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Launch of the revised Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children [2017]

and a suite of related Tusla resources


Speech by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, TD

** Check Against Delivery**

 

Monday, 2nd October 2017

Introduction:

Good afternoon everybody, and thank you for being here at this very important launch.  We are launching the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, 2017 which has been revised by my Department to reflect the provisions of the Children First Act 2015.  We are also launching a related suite of Tusla Children First resources.

I know most of you here today will be very well aware of this.  Many of you have been working together for two years and longer to make this a reality. 

As Fergal has said, today marks another significant milestone in improving child welfare and protection for our children.  On behalf of the government I am very proud and very thankful for your dedication and commitment to making this happen. 

It has and will be challenging.  I have heard that message.  I believe that we need to take this next step now. 

To those of you here today who have advocated for this, I would also like to thank you.  You have maintained a steadfast focus in relation to mandated reporting of child abuse and in relation to obligations of organisations providing services to children to prepare and publish Child Safeguarding Statements.  I have heard your message too.

We are all ultimately working to achieve better, safer lives for our children.  We need to continue our work together on this.
 
Commencement of the Children First Act 2015

Today we are launching the resource material that is being put in place to support those persons and organisations that will acquire obligations under the Children First Act 2015. 

Since 19th November 2015, Tusla, The Garda Síochána, the HSE and government departments with significant obligations under the Act have established project or oversight teams to ensure readiness.


These organisations also participate in the statutory Children First Interdepartmental Implementation Group, set up under Part 4 of the Act, along with representatives of every government department.

All of these bodies have been working together to ensure a common and consistent understanding of the obligations arising under the Act and to update each other on preparations.

Following full commencement of the Act, this Group will continue to work together to monitor consistent implementation of the Act.

I am particularly pleased to be here today at the launch of the revised Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, 2017 prepared by my department and resource material prepared by Tusla with the input of the Implementation Group. 

This will support those persons and organisations that will acquire obligations under the Children First Act, 2015.


Last year I announced that it was my intention to fully commence the Act before the end of December 2017. I am now delighted to be able to announce that all remaining provisions of the Act will come into effect on 11th December this year. 

That is the day when requirements on mandated persons will come into effect.  However in relation to organisations, the legislation provides that they have 3 months from the date of commencement, to publish their Child Safeguarding Statement.

In making this announcement, I am aware of the significant responsibilities being placed on individuals and organisations, and not least on Tusla itself, to whom reports of concerns will be made. 

I have not made the decision to commence lightly.  However, on balance, I am firmly of the view that the needs of children will be better addressed by commencing the remaining provisions of the Act.  



Children First resources being launched:

The Children First Guidance has been revised by my Department and is being reissued today.  The key message of the guidance remains unchanged – that all reasonable concerns about the welfare or protection of a child should be reported to Tusla – but information has been included in relation to specific obligations that persons and organisations will acquire following full commencement of the Act, namely mandated reporters and providers of relevant services to children. 


The intention is that the Guidance is a comprehensive resource document for all people coming into contact with children, clearly setting out what their responsibilities are, and how they should discharge them.


To accompany the Guidance, Tusla have also prepared a number of resource documents, also being made available from today, about which the spokesperson for Tusla will provide more information on later in the afternoon. 


I am particularly excited by Tusla’s online Children First training: this will be the first time that any Children First training has been made universally available, free of charge, and I particularly welcome the fact that it will be available equally to those in the private sector. 

Everyone dealing with children, regardless of the source of their funding, has child protection obligations, so it is very important that information and support is equally available to all.

Next steps:

A number of Children First resources are being launched today: we then have a period until 11th December, when the remaining provisions of the Act come into effect, for individuals and organisations to familiarise themselves with their obligations, and with the range of resources and assistance available to them.

As I said previously, I do not underestimate the challenge, but I am unapologetic in believing that it is no less than our children deserve. 

The Children First Interdepartmental Group will continue to meet, and will continue to have a specific focus on implementation. 

Through that Group, my Department will keep abreast of developments and challenges. 

In addition, Government Departments will be required to develop sectoral implementation plans to drive improved Children First implementation across the relevant sectors, and to promote, review and report on compliance with the Children First guidance and legislation. 

We will all be required to work together to continue to make children safer.

Conclusion:


In conclusion I would like to say that we must never, even with the best legislation, guidance and radically improved systems, become complacent in relation to the protection of innocent and vulnerable children. 

Nor can we fall into the trap of assuming that child protection is something that is dealt with only by, or is the sole responsibility of, mandated persons or experts.

Each and every one of us has a responsibility to cherish and safeguard children.  This is a responsibility that will never go away. That should never go away. Tusla is there to offer support to anyone with child protection concerns as to how best to deal with those concerns. 

I want to end the same way as I began.  That is to thank you all for the great efforts that I know you will continue to make so that our country a better, happier and safer place for our children.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Ends//