Child Protection Policy
Lilliput Adventure Centre (LAC) is fully committed to safeguarding the well-being of participants by protecting them from physical, sexual and emotional harm and neglect. LAC accepts that in all matters concerning child protection, the welfare and protection of the young person is paramount. This child protection policy and code of behaviour aims to protect leaders, volunteers and participants.
Child abuse is a difficult subject, and it is understandable that people may be reluctant to acknowledge that it exists. Members of the public or professionals may be afraid of being thought of as insensitive, breaking confidences or appearing disloyal if they report suspected child abuse. However, early intervention may reduce the risk of serious harm occurring to a child at that time or in the future. This policy document should be read with the Child Protection Policy that has been put in place by any organisation with which a participant is involved.
Who Does this Child Protection Policy Apply to?
This child protection policy applies to all leaders, and instructors. Everyone to whom the policy applies is required to familiarise themselves with the policy while working in LAC.
Responsibility to Report Suspected or Actual Abuse
Any person who suspects that a child is being abused, or is at risk of abuse, has a responsibility and a duty of care to report their concerns to Designated Person. The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 provides immunity from civil liability to people who report child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to a Designated Person (in this instance the person specified in Section 3.10.1 of this document), the Health Service Executive or the Gardaí (Children First, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011 p.16).
Defining and Identifying Child Abuse
A child is defined as an unmarried person under the age of 18 years. Child abuse generally falls into four categories.
Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, medical care or attachment to and affection from adults. (Children First, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011, p.8.)
2. Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between a parent/carer and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s developmental need for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. Unless other forms of abuse are present, it is rarely manifested in terms of physical signs or symptoms. (Children First, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011, p. 8.)
3. Physical Abuse
Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control or a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power or trust. There may be a single or repeated incident. (Children First, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011, p. 9.)
4. Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for their gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others. In relation to child sexual abuse, it should be noted that, for the purposes of criminal law, the age of consent to sexual intercourse is 17 years. (Children First, National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011, p. 9|51.)
While bullying is not a category in itself, it is important to be aware of it in relation to child abuse. Bullying can be defined as repeated verbal, psychological or physical aggression, that is conducted by an individual or group against others. Bullying behaviour may take place in any setting: in schools, in the home or in a LAC setting. In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the employee/instructor to deal with bullying that may take place within the centre. The more extreme forms of bullying behaviour would be regarded as physical or emotional abuse and are reportable to the statutory authorities. LAC has a clear policy on countering bullying behaviour (See our ‘code of conduct’ document). Participants should be aware of that policy and instructors should implement it. Incidents should not be tolerated under any circumstances and should be dealt with immediately.
LAC provides an environment that encourages security, confidence and trust, so enabling young people to share their concerns. A young person will carefully select a person to confide in. That chosen person will be someone they trust and have confidence in. It is important that a young person who discloses child abuse feels supported and facilitated in what may be a frightening and traumatic process for them. A young person may feel perplexed, afraid, angry, despondent and guilty. It is important that any negative feelings they may have are not made worse by the kind of response they receive.
A young person who divulges child abuse to a LAC instructor has engaged in an act of trust and their disclosure must be treated with respect, sensitivity, urgency and care.
How to Respond
It is of the utmost importance that disclosures are treated in a sensitive and discreet manner. Anyone responding to a young person making such a disclosure should take the following steps.
- Take what the young person says seriously.
- React calmly, as over-reaction may intimidate the young person and increase any feelings of guilt that they may have.
- Reassure the young person that they were correct to tell somebody what happened.
- Listen carefully and attentively.
- Never ask leading questions.
- Use open-ended questions to clarify what is being said and try to avoid having them repeat what they have told you.
- Do not promise to keep secrets.
- Advise that you will offer support but that you must pass on the information.
- Do not express any opinions about the alleged abuser to the person reporting to you.
- Explain and make sure that the young person understands what will happen next.
- Do not confront the alleged abuser.
- Write down immediately after the conversation what was said, including all the names of those involved, what happened, where, when, if there were any witnesses and any other significant factors and note any visible marks on the individual making the report or any signs you observed. The person recording the event must sign and date all reports and indicate the time the notes were made.
- Ensure that the information is restricted to those who need to know it.
- Pass any allegations to the Designated Person immediately.
- Allegations should not be investigated by LAC leaders or instructors.
What do you do if you Suspect that a Young Person is Being Abused or Neglected?
Try to ensure in so far as is possible that no situation arises that could cause any further risk to the individual.
Record the facts as you know them. Include the young person’s name, address, nature of the concern, allegation or disclosure and, where possible, information about a parent or guardian. Give a copy to the Designated Person. The Designated Person will keep this information in a secure place.
Provide a report to the Designated Person in LAC who is Franky Wright email@example.com If he is unavailable, give a copy of the report to the next in charge Trish Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
What Happens if there are Reasonable Grounds for Concern?
If reasonable grounds for concern exist, the Designated Person will provide a report to the Duty Social Worker of the Health Service Executive. The following examples would constitute reasonable grounds for concern.
- Specific indication from the participant that they were abused.
- An account by a person who saw the young person being abused.
- Evidence, such as an injury or behaviour, that is consistent with abuse and unlikely to be caused another way.
