Mixed response as mandatory reporting of child-abuse concerns begins

Mandatory reporting of child-abuse concerns began yesterday, with children’s rights groups saying it would work, while others, including social workers, expressed misgivings.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said his department had published new child-protection procedures for schools which take into account the new statutory mandated reporting and child-safeguarding requirements, with schools now having a statutory obligation to produce a ‘child safeguarding statement’ under the changes.

The new procedures set out the reporting requirements for registered teachers in respect of their role as mandated persons.

Mr Bruton said: “My department is committed to ensuring that there is full compliance with the new procedures.”

Barnardos and the ISPCC were among the organisations to back the new laws, which mean that all suspicions must be reported to the gardaí and social services.

Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said a lot of the mechanisms to support mandatory reporting were already in place, including Tusla, which he said was ready for the expected spike in cases.

Mr Finley told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that anyone now who does not report a concern known to them would be breaking the law.

“There is a culture of quietness, there is a culture of not reporting. We have to break that,” he said.

The CEO of Tusla, Fred McBride, has already said the Child and Family Agency will have sufficient resources to deal with the impact of mandatory reporting, which Tusla has suggested is more likely to be a modest rise in the number of cases being reported.

However, social workers have warned that while Tusla may have resources in place, other state agencies, such as the Health Service Executive (HSE), may not.

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) said it will encourage all social workers to work effectively together to ensure the protection and welfare of children, but IASW chairman Frank Browne said: “There appears to be no intention on the part of the HSE to recruit appropriately trained staff to the role of designated liaison officer.”

Tusla said its monthly and quarterly activity reports will chart any rise in referrals received.

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