Immunity for Reporting

The Protection for Person Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 provides protection from civil liability for persons who make a report in good faith.  They are also protected from penalisation in employment.

A person shall not be liable in damages in respect of communications in writing or otherwise to an appropriate person (being a designated officer or a member from Garda Siochana) if he communicates that a child is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused or the child’s health development or welfare is being avoidably impaired or neglected unless it is proved that the person has not acted reasonably and in good faith in forming the opinion and communicating it to the appropriate person.

An employer shall not penalize an employee for forming an opinion and communicating it to the appropriate person if he has acted reasonably and in good faith.

There are provisions for the protection of an employee against unfair dismissal, and penalization etc.  There are standalone provisions for complaints to Rights Commissioners (now the Workplace Relations Commission).  The provisions of other employment legislation are applied.

If a person communicates to an appropriate person that a child has been assaulted, is being assaulted, has been assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused or that the child’s health development or welfare is or has been avoidably impaired or neglected knowing the statement to be false is guilty of an offence.

A person convicted of such an offence may be subject on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,500 or imprisonment up to 12 months or an indictment up to £15,000 and three years’ imprisonment.  The offence may be brought within two years summarily.

Mandatory Reporting

The Children First  National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children were published in 1999. It is used for the identification, assessment, reporting and management of child abuse. It informs child protection guidelines and practices. Under the Act, the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration.

The Children First Act 2015 provides that certain professionals and others working with children have statutory reporting obligations. Certain persons providing services to children must undertake an assessment of the risk of harm to the child where the child is availing of the services. Certain providers are to provide a child Safeguarding Statement under the Act.

The Minister for Children may issue and publish guidelines for the purpose of providing guidance to persons in respect of the protection and welfare of children.

The legislation does not apply to an individual who undertakes any work or activity in the course of their family relationship, where the work or activity undertaken is solely for the benefit of the child or family member or where the work or activity is undertaken in the course of the personal relationship or is given on an occasional basis for no consideration.

Providers of Services

Relevant services under the Act are services including work or activities involving access to, or contact with, children. They are detailed in the schedule to the legislation. A provider of relevant services must ensure, insofar as practicable, that a child availing of its service is kept safe from harm.

Harm in this context means assault, ill-treatment, neglect, or sexual abuse of the child. It may constitute a single act, omission or circumstance or a series or combination of acts, omissions, or circumstances.

Where a person proposes to provide relevant services, he must, within three months, carry out a risk assessment or prepare a child Safeguarding Statement. A person providing relevant services prior to the legislation was required to do so within three months after the commencement of the legislation.

The Child Safeguarding Statement

It must include a written assessment of risk. It must outline procedures to manage risk. It must provide for procedures in relation to an employee who is the subject of an investigation in respect of any act or omission with regard to a child.

The Safeguarding Statement is to include an outline of procedures in place for reducing any identified risk, including those in the context of the recruitment of staff, provision of information, instruction and training to staff, reporting to the Child and Family Agency by an employer in accordance with ministerial guidelines under the Act, and a list of mandated persons in relation to the relevant service, if any.

The provider of a relevant services must make a copy of the child Safeguarding Statement available to members of the staff and on request to a parent or guardian, Child and Family Agency, to members of the public.

The provider must display the statement or a review of the statement in a prominent position at the place where the service is provided. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs may make regulations in relation to the statement. The statement is to be reviewed every 24 months.

Mandated Persons

The legislation defines certain professions and persons in the specified occupations as mandated persons who are required in certain circumstances to report matters to the Child and Family Agency. Where a mandated person knows, believes or has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is being harmed, has been harmed, or is at risk of being harmed, he or she shall report the belief or suspicion to the Agency as soon as practicable.

Where a child makes a disclosure to a mandated person that he or she believes that he or she is being, has been harmed, or is at risk of being harmed, the mandated person shall, as soon as practicable, report that disclosure to the Child and Family Agency.

A mandated person is not required to make a report to the Agency where the child is between 15 and 17 years and is engaged in sexual activity with a person who is not more than two years older than the child,  where the mandated person knows or believes there is no material difference in capacity or maturity between the parties,  where the child has made known his or her view that a report should not be made to the Agency and where the mandated person has relied on that view. This does not apply where the child has made the disclosure to a mandated person.

A mandated person is not to be required to report where the sole basis for his knowledge, belief or suspicion of harm is as a result of becoming aware that another mandated person has made a report to the Agency.

A mandated person is required to make a report only if he or she becomes aware of the information after the commencement of the legislation.

The report is to be in a format to be published by the Child and Family Agency. It may be made jointly by two or more mandated persons. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs may make regulations regarding the procedures.

Other Obligations

The reporting obligations are in addition to and not in substitution of other obligations whereby the mandated person has to disclose information to the Agency. This does not give rise to a requirement to make more than one report.

Nothing affects the obligation the person has to disclose information to the Garda Síochána under the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 or any other rule of law.

The mandated person may be requested to assist The Child and Family Agency and to give it such information and assistance as it may reasonably require. The assistance includes the provision of verbal or written reports, attendance at meetings arranged by the Agency and the production to the Agency of any document or thing.

The Agency may share information concerning a child who is the subject of the report with a mandated person who is assisting the Agency. The sharing is only such as shall be considered necessary and proportionate in the circumstances.

