Education Health News

Government Launches Children First Awareness Week

The Children First Awareness Week aims to rise awareness of Children First and remind organisations working with children and young people of their responsabilities.

This is the first National Children First Awareness Week, which will run from the 1st to 7th November. The aim of the week is to raise awareness of Children First and remind wider society, including organisations working with children and young people, of our collective responsibility to keep them safe in our communities.

Children First promotes the protection of children from abuse and neglect, by setting out what individuals and organisations need to do to keep children safe, and how to deal with concerns about a child’s safety or welfare. The term ‘Children First’ refers to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 and the Children First Act 2015.

The week was officially launched by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, on behalf of the statutory Children First Inter-Departmental Implementation Group (CFIDIG). Also present at the launch were senior figures from An Garda Síochána, the HSE and Tusla – Child and Family Agency. These three agencies as well as all Government Departments are represented on the CFIDIG. The Group is chaired by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The Children First Act 2015 requires Government Departments to have Sectoral Implementation Plans for their respective policy areas. Also under the Act, organisations working with children and young people must ensure that risk assessment processes and Child Safeguarding Statements are in place and active.

Speaking at the launch, Minister O’Gorman said, “the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of communities and organisations working together. Critically, it has also shown us how crucial care and support is to individual and societal wellbeing and welfare. With the resumption of many services, clubs and groups, we are reminding organisations working with children and young people of their responsibilities under the Children First Act 2015 and renewing our collective focus on supporting and safeguarding children.”

The Minister for Education, Norma Foley added, “it is my primary objective to promote and support actions that will ensure that the school setting is a welcoming, nurturing and above all, a safe environment for all children. The Child Protection Procedures for primary and post-primary schools 2017 give clear direction and guidance to school management and school personnel in relation to meeting the statutory obligations under Children First. As part of the Department of Education’s oversight of the implementation of the Child Protection Procedures, the Department’s Inspectorate checks on compliance with key aspects of the Procedures during all school inspections.”

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, Organised and Serious Crime, An Garda Síochána, said, “the Garda Síochána welcomes the opportunity provided by the Children First Awareness Week to increase awareness of the need to keep children safe.  In this regard, the Garda Síochána is determined to identify every possible means available to protect children from any risk they may be exposed to and will continue to work with relevant Government Departments and State agencies for that purpose”.

Dean Sullivan, Chief Strategy Officer, HSE welcomed Children First Awareness Week. He said, “as the largest organisation in the State, the HSE serves children, young people and their families within primary care, community and acute hospital services. Raising awareness of our individual and collective responsibilities to children and young people is an ongoing priority for the HSE, which will be greatly assisted by the focus provided during this awareness week.”

Speaking about the week, Bernard Gloster, Chief Executive, Tusla, said, “Tusla welcomes the first National Children First Awareness Week, a new initiative which is supported by an inter-agency commitment to remind everyone of their responsibilities to protect children and keep them safe. We also remind organisations that are providers of relevant services, under the Children First Act 2015, of their responsibility to have Child Safeguarding Statements in place. Everyone, at an individual, and organisational level has a role to play in protecting children from harm.

As part of the campaign, a new website is launching at gov.ie/childrenfirst, where users will find all the key information about Children First. A series of information videos featuring a Garda, public health nurse and social worker will further spread awareness of the work being done across society to keep children safe. These resources will be supported by an advertising campaign across digital and mainstream media platforms.

Anyone who has a concern about a child and young person should report it to the Tusla social work department in the area where the child lives. In cases of emergency, where a child or young person appears to be at immediate and serious risk, contact An Garda Síochána.

Source: Tusla

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