Child Protection Policy



The contents of this policy are based on:

1989   UN Convention on Rights of Child  
1991   Child Care Act ROI  
1995    The Children Order NI
1998   Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse ROI
1999    Children First ROI
2003    Co-operating to Safeguard Children NI
2005   Ferns Report ROI / Regional Policy and Procedures NI
2009   Ryan & Murphy Reports ROI / Safeguarding Children NI
2009   Standards & Guidance Document (NBSCCC)

1.The definition of a Child
The diocese of Clogher uses the broader definition or the wider view of a child to include vulnerable adults in the absence of a definition of a vulnerable adult in any law in the ROI.

2. The welfare of children is of paramount importance.
Where there is a conflict between protecting children and respecting the rights and needs of parents/carers, the child’s welfare must come first.
Children have the right to be heard and taken seriously.
Taking account of their age and level of understanding, they should be involved in relation to all matters and decisions that affect their lives.
Early intervention and support is a must.
The intervention should not deal with the child in isolation. The child must be seen in a family setting.
Actions taken to protect the child should not in themselves be a cause of distress.
Children should only be separated from parents/carers when all alternative means of protecting them have been exhausted.
Re-union should always be considered.
Parents/carers have a right to be consulted and involved.
The criminal dimension of any action cannot be ignored.

3.Policy Statement
We in the Diocese/Parish value and encourage the participation of children and young people in all parish activities that enhance their spiritual, physical, emotional and social development.
We recognise the dignity and rights of all children and are committed to their protection and support.
In keeping with this we will work to do all in our power to create a safe environment for children and young people in order to secure their protection and enable their full participation in the life of the Church

4. Basic Procedures

The Diocese/Parish undertakes to have the following in place:
•    Signed parental consent for each young person.
•    Appropriate supervision ratios of adults to young people while maintaining the practice of ensuring that no young person is left alone with an adult.
•    A duty roster of leaders to ensure adequate supervision of young people at all times
•    A code of conduct for all adult leaders & young people
•    Adequate record keeping  processes including:
Participant forms
Incident /Accident Report forms
Volunteer Application form
Declaration Forms for all adult leaders
Medical information and treatment permission as appropriate for all young people
Programme /attendance records
Training records
•    Contact information for parents/guardians
•    Procedures for recruitment  & overseeing adult leaders working with young people
•    A clearly communicated Accident/Emergency plan
•    For away trips a pre-check on accommodation and transport arrangements.
•    Procedures concerning photography ensuring parental consent is received prior to photographs being taken and protecting the identity of the child in the event of photographs being taken for programme purposes.
•    Information session for all young people and their parents

5. Code of Conduct Basics

•    Young people will be treated with courtesy, respect and dignity
•    Young people will not be permitted to consume alcohol or smoke while participating in activities in keeping with civil law in Ireland
•    There will be an adequate ratio of leaders to young people at all times. Leaders should not work alone with young people
•    Care will be taken to ensure that when working with  mixed gender groups staff and  adult volunteers of appropriate gender will work in pairs
•    That Leaders [18+] will not consume alcohol or smoke while having responsibility for or in the presence of young people.
•    Inappropriate language or sexually suggestive comments will not be permitted by young people or leaders
•    Physical contact between young people and leaders will be appropriate at all times. Leaders will not engage in rough play or undertake any task of a personal nature with/for young people except in cases of medical necessity when the welfare of the child depends on it.
•    Leaders will always engage with young people in an open manner and care will be taken not to show favouritism.
•    There will be clearly designated leaders within each group with whom young people can speak about their experience and raise any concerns should they arise.
•    The Diocese will have a designated person assigned to whose immediate attention all concerns and/or complaints can be brought.
•    The designated person will respond promptly to all concerns and liaise with the required civil and Church authorities.

Note: The parish documents are based on the Diocesan Templates above which were approved in 2005 by the Bishop and the Diocesan Child Protection Committee. A review of these and all other policies was conducted in 2010 by the new Bishop and the Diocesan Safeguarding Children Committee. There will be a review in three years time.

6. Communications:

1    The cathedral and all churches have the following documents on permanent display:

Policy Statement
Code of Conduct
Code of Procedures
Counselling Services
Diocesan Personnel

2    These documents are brought to the attention of the general public through inclusion in a parish leaflet which is updated every three years. .

Priests/parish representatives deliver prepared statement re our work at  Masses in their own church(es) every three years.

An end of year document is issued to all involved outlining the year’s S.C. activities and there is a reiteration of all Diocesan policies and procedures. (This document is a typical example.)

The diocesan website provides extensive information, updates and resource materials.

7. Anti Bullying Code:

We provide a place:
where every member can feel secure;
where bullying is not acceptable;
where name calling is not tolerated;
where no one suffers any abuse;
where no one is victimised;
where each member is listened to.