All information shared with the mandated person during the course of the assessment shall not be disclosed to a third party by that mandated person unless in circumstances authorised by law or where disclosure is authorised in writing by the Agency.

Implementation Group

The Child First Act provides for the establishment of a Child First Inter-Departmental Implementation Group to perform the functions assigned to it under the Act. The membership is to consist of a chairman, who is to be an official of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to be appointed by the Minister.

There are to be at least 17 ordinary members, including an official from each Department of State nominated by the Minister; a member of An Garda Síochána nominated by the Garda Commissioner and an employee of the Child and Family Agency nominated by the chief executive officer of the Agency.

The functions of the Group are to:

  • promote compliance by Departments of State with their obligations under the Act,
  • monitor implementation of the Act and guidelines issued by the Minister,
  • provide support to the Departments in respect of the preparation and publication of sectoral implementation plans,
  • promote a consistent approach by Departments of State in respect of the preparation and publication of sectoral implementation plans,
  • report to the Minister, when requested, on the implementation of the Act and guidelines,
  • provide information or advice or make proposals to the Minister on matters relating to the functions of the Implementation Group.

The Minister may give directions in writing to the Implementation Group, requiring it to comply with Government policy from time to time.

The Implementation Group is to provide an annual report to the Minister to include information regarding matters as the Minister shall, from time to time, direct. The Minister may also require the Implementation Group to supply a report of any matter connected with its functions as may be specified.

Sectoral Plans

Each Minister of State shall publish a sectoral implementation plan concerning relevant services provided by the Department concerned and concerning that provided by bodies in receipt of funds from the Department. It is to include the measures taken or proposed to promote, review and report compliance on the legislation and any other matters as the Minister considers appropriate.

Copies of the sectoral implementation plans are to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. Revised implementation plans are to be prepared after three years.

Relevant services for the purpose of the Act are  principally  defined as work and activities, mainly involving access to contact with children.

Mandated Activities

Schedule 2 specifies professions or occupations that are mandated persons for the purposes of the Act. They include

  • establishments carrying out early-year services under childcare legislation,
  • a school or centre of education, under the Education Act,
  • any hospital, hospice, health care centre or another centre which receives, treats, or otherwise provides physical or mental health services to children,
  • a designated centre under the HIQA legislation, in so far as it relates to an institution at which residential services are provided in accordance with the Child Care Act to children with disabilities in relation to their disabilities,
  • a special care unit under the childcare legislation,
  • a children’s detention school under the Children’s Act,
  • a reception or accommodation centre which provides residential accommodation services to applicants for asylum under contract to the Department of Justice where children may be accommodated,
  • a centre which provides residential accommodation services to victims of domestic violence,
  • any work or activity involving inspection of a service provided under the Education Act, Child Care Act, Children Act or HIQA legislation,
  • any work or activity which consists of the inspection, examination and investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children.
  • any work or activity that consists of treatment, including assessment which may lead to treatment, therapy or counselling provided to a child.
  • any work or activity which consists of the provision of educational, research, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities to children,
  • care or supervision of children,
  • formal consultation with, or formal participation by, a child in a matter that affects his or her life, whether or not for commercial or any other consideration,
  • work consisting of the provision of advice or guidance services, including remotely a necessary and regular part of which involves access to, or contact with, children,
  • work or activity as a minister or priest or any other person engaged in the advancement of religious beliefs which would or could bring that person into contact with a child,
  • any work as a driver, assistant driver, conductor, or supervisor of a vehicle being hired or used for the purpose of conveying children who are unaccompanied by a parent or guardian,
  • work or activity carried out by a member of An Garda Síochána, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of the persons having access to or contact with children.

Mandated Roles

The categories of mandated persons are:

  • registered medical practitioners,
  • registered nurses and midwives,
  • physiotherapist,
  • speech and language therapist,
  • occupational therapist,
  • registered dentist,
  • practising and registered psychologist,
  • social care workers,
  • emergency medical technician,
  • paramedic and advanced paramedic registered with the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council,
  • probation officer,
  • teacher,
  • member of An Garda Síochána,
  • guardian ad litem,
  • persons employed in any of the following: manager of domestic violence shelter; homeless provision, emergency accommodation provision; asylum seeker accommodation; addiction counsellor; psychotherapist or person involved in counselling registered with one of the voluntary professional bodies;
  • member of a language school or recreational school where children reside away from home;
  • member of clergy or pastoral care worker of a church;
  • director of an institution where a child is detained by court order;
  • child protection officer, safeguarding officer, who is employed for the purpose of performing child welfare and protection functions of religious, sporting, recreational, cultural, educational, or other bodies;
  • childcare staff member employed in pre-school service;
  • a person responsible for the care or management of youth work service,
  • youth worker who holds a professional qualification recognised by the National Qualifications Authority, and is employed in a youth service,
  • foster carer registered with the Agency,
  • person carrying on a pre-school service.

Offences Concerned

The offences concerned include:

  • rape,
  • sexual assault
  • incest,
  • soliciting and importuning,
  • defilement of child under 15 years or 17,
  • pornography legislation,
  • human traffic legislation,
  • reckless endangerment of children;
  • causing or encouraging sexual offence on a child.


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