be

    1. physical
    2. behavioural
    3. developmental

They can exist in the relationships between children and parents/carers or between children and other family members/other persons.

A cluster or pattern of signs is more likely to be indicative of neglect or abuse.

Some signs are more indicative of abuse than others.

Less obvious signs could be gently explored with the child, without direct questioning eg play situations, such as drawing or story-telling, may reveal information.

These include:

(i) disclosure of abuse by a child or young person;
(ii) age-inappropriate or abnormal sexual play or knowledge;
(iii) specific injuries or patterns of injuries;
(iv) running away from home or a care situation;
(v) attempted suicide;
(vi) underage pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease;
(vii) signs in one or more categories at the same time. For example, signs of developmental delay, physical injury and behavioural signs may together indicate a pattern of abuse.

Many signs of abuse are non-specific and must be considered in the child’s social and family context. It is important to be open to alternative explanations for physical or behavioural signs of abuse.

Reporting Suspicions of Abuse or Disclosures

Disclosures should always be taken very seriously and should be reported to the person responsible.

If a child makes a direct disclosure to you, they should be listened to without prejudice and in a calm manner. It is important when recording a disclosure that no exaggerations or assumptions are made by you on what was disclosed.  Accurate reporting on what the child stated to you directly should be included in the report, specific details such as dates, times and nature of the abuse.

The child should not be interviewed in detail about the alleged abuse without first consulting with medical professionals. This may be more appropriately carried out by a social worker or policing authorities.

As this is a serious issue, it is the responsibility of the relevant statutory authorities, not DÍNIT , to conduct the investigation into allegations.

Managing Allegations and Suspicions of Abuse

The National Children and Family Services and police are responsible for child safeguarding.

All members of the public have a duty to report any concerns in relation to child abuse or welfare to Tulsa (Ireland), in writing or by phone, to the Tulsa office in the area where the child resides.

If any person associated with DÍNIT has a concern that a child may have been, is being or is at risk of being abused or neglected, they should contact the Designated Liaison Person in DÍNIT , whether required by law or not.

For projects abroad, concerns should be raised with the Partner Designated Officer, who will address the concern collaboratively.  If you have an immediate concern, contact the National Children and Family Services for advice and guidance.

If you think a child is in immediate danger and you cannot contact the National Children and Family Service, you should contact the Police.

Confidentiality must be maintained at all times. This means that only those that need to know should be informed.

The Designated Person for Child Safeguarding

The Designated Officer has specific responsibility for ensuring effective safeguarding procedures are followed within Dinit. The Designated Person has the following responsibilities:

      • Be a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child safeguarding concerns
      • Ensure that the standard reporting procedure is followed so that concerns are appropriately responded to
      • Have up-to-date knowledge about child protection and safeguarding
      • Undertake any training necessary on new developments
      • Co-operate with outside agencies as necessary
      • Ensure a written record of any child safeguarding or protection issues is maintained and stored securely.
      • Appoint a Deputy Designated Person to cover for periods of approved leave.

Note: where an allegation or suspicion is made against the Designated Person, the information must be passed to the Deputy Designated Person and the process as outlined should be carried out by the Deputy Designated Person.

Duties of the Designated Person

1. Receive information about a concern or allegation.

2. Ensure the procedure about how to respond to concerns, suspicions, allegations and disclosures of abuse involving staff and volunteers is followed and that a referral has been made to the statutory authority if appropriate.

3. Create a case file for every referral that includes a log of actions, events and information received.  Records must be kept of all conversations, correspondence and reports received.  All entries must record the time, date and signed by the author.

4. Take possession of any written records made by any person in connection with the case and place them on the Case File.

5. Explain the procedures for addressing the concern, allegation or disclosure to the person who has raised the concern and discuss issue of confidentiality and data protection with them.

6. Contact emergency or appropriate services where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk of harm. An immediate referral should be made to the National Children and Family Services. If it is not possible to contact the National Children and Family Services, the Police authority should be contacted to ensure that under no circumstances is a child left in a dangerous situation pending intervention.

