Child protection guidelines not working
The ISPCC has said the State guidelines on reporting child sexual abuse are not working. The criticisms of the Children First guidelines are contained in the ISPCC's submission to the Office for the Minister for Children. In the aftermath of the Ferns report, the Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan, announced a review of the guidelines. The Children's Rights Alliance, representing over 80 organisations, also said the guidelines were not working in their submission to the office.
Both organisations said the implementation of the guidelines in HSE areas has been "ad hoc" and that some areas are not operating under the guidelines. They also highlighted the difficulties they encountered reporting incidences of abuse to the HSE. The ISPCC said they "often had difficulty making contact with a duty social worker". The Children's Rights Alliance said they had "serious concerns" about the timely assessment of children following a report of suspected abuse or neglect. And they also said there was difficulty in making initial contact with the HSE to report child abuse. In one incident, the ISPCC say they submitted telephone and written reports in relation to a child, yet the HSE later said they received no information. The child had "gone missing" when the report was followed up.
The ISPCC said the guidelines in relation to people working with abused children only work "to some extent". They also criticised the relationship between the HSE and the Garda saying contact between the two is on an informal basis and "dependent on personal relationships". They said both organisations only adhere to the guidelines "to some extent".
In relation to vulnerable children, they said the guidelines were not working at all, citing the lack of a 24-hour social service. Also social workers rarely visit halting sites and there is no street outreach service for homeless or begging children. Many in care are unaware of the guidelines and there is no children's version of the guidelines.
Both organisations recommended the guidelines be revised and placed on a statutory footing.