Tuesday, 13 June 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
200. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedures involved for an individual to make a complaint regarding children who may be abused while under the services of either a voluntary or statutory organisation; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that at present when such allegations are made either to the health board or the Garda that the complaint is firstly referred to the organisation involved to carry out there own internal inquiry; his views on whether this is a satisfactory situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16571/00]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Ms Hanafin): My Department's guidelines for the reporting of child abuse concerns are contained in Children First – National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. Children First emphasises that all allegations or suspicions of child abuse should be reported to the statutory authorities without delay. The statutory authorities for receipt of these reports are the health boards and the Garda Síochána. A report may be made in person, by phone or in writing. Upon receipt of a suspected child abuse report, a health board carries out an initial assessment and the welfare of the child is always of paramount importance. The initial assessment considers the following: the nature and degree of any child abuse indicated in the report; the potential and current impact of suspected abuse on each child in the family; the need to take immediate protective action; the necessity to confer with professionals and agencies who may be involved already with the child and family; the need to formally notify the child care manager-designate of the report.
Children First emphasises that all organisations providing services to children should have clear written procedures on the action to be taken if allegations of abuse against employees are received including the reporting of allegations to the health board without delay. It is stressed that employers have a dual responsibility in respect of both the child and the employee. Allegations of abuse against employees may lead to disciplinary action and any action taken should be guided by  agreed procedures, the applicable employment contract and the rules of natural justice. It is recommended that when possible the same person should not have responsibility for dealing with both the reporting issues and the employment issues.
I understand that the Deputy may have a particular case in mind which involves adult victims of alleged child abuse. In that particular case, the health board assessed the current situation and considered that no child was currently at risk. It then asked the organisation involved to conduct an inquiry into the practices which led to the reports made. This inquiry was conducted under the supervision of the child care manager for that area. If the Deputy wishes to obtain further clarification, he should contact the relevant child executive officer of the health board concerned.
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