Press Release

Launch of Children First – National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children

Mr Frank Fahey, T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for children at the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science and Justice Equality and Law Reform, today (Tuesday, 21 September 1999) launched “Children First – National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children”.

The National Guidelines are intended to support and guide health professionals, teachers, and members of the Garda Síochána and the many people in sporting, cultural, community and voluntary organisations who come into regular contact with children.

The launch was attended by the key interest groups from both the statutory and voluntary sector. Minister Fahey spoke of his pleasure in launching the new guidelines and of his particular satisfaction that they are to act as national over-arching guidelines that apply to all individuals and agencies who have contact with children.

The Minister paid tribute to the Working Group for the comprehensive and readable document they had produced.

Commenting on the Standard Reporting Procedure, the Minister said –

“This is possibly the most important provision overall. It states quite simply that any person who suspects that a child is being abused, or is at risk of abuse should make a report to the health board or the Gardaí without delay. This simple message is based on the view that everyone has a duty to protect children and it is not just the job of social workers and other health professionals. Reports should be made to the statutory autorities without delay”.

Under the guidelines, each organisation working with children must appoint a designated person to act as a liaison officer with the health boards and Gardaí.

Part Three of the Guidelines provides good practice guidelines for health board personnel and the Gardaí on the assessment and management of child abuse.

The Minister said that the Guidelines, together with the Protection of Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1999 (which came into operation in January 1999) were two important elements in the Government’s overall approach to strengthening Child Care services. He also identified further major developments in the Government policy agenda for children:

  • the preparation of the White Paper on Mandatory Reporting
  • the recent establishment of the Social Services Inspectorate
  • work in progress on a National Children’s Strategy and the establishment of an Ombudsman for Children

A summary of the National Guidelines and an information leaflet aimed at the general public has also been prepared and will be available free of charge from local health boards and from the Department of Health and Children. The full text of the guidelines and the summary are also available from the Departments website. The national guidelines will be made widely available and this will be linked to a public information campaign.