8. Operating safe activities

1.    Child Protection Policy:  see above
2.    Audit of child-centred activities: see auditing further on.
3.    Managing Difficult Behaviour
Adopt a positive, pro-active approach
Reward good behaviour
Group develops Code of Conduct
Clarify what is unacceptable behaviour and why
State the consequences of unacceptable behaviour.  Consult children about this.
Issue warnings around exclusion or sanctions
Inform parents/carers
Work with appropriate supervision ratios to manage challenges
Record all incidents

4.  Managing intimate care
Always consult parent/carer and child about best way of managing intimate care
Seek written parental consent and knowledge of any allergies or underlying medical conditions
Seek permission to administer medication, including band-aids
If possible engage parent/carer in activity
Have written agreement for each child, identifying roles
Understand child’s routine
Agree adult to child ratio
Keep a record and share with child & parent/carer
Don’t be rushed into taking on intimate care tasks.
Treat every child with dignity and respect.
Ensure that the degree of privacy is appropriate.
Involve the child as far as possible in his/her own intimate care.
Make sure intimate care is as consistent as possible.
If you are concerned about anything during intimate care, report it.

5(a). Parent Consent
Provide written information to parent
Seek parental consent for all under age of 18
Obtain relevant medical information and permission for emergency treatment
Seek feedback from and give feedback to parents
Outline complaints procedure

5(b). Child Consent
Give full information to child
Seek child’s views
Get written consent if appropriate
Evaluate child’s participation
Seek child’s feedback
Child to be told where to go with a complaint

6. Complaints procedure
Church organisations should develop a clear complaints procedure for use by young people or by parents who are dissatisfied with any aspect of activities or services provided.
Children and young people and their parents or guardians should be given a copy of the complaints procedure and should be made aware of the procedure for making a complaint.
All staff and volunteers should be informed about the complaints procedure.

7. Security of premises
No-one has access to an environment or venue where activities are being conducted with children / young people unless that individual has completed an accepted application and vetting process that approves  him or her being present for the duration of the activity.

8. Use of IT equipment
Where a computer- for internet, website and emailing – is used by more than one person, each person should be obliged to have a unique username and password, or where this is not possible, to maintain a signed record of the date, time and duration of their use of the computer.

Where a computer in a Parish organisation or institution can be accessed by children or young people, it should be accessible only through the use of a username and password unique to each child. Where this is not possible, the children or young people should be obliged to provide a signed record of the date, time and duration of their use of the computer.

Computers which can be accessed by children or young people should always have appropriate filtering software.

All computers in Parish organisations and institutions should be monitored regularly to ensure that they are being used in accordance with the stated policy. Where there is any suspicion or doubt, a person with specialist knowledge of computer hardware and software should be asked to assess the purposes for which the computer has been used.

There are situations when access to a mobile phone will make a positive contribution to the safety and welfare of children, particularly when an emergency occurs. Its use should be discouraged during church activities. Those phones with photographic and video facilities should be banned in changing facilities and residential accommodation

9. Residential stays
All trips need careful advance planning, including adequate provision for safety in regard to transport, facilities, activities and emergencies. Adequate insurance should be in place.
Written consent by a parent or guardian specifically for each trip and related activities must be obtained well in advance.
A copy of the itinerary and contact telephone numbers should be made available to parents and guardians.
There must be adequate, gender-appropriate, supervision for boys and girls.
Arrangements and procedures must be put in place to ensure that rules and appropriate boundaries are maintained in the relaxed environment of trips away.
Particular attention should be given to ensuring that the privacy of young people is respected when they are away on trips.
The provision of appropriate and adequate sleeping arrangements should be ensured in advance of the trip.
Sleeping areas for boys and girls should be separate and supervised by two adults of the same sex as the group being supervised.
At least two adults should be present in dormitories in which children or young people are sleeping. Under no circumstances should an adult share a bedroom with a young person.
If, in an emergency situation, an adult considers it necessary to be in a children’s dormitory or bedroom without another adult being present they should (a) immediately inform another adult in a position of responsibility and (b) make a diary note of the circumstances.
Pilgrimages and retreats are an important part of the Church’s pastoral and spiritual engagement with children and young people.  Those involved in the planning and delivery of pilgrimages and retreats should adhere to the same guidance as outlined for other activities with children and young people within the Church.

Supervision Ratios:

0 to 2 years = 1 adult for every 3 children.
2 to 3 years = I adult for every 4 children
3 to 7 years = 1 adult for every 8 children
8 years and over two adults for every 20 children (15 for outdoor activity)
For residential and pilgrimages the ratio is 1 adult for every 5 children

9. Recognition of Abuse:

There are four defined abuses.
•    Neglect
•    Emotional Abuse
•    Physical Abuse
•    Sexual Abuse

Neglect becomes apparent over a period of time rather than at one specific point.
Omission: – deprivation leading to significant harm or impairment of development.
Harm: – ill treatment or impairment of the health or development of a child.

