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Children First Implementation

 

The Children First Act 2015 (the Act), which was signed into law on 19 November 2015, puts elements of the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011) on a statutory footing. The legislation was a key Programme for Government commitment, and forms part of a suite of child protection legislation which includes the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts, 2012-2016 and the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012.

The Act provides for, inter alia,
•    mandatory reporting by key professionals,
•    mandated assisting,
•    comprehensive risk assessment and preparation of Child Safeguarding Statements by services for children, and
•    the establishment of the Children First Interdepartmental Implementation Group on a statutory basis.  

A number of provisions of the Act have already been commenced as follows:

(i)    Sections 1 to 5 (Part I) and section 28 (Part V) of the Act were commenced on 11 December 2015.  Sections 1 to 5 are standard provisions in relation to title, citation, regulations, definitions etc.  Section 28 relates to corporal punishment and removes the common law defence of reasonable chastisement in relation to same.

(ii)    Section 18 (Part III) and Sections 20-26 (Part IV)  were commenced on 1 May 2016. Section 18 of the Act is a technical amendment to ensure that the Child and Family Agency is a specified body for purposes of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. Sections 20-26 deal with establishing the Children First Interdepartmental Implementation Group (CFIDG) on a statutory basis and expanding the Group to include all Government Departments.

 

Interdepartmental Cooperation

Children First Interdepartmental Implementation Group (CFIDIG)


A significant provision in the Children First legislation (Sections 20-26) is the establishment of the CFIDIG.  Membership of the CFIDIG includes all Government Departments, the Child and Family Agency, the HSE and An Garda Síochána.  This reflects the importance that is being attached by all Departments, sectors, agencies and services in fully complying with the ethos of Children First, and their specific statutory and non-statutory responsibilities.

The CFIDIG will be required to keep under review the implementation across the Public Sector of the Children First legislation and the Guidance, and to report on an annual basis to the Minister.  The Children First Act requires every Department to prepare a Sectoral Implementation Plan as soon as may be after commencement of the relevant Section (Section 27) of the Act.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the CFIDIG are working in cooperation with the Child and Family Agency in relation to key issues and priorities such as the provision of information, training and advice to relevant organisations/sectors.

While Departments and Agencies are responsible for child protection issues arising in their own sphere of responsibility, the CFIDIG provides a forum at which child safeguarding issues with a cross-Departmental focus can be raised as required.

The First Annual Report of the Group can be found below.

Children First Interdepartmental Implementation Group Annual Report 2016

 

Information and training resources to support Children First implementation


The Minister has committed to full commencement of the remaining provisions of the Act by end 2017. In preparation for this the Department and the Child and Family Agency are in the process of developing a suite of resources to support the full implementation of the Act. This includes the revision of the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011 and the preparation by Tusla of guidance documents in relation to child safeguarding statements and mandated assisting. In addition, Tusla is developing a comprehensive Children First e-training module which will be universally available, free of charge and will set out the basic information required to recognise and report child welfare and protection concerns.

It is intended that this suite of resources will be launched prior to the commencement date to give persons and organisations who will acquire legal obligations under the Act sufficient time to familiarise themselves with the resources.

Non-Statutory Children First Interdepartmental Group


A Children First Inter-Departmental Group was established in 2011 to promote the importance of Children First compliance across Government and to ensure a consistent approach is adopted. Each Department represented on the Group prepared a Children First Sectoral Implementation Plan.  The Government approved the first set of Sectoral Plans on 16 July 2013. These Implementation Plans were designed to be high level documents setting out implementation requirements for the parent Department and for agencies under its aegis which have contact with children and young people.  The Plans set out the mechanisms in place, or to be put in place, to support the continued implementation of Children First Guidance at sectoral level.  This Group has been replaced by the statutory CFIDIG.

Initial 2013 Children First Sectoral Implementation Plans can be found by clicking on the links below:

 

 

DCYA Children First Sectoral Implementation Plan
Department of Education and Skills
Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government
Department of Justice and Equality
Dept of Social Protection
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Department of Health

 

 

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