7. Inform Dinit staff that a complaint has been made and make a recommendation about any immediate action(s) that may need to be taken in order to ensure the safety of child.

8. Make discrete enquiries to identify the present and previous appointments of the person involved in order to establish whether there are any previous concerns about his/her practice, or any current grounds for concern in relation to the safety and wellbeing of children.

10. Conduct an initial interview with the person against who the allegation was made as soon as possible. The respondent shall be given information about his or her entitlement to seek legal advice and about the child protection process. The respondent should be informed that he/she is not obliged, in law, to respond or to furnish evidence, but that any statement provided will be taken into account in the investigation. The Designated Person should then inform the respondent of the nature and detail of the allegation/concern. The purpose of the interview is to inform the respondent of the existence of the allegation and of the process being followed. The respondent needs to be given enough detail about the disclosure/allegation/concern to be able to offer a response. A written record of the interview must be prepared, agreed with the respondent, signed and dated. However, it is essential that any such interview should be conducted in cooperation with any statutory investigation. The timing of this interview is critical and should not impede any external enquiries.

11. Complete the relevant reporting forms. See appendices attached.

12. In cases where a Designated Person has a concern about a child but is not sure whether to make a referral, he or she should seek appropriate advice. He or she may consult the National Office, the Health and Social Services and/or Police authority on the appropriate steps to be taken. The Designated Person must keep a written record of the outcome of the consultation with the Health and Social Services / Police authority on the Case File.

13. Follow the advice of Health and Social Services / Police authority where a child protection concern has been referred to them. Allow the Health and Social Services / Police to conduct their enquiries unimpeded. Do not visit the family or contact family members without prior discussion with investigators.

14. Maintain a dialogue with the Investigating Officer or Social Worker to monitor the progress of the case and act on any advice given. Details of contacts made should be recorded chronologically on the Case File.

15. Request a written account of the outcome of investigation from the Health and Social Services or policing authority.

16. In cases where the Designated Person decides not to report concerns to the National Children and Family Services or the Police, the individual staff, volunteer or  member of the public who raised the concern should be given a clear written statement of the reasons why it is not being reported. They should be advised that if they remain concerned about the situation, they are free to contact the National Children and Family Services or the Police themselves.

17. Conduct an internal investigation if for some reason any external investigation takes place. Any internal investigation will be initiated in cases where child protection concerns remain or where disciplinary action needs to be considered. Such an investigation will gather and assess available information from all sources and witnesses. In cases where there is a delay, and particularly where a volunteer or staff member is suspended from duties, it is important to keep everyone informed of the progress of the investigation and to maintain records of such communications.

If there is any doubt or concern about the safety of the child or differing procedures and/or legal obligations in any country of operation, seek legal advice immediately or as soon as possible after disclosure has been made.

Allegations or Disclosures Made Against Dinit Personnel or Volunteers

1.  No child should continue to be exposed to unnecessary risk following the receipt of an allegation or disclosure. Dinit will take any protective measures necessary as soon as possible proportionate to the level of risk.

2. The Board of Directors and relevant senior personnel must be informed about the allegation as soon as possible. For overseas cases, the Designated Person must inform the CEO at the earliest opportunity.

3. Dinit personnel should be privately informed by the Designated Person that an allegation has been made against them and the nature of the allegation. However, it is essential that such contact should be conducted in cooperation with any statutory investigation and should not impede any external enquiries.

4. The Dinit personnel should be given the opportunity to respond. This response should be noted and passed to the National Children and Family Services if a report is made.

5. It will be necessary to decide if a formal report should be made to the National Children and Family Services.

6. The named individual may be suspended without prejudice, pending the outcome of the investigation by the social services and police. In the case of an allegation against Dinit personnel overseas, the named individual may be suspended pending the outcome of an investigation by the relevant authorities or findings from the Dinit and Partner Designated Persons.

7. The CEO should be informed of the outcome of an investigation and / or assessment.

8. Personnel found to have made malicious allegations against another Dinit team member, will face disciplinary procedures, suspension or termination of contract.

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