- An injury or behaviour that is consistent both with abuse and with an innocent explanation but where there are indicators supporting the concern that it may be an incidence of abuse. An example of this would be a pattern of injuries, an implausible explanation and other indications of abuse or dysfunctional behaviour.
- Consistent indication over a period of time that a child is suffering from emotional or physical neglect.
If there is an immediate risk to a young person, the volunteer should contact An Garda Síochána. The Designated Person will consult with the young person’s parents or guardian in relation to the concern and the possibility of a report being made to the Health Service Executive, unless it is not in the best interests of the young person to do so.
A suspicion that is not supported by any objective indication of abuse or neglect would not constitute a reasonable suspicion or reasonable grounds for concern. However, these suspicions should be recorded or noted internally by the Designated Person only, as future suspicions may lead to the decision to make a report. Earlier suspicions may provide important information to the Health Service Executive.
The Designated Person is the title given to the person appointed by LAC to deal with child protection issues reported by LAC leaders/instructors or young people participating in a LAC activity.
The Designated Person will ensure they do the following or, in their absence, that another person in the organisation will do so.
- Report suspicions and allegations of child abuse to the Health Service Executive where there is a concern.
- Create and maintain links with the Health Service Executive and other relevant agencies and resource groups.
- Facilitate follow-up action.
- Advise LAC staff about individual cases as appropriate.
- Advise on best practice and ensure that LAC’s Child Protection Policy and procedures are followed.
- Organise and/or facilitate training and workshops on the guidelines for child protection.
- Maintain proper records on all cases referred to them in a secure and confidential manner.
- Keep up to date on current developments regarding provision, practice, legal obligations and policy. Ensure that this Child Protection Policy is reviewed annually.
- Ensure that LAC’s policies and procedures are brought to the attention of to all LAC staff.
All allegations or suspicions about a LAC leader or instructor no matter how insignificant, must be referred immediately and directly to:
- The Designated Person in charge Franky Wright or if not available (087) 810 6951
- The Deputy Designated Person in charge Trish Wright (085) 806 0681
Code of Behaviour for Instructors and Participants
- Instructors should be sensitive to the risks involved in taking part in some contact sports with young people. Instructors should be sensitive to the implications of becoming too involved with or spending a lot of time with any one young person.
- Instructors should be sensitive to the potential risk to personal safety that may arise when they meet alone with a young person in a room. Where it is feasible, they should leave the door open or inform another colleague that they will be alone in the room with the individual in question.
- Where an instructor has a concern about the nature of a particular relationship involving themselves or another instructor or young person, they should discuss it with a supervisor or experienced colleague.
- An instructor should not have a physical relationship with a participant.
- Attempts should be made among young people to develop a positive attitude that respects the personal space, safety and privacy of their peers.
- If an instructor provides transport for participants in the course of their involvement with LAC, there should, if possible, be two or more participants in the car. Any transport should only be provided with the full knowledge and consent of the young people’s parents or guardians.
- Instructors must never physically punish or be verbally abusive to a young person.
Procedures for Instructors in Overnight Activities
When taking young people away on their venture activity, leaders should consider the following matters.
- Communications – Instructors should always carry a mobile phone with the battery fully charged in case of emergencies. Emergency contact numbers for the parents or guardians of participants should be available to leaders.
- Medical Concerns – Instructors should ensure that they possess a fully stocked first aid kit and any relevant medical information about participants, for example allergies, medication regimes and so on.
- Sleeping Arrangements – Sleeping areas for males and females should be separate and supervised by two adults of the same gender as the group being supervised.
Guidelines on the Use of Technology
Mobile Phones, Camera Phones, Cameras and Audio-Visual Equipment.
- A mobile phone can be a great communication method and a potential safety tool. Volunteers/leaders should carry mobile phones in addition to any radio communications on all activities. However, it can happen if there is an emergency that the mobile phone may not work due to poor reception. Therefore, the reliance on a phone should never replace the skill and competencies required for such activities.
- Mobile phones will only be used for emergencies, never for recording or photography.
- Participants are not allowed to have mobile phones with them when undertaking LAC activities.
Policy on the Use of Cameras and Images
The following guidelines on the use of cameras and audio-visual images will be used.
- LAC will undertake as far as possible to get permission to use images of participants before using their images for publicity purposes.
- LAC will seek parents’ or guardians’ permission for the use of photographs of participants under the age of 18 for any publicity purposes.
- Only images of participants in appropriate dress will be used.
- Inappropriate use of images of participants or volunteers will be brought to the attention of the Designated Person.
Dealing with Allegations Against Instructors
When an allegation is made against an instructor, the following steps will be taken:
- Any action will be guided by the agreed procedures, the applicable instructor contract and the rules of natural justice. The priority will be to ensure that no child is exposed to unnecessary risk.
- The Designated Person (unless the allegation is being made against them) will be informed as soon as possible.
- The Designated Person will inform and cooperate with the Child Protection Officer.
- The follow up on an allegation of abuse against an instructor will be made in consultation with the Health Service Executive (Health Board Child Care, East Coast Area 10 – Glenside Road, Wicklow Tel: (0404) 68400) and An Garda Síochána.
- LAC will ensure that actions taken do not undermine or frustrate any investigations being conducted by the Health Service Executive or An Garda Síochána.