Emotional Abuse is to be found in the relationship between a caregiver and a child. A number of examples follow:-
Persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming
Emotional unavailability by the adult
Conditional parenting/ no interest shown/domestic violence/harsh discipline
Inappropriate expectations of the child’s capacity
Premature imposition of responsibility on a child
Signs: Clinginess/avoidance, low self esteem, failure to thrive.

Physical Abuse is any form non-accidental injury.

Sexual Abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his/her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others by: – exposure, touching, masturbation, intercourse, sexual exploitation of a child. Signs: injury/distress/fearfulness/unusual behaviour/drawings/play situations/story telling.
In dealing with child abuse, one thing you must NOT do is Nothing.

10. Dealing with Disclosure:
Stay calm, listen carefully and patiently
Don’t press for details, except to clarify
Don’t fill in words or finish sentences
Don’t convey your anger, shock or embarrassment, or give your opinion
Explain that you will have to inform the Designated Officer/Person and that he/she will advise the police & social services – who will determine what further action to take.

Ask leading questions or attempt to investigate
Make judgements about the alleged abuser
Promise to keep secrets
Tell them stories about other people
Tell them that everything will be fixed straight away

Reassure them that it was right to tell you
Record what they’ve said as soon as possible after the meeting, using their own words as far as possible.
If you are unsure of what to do, contact the Designated Officer for advice and if a child is at immediate risk, the Child Welfare & Protection Services of the HSE (ROI) or the HSC Trust Gateway Team (NI) should be contacted immediately.

Outside of office hours, where a child is at immediate risk, contact the Gardai in the ROI.  In NI the HSC Trust Gateway Team operate an out-of-hours service.
(Contact numbers are given in Appendix 1)

11. Confidentiality
A person who admits an offence against a child or young person must always be told that such information cannot be kept confidential. The person to whom it is disclosed must refer upwards irrespective of the time lapse since the incident(s).
Before a child discloses an abuse against him or herself, it must be made clear that no guarantee of confidentiality can be given. It must be pointed out that it may be in the child’s best interest to refer upwards.

12. Guidance on the seal of confession
Within the sacrament of Penance, practices need to be considered that ensure the safety of all those involved while providing the required privacy for the person receiving the sacrament.
A priest must be clear about the status of any conversation relating to an allegation of abuse and make sure there is no misunderstanding about whether the seal applies.

Because of the obligations of the sacramental seal, no priest exercising a function under child safeguarding procedures should celebrate the sacrament of penance with a person whom he knows is a respondent or a complainant in a child abuse case.

13. Reporting
Allegations of child abuse must be reported without delay.
There must be clear guidance to ensure a prompt response to allegations, suspicions and concerns about a child’s safety or welfare
All concerns are to be reported promptly to the civil authorities

Guiding principle:
The safety of the child is always the most important consideration


14. A special note to Parish S. C. Representatives:

If you have a suspicion or concern that a child or young person is being abused, you must report this without delay to your Designated Person (DP)
Make a record which will be submitted to the DP
The DP will report this to the civil authorities, having ascertained that it is a relevant concern and not a disciplinary matter which does not constitute abuse.
You will be kept up to date on progress as relevant / appropriate.
If the DP decides not to refer the incident, you have the right to query this decision and refer the matter yourself to the civil authorities.

15. The Role of the Designated Person:

Manage concerns/allegations re Child Protection from start to finish
Carry out preliminary assessment to establish reasonable grounds for concern
Refer to / liaise with statutory authorities
Ensure that person raising concern (and any other relevant person) is kept informed – in accordance with advice & guidance of the statutory authorities
Liaise with the local Bishop / Congregational Leader and the National Office of the NBSCCC
Maintain Case Records

16. The Role of the Safeguarding Representative
(i)  Raising awareness of what safeguarding is:

  • Update church notice boards
  • Put bulletins in parish newsletters
  • Alert parishes to training
  • Attend Parish S.C meetings periodically
  • Report to Designated Officer any concerns/complaints received by the Parish Representative

(ii)  Disseminating information on Safeguarding Children and circulating information widely to the public.  Include information re:

  • Standards & Guidance Document
  • Relevant Diocesan Policy
  • Safeguarding Forms (Parental Consent, etc)
  • Training Information
  • Declaration forms
  • Garda vetting forms

(iii)  Ensuring Church activities are provided in a way that ensures the safety and well being of the children involve.  This will include:

  • Liaising with director of activity
  • Ensuring appropriate levels of supervision are in place for all Church activities
  • Ensuring insurance cover is in place
  • Ensuring adequate records are kept

(iv)  Ensuring that the contact details of the relevant designated officers/delegates are widely publicised via:

  • Church Notice Boards
  • Parish/Diocesan Newsletters
  • Parish/DiocesanWebsites
  • Local Media Publications

17. The Role of the Advisory Panel

The consultative Advisory Panel has been appointed by the Bishop in order to advise and assist him at all stages of the investigative process.
It provides a source of guidance through a process of risk assessment and provides advice on the paramountcy principle, the appropriateness of providing help to all parties to the allegation and legal requirements .
It creates a record of its recommendations and notes.

