Child / Vulnerable Person Protection Policy

Rainbow 13+ Arch Club

Child / Vulnerable Person Protection Policy

Final Version 15.5.17

Updated 6.11.17 with name of new Deputy Designated Liaison Person and Contact numbers for Designated Liaison Persons (Section 3)


Section 1: Introduction

Section 2: Child Protection/Vulnerable Person Policy Statement

Section 3: Designated Liaison Person

Section 4: Codes of Behaviour

Section 5: Complaints Procedure

Section 6: Safety Practices/Accident and Incidents

Section 7: Reporting Procedures

Section 8: Confidentiality and Sharing Information

Section 9: Recruitment, Vetting and Selection Procedures

Section 10: Support, Supervision and Training for new and existing Volunteers


Appendix 1: Definitions of Child/Vulnerable Person Abuse

Appendix 2: Relevant Legislation relating to Safeguarding Issues


  1. Introduction


The Rainbow 13+ Arch Club (‘Club’) is a charity catering for children and vulnerable persons with special needs. The main aim and objective of the Club is …


The advancement of community welfare of individuals with special needs by the provision of a Social Club for such individuals from the greater Dublin area, where they will have the opportunity to participate in recreational and learning activities, interact with each other and develop new skills. This will be achieved by providing organised social activities in a safe and friendly environment.

In meeting its objective of providing a safe environment, the Club is committed to adhering to the requirements of all relevant legislation (see Appendix 2). This document sets out the Club’s Policy and approach towards ensuring a safe environment for all members.

  1. Child Protection/Vulnerable Person Policy Statement

The Club want to make sure that children/vulnerable persons are protected and kept safe from harm while they are in our care. We are committed to providing a safe environment in which all our members can socialise, learn and develop. We are also committed to ensuring that contractors and volunteers are aware of their personal and professional responsibilities to promote children’s and vulnerable person’s safety and welfare in accordance with relevant legislation and the guidance outlined in this policy.


Appendix 1 contains extracts from Children First legislation setting out definitions of Abuse and also some of the symptoms and warning signs.


We recognise that the welfare of children is paramount and our Club will endeavour to safeguard children and our vulnerable persons by ensuring that:

  • Procedures are in place to recognise, respond to and report concerns about children’s and vulnerable person’s protection and welfare
  • a confidentiality policy exists
  • a code of behaviour for members, parents, carers and volunteers exists
  • safe recruitment and selection procedures are in place
  • the Club adheres to safe management practices and procedures
  • a procedure to respond to accidents and incidents is in place
  • a procedure to respond to complaints is in place
  • procedures are in place to respond to allegations of abuse and neglect.

As part of our policy and approach, we have appointed a Designated Liaison Person for dealing with child/vulnerable person protection concerns.

All in the Club are required to familiarise themselves with this policy and these procedures.

Child Protection training will be available to all new volunteers.

Child/vulnerable person protection will be a regular agenda item at governance meetings.


  1. Designated Liaison Person 


The Designated Liaison Person (DLP) for Child/Vulnerable Persons for Rainbow 13+ Arch Club is Caroline Green (Contact No 086 165 7152)

The Deputy Designated Liaison Person is Trish Keenan (086 8824824)

Contact details for the DLP and Deputy will be displayed at the Club and will also appear on the Club website.


The DLP will deal with any safeguarding issues whether they relate to a child or vulnerable person. The DLP promotes the safeguarding of children/vulnerable persons within their club. They act as the point of contact and liaise with the National Designated Liaison Person and the Children and Family Agency (TUSLA) as necessary.

The role of the DLP is to:

  • Promote the safeguarding of children/vulnerable persons by raising awareness of what safeguarding is.
  • Ensure that any activities within the Club operate in a manner which ensures the safety and well-being of all involved.
  • Ensure that safe recruitment, vetting and selection procedures are in place within the Club.
  • Ensure that Child Protection training is made available to all Club volunteers.
  • Ensure that their contact details are publicised within the Club.
  • Adhere to the procedures outlined in this document, in particular those in the section headed ‘Reporting Procedures’.
  • Keep the Chairperson advised regarding any safeguarding issues which arise.
  • In an emergency, contact the Garda Siochana.



