Online safety risks must be assessed by Organisations working with children and young people
Friday 18th January 2019
Groups, clubs and services working with young people are required by law to assess and manage online risks, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.
Minister Zappone has signed and published an addendum to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children on on-line safety.
It makes clear that all organisations and services working with young people must include online risks and safeguards in their legally required Child Safeguarding Statements.
Safeguarding Statements have been a legal requirement since March 2018 after Minister Zappone commenced all sections of Children’s First in December 2017.
Speaking today the Minister said “The internet is a hugely valuable resource that has brought so many positive opportunities for learning, creating and communicating across the whole of society.
However, with these increased opportunities has come increased risks. There are those online who wish to harm, hurt or abuse our children. We all have a responsibility to offer protection and safety from this danger.
This responsibility extends to relevant services who offer internet access, PCs and wifi. Organisations who work with our young people need to know how to identify and manage these risks, and know the appropriate response if a child is at risk.”
The Minister noted that the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children was fully revised and published in 2017 to reflect the provisions in the Act and stated “This addendum to the guidance does not alter or increase the obligations on organisations providing services to children under the Act, rather it clarifies that the specific issue of online safety should be considered when carrying out risk assessments and preparing Child Safeguarding Statements.”
The Minister added that a range of Government Departments and agencies have a role in relation to internet safety saying that, “the cross-Government approach required to tackle online safety issues is recognised in the Government’s Action Plan for Online Safety, which sets out the wide range of actions and activities that are underway across a number of Government Departments to support and promote online safety for children and adults”.
The Children First Act 2015, which was fully commenced in December 2017, provides for a number of key child protection measures, including raising awareness of child abuse and neglect, providing for reporting and management of child protection concerns and improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children.
The Act operates side-by-side with the non-statutory obligations provided for in Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children. The guidance sets out definitions of abuse, and signs for its recognition. It explains how reports about reasonable concerns of child abuse or neglect should be made by the general public and professionals to Tusla. It sets out what organisations need to do to keep children safe. It also describes the obligations under the Children First Act 2015 and who they attach to. These guidelines have been in place since 1999 and were fully revised and published in October 2017 to include reference to the provisions of the Act.
The Addendum to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children on Online Safety is available on the Department of Children and Youth Affair’s website at the following link: Click here
A range of resources to support the implementation of Children First, including guidance on developing a Child Safeguarding Statement is available on the Tusla website www.tusla.ie