18. Training and In-service

Opportunities are to be provided for all involved in any way with children to develop & maintain the necessary attitudes, skills & knowledge to keep children safe.
To carry out this role confidently and effectively, these need to be aware of child protection issues.
Everyone has a role to play in child protection and safeguarding

All clergy should attend annual Deanery courses on the Safeguarding initiative.
All parish representatives/trainers should complete the six-hour NBSCCC programme.
All leaders of under eighteen initiatives in parishes should complete the parish two-hour training module.
All parish S.C. committees are required to attend regional in-service meetings at least once per year.
The Diocesan SC Trainers do parish visits with regard to in-service, remediation and auditing.

19. The Parish Model

  1. Setting up the Parish Safeguarding Children Committee comprising all parish clergy and safeguarding Children parish trainers/representatives
  2. Appointing a chairperson, a convener, a parish representative and an Identification Verifier from among the committee members.
  3.  Conducting an annual audit of child welfare.
  4. Raising awareness about child protection issues.
  5. Developing a safeguarding children policy and also developing procedures for reporting suspected or disclosed abuse.
  6. Identifying good recruitment and management procedures for parish volunteers and staff.
  7. Creating a safe environment while working with children and young adults.
  8. Circulating to the public and displaying in each church documentation dealing with:
  • The parish policy statement on child protection.
  • The parish policy on reporting abuse, recruiting and vetting of volunteers and staff.
  • The parish code of conduct for adults working with children.
  • Counselling Supports/Contacts for reporting.
  • Diocesan Safeguarding Committee members

20. Vetting
The Diocese insists on Vetting Procedures
to ensure:

  • Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults
  • Protection of organisation providing services to children and vulnerable adults
  • Protection of personnel within an organisation providing services to children and vulnerable adults
  • Management of risk in respect of former offenders
  • Criminal offences committed by persons at some stage in their lives will show up at a later stage and may affect their employment opportunities.
  • Strong component part of a professional Human Resource Management practice within an organisation providing services to children and vulnerable adults
  • Partnership relationship between the Vetting Units and the Diocese/Parish

Vetting is widely viewed as one of the key elements in the delivery of a comprehensive and robust child protection system in this state

All volunteers/priests/paid personnel who are in a supervisory role vis a vis under eighteens, must be vetted by the appropriate authorities.

In the North, this is Access N.I.

Andy Thomson- the registered person in the Northern Dioceses – is the Authorised Diocesan Signatory for Access Northern Ireland.

In the South, this is the Garda Central Vetting Unit, Thurles.

Brendan Kelly is the authorised Diocesan Signatory for the Garda Central Vetting Unit, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, R.O.I. Marie Hamilton assists him.

All Diocesan clergy, the Diocesan Safeguarding Children Committee members and all the KS/SC trainers have been vetted through the Northern and Southern systems as appropriate.

To date over 550 volunteers have been vetted in the Northern Parishes and over 550 in the Southern Parishes

21. Recruitment Procedures

  • Each trainer/leader initially must be nominated by the Parish/Diocese, be interviewed, fill in the appropriate forms and be trained.
  • Each one must present two references for follow up.
  • Each one must sign a declaration form indicating no criminal convictions and be vetted.
  • There should be an ID verifier in each parish/diocese whose role it is to check photo ID’s and references.
  • Only when all these conditions are met will registration take place.

22. Management of those who pose a risk to children
Local arrangements are to be made by a multi party group comprising:

The Diocese/Parish
An Garda/PSNI
Housing representative

which will:

Share information
Assess Risk
Agree risk management plan
Review date

23. Access to Supports

The Diocese undertakes to provide access to all necessary supports as follows:

Providing for Victim Support

Support Person
Faoiseamh Counselling
HSE Counselling
Pastoral Support

Providing for Respondent Support

Pastoral Care

Providing for Diocesan Personnel

Specialist advice, support & information to be provided
Contact with national/local child protection/welfare agencies
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church
The HSE: North East division
The Northern Province cluster of Dioceses personnel who meet regularly

24. Review
This policy is to be reviewed on a regular basis, normally within three years.

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