  1. Codes of behaviour


All members shall be treated with dignity, sensitivity and respect.  This implies that all helpers must be sensitive to the risks involved when interacting with people with an intellectual disability and understand that they are more at risk of abuse because of communication difficulties and a limited ability to recognise inappropriate behaviour.

It is important for the protection of all concerned that parents, carers, leaders, volunteers and members have guidelines on what is expected and what is not acceptable with respect to their behaviour.

Code of Behaviour for Parents, Carers, Leaders and Volunteers:


  • Provide an example of good conduct to all members.
  • Demonstrate by your behaviour and attitude that you respect the rights, dignity and worth of every human being.
  • Be aware that the preferred maximum ratio of members to helpers is 6:1. There should be a minimum of 2 adults supervising at all times.
  • Whilst physical contact is a valid way of comforting, reassuring and showing concern for members, it should only take place when it is acceptable to all persons concerned and must be in full view of other members/leaders at the club.  A simple guideline is to encourage members to use high fives or shake hands and never be the one to initiate hugging or embracing.
  • Recognise that special care is required when discussing sensitive issues with members.
  • Be sensitive to the potential risk to personal safety and false allegations which may arise if a leader/volunteer meets alone with a member in a room.  Where it is feasible they should leave the door slightly ajar and be visible to other leaders or ensure that there is glass in the door so that they are visible.
  • If at all possible, one to one discussions between leaders/volunteers and members should be conducted in an open area in view of other leaders/volunteers.
  • Be sensitive to the fact that jokes of a sexual nature may be offensive to others and should never be told in the presence of members.
  • Be sensitive to the audio and visual materials which are being used with the members and ensure that they are age appropriate and not offensive in any way.
  • Be sensitive to the possibility of becoming over involved or spending a great deal of time with any one member.
  • Always maintain appropriate boundaries with members.
  • Where a leader/volunteer has a concern about the nature of a particular relationship involving themselves or another leader/volunteer or a member they should discuss it with the Designated Liaison Person.
  • It is not recommended that volunteers/leaders give lifts in their cars to individual members. However, should an occasion arise where it is unavoidable that a leader/volunteer has to give a member a lift in their car, this should only occur with the permission of the member’s parent’s/carers. Where possible have another leader/volunteer in the car, and/or more than one member.
  • Never physically punish or be in any way verbally abusive to a member. Should there be a need to physically restrain a member for their own safety or the safety of others this should be recorded in the Accident /Incident Folder.
  • Never show favouritism or tolerate prejudice or discrimination.
  • Never permit abusive youth peer activities (e.g. initiation ceremonies, ridiculing or bullying).
  • Plan activities so that at least two leaders/volunteers are available to supervise the young people – including their arrival and departure at hall.
  • Encourage members to feel comfortable to speak to leaders/volunteers about their concerns.
  • Keep an attendance register (for leaders, volunteers and members) and obtain medical details for each young person.
  • Remember that someone else might misinterpret your action no matter how well intentioned.
  • It is not advisable for leaders/volunteers to contact members directly by text/other social media.  All information regarding the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club activities should be conveyed through parents/carers.
  • Do not allow members or leaders use inappropriate language unchallenged.
  • Parents/Carers wishes with regards to taking photographs or videos of their children should be respected.
  • Call member’s parent or carer to deal with any intimate care needs of a member. If this is not feasible call another adult and make a note of the incident.


Do Not Believe That It Could Never Happen To You – Do Not Rely On Your Good Name To Protect You


Leaders/volunteers/parents/carers who are found to be in serious breach of the Code of Behaviour may be subject to disciplinary procedures, up to an including dismissal from the Club. Any such disciplinary actions shall be taken by the Committee having regard to the principles of natural justice and fair play.


Code of Behaviour for Members


This code of behaviour outlines what is expected from members. It is important for members and their parents/carers to know exactly what behaviour is and is not acceptable at the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club.  It is as follows:


Members MUST:

  • Respect everyone`s rights, dignity and worth
  • Do as leaders/volunteers ask
  • Say NO to someone telling them to do something they feel is wrong
  • Act Safely
  • Feel free to talk to leaders/volunteers about their concerns or fears
  • Ask for help against bullies
  • Use equipment safely and only under supervision


Members MUST NOT:

  • Use bad language
  • Bully others
  • Play dangerous games
  • Leave the building without permission
  • Cause danger to others
  • Bring any harmful or illegal substances to the Club
  • Use camera phones in changing rooms or changing facilities


.Members who are found to be in breach of the Member`s Code of Behaviour may be subject to disciplinary action. Decisions around disciplinary actions should take into consideration the members understanding of the situation.  The parent/guardian/carer of the member and the member will be informed of the disciplinary action which will be taken. For less serious incidents involving members, the disciplinary action should be agreed between at least two leaders of the Club and should be appropriate to the seriousness of the incident(s). For more serious incidents, the procedure outlined in Section 3.7 of the Club’s Constitution should be followed.

The options for disciplinary action will include:

  • For serious incidents involving members, sending the member home  and not allowing them to participate in any further Club events/activities;
  • For less serious incidents involving members, allowing the member to continue to participate in the event/activity once their behaviour has been addressed –  their behaviour should then be closely monitored;
  • Providing support to the member to help them to understand that their behaviour is not acceptable.


  1. Complaints Procedure


The complaints procedure aims to cover any situation which may arise when members or their parents/carers are not happy with the way members are treated by leaders/volunteers/other parents/carers/Contractors of the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club. Complaints may be made by members or their parents/carers.

Complaints regarding breaches of the codes of behaviour (from whatever source or in any regard) should be dealt with in the first instance at Club level by the Committee or a person(s) nominated for this task by the Committee. Where required, the Club Committee are empowered to enlist professional help and advice from an outside agent(s). A record should be kept of the complaint and how it was dealt with. A record of how and whether the matter was resolved should also be kept.


If there is any dimension of a complaint or any allegation which has a safeguarding implication for a child or vulnerable adult, the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) must be involved. The procedure to be followed is as follows (also refer to ‘Reporting Procedures’ section below):


  1. Contact the DLP.
  2. The complaint/allegation will be recorded.
  3. Complainant will be responded to immediately.
  4. Issue will be raised with other party.
  5. The DLP will attempt to resolve the issue at Club level.
  6. If the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of both parties within an acceptable period of time (which should be decided at the time) the DLP may enlist help from an outside agency or professional.
  7. The DLP will keep the Chairperson advised of the status of the complaint/allegation.
  8. The DLP will follow the disclosure requirements as set out below in the section headed ‘Reporting Procedures’.


While the principles of natural justice and fair play will obtain, the welfare of the child/vulnerable person is paramount.


  1. Safety Practices/Accidents & Incidents


  • Records should be kept on all members and include medical details, special needs and emergency contact telephone numbers.
  • Parental consent (to include medical information) should be obtained before taking members off the premises or away on a trip without parental involvement.
  • An Accident/Incident Folder should be kept in which details of any accidents are fully recorded. This will also be used to record breaches of Codes of Behaviour and/or related concerns which might arise and record where parents/carers are informed, where appropriate, of accidents/incidents.
  • Adults should ensure that the building or facilities used for activities with members are safe and secure.  There should be adequate heating, ventilation and sanitation facilities.
  • Adults should be aware of any other groups which may have access to the premises during the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club activities and the potential threats that this may entail.
  • The Club should ensure a fully stocked First Aid Box is available at all Club activities and first aid training should be undertaken by a number of adults/volunteers.
  • All members and adults should be aware of the fire drill for any premises used for activities.  There should be adequate fire precautions for the premises and access to a telephone.
  • All activities should have constant adult supervision.
  • When dealing with a disruptive incident it is recommended where possible that more than one adult is present.  It is recommended that instances of disruptive behaviour which require the intervention of an adult/volunteer and which put at risk the safety and wellbeing of others be documented in the Accident/Incident Folder.  The report should describe:
  1. The programme running at the time
  2. What happened and who was involved
  3. Where and when it happened
  4. What was said if significant
  5. Any injury to person or property
  6. How the situation was resolved


Outings & Overnight Stays:

When taking members away on trips adults should be attentive to matters such as:

Safety: Activities, buildings, transport etc.                                                                              Insurance: Adequate to cover all aspects of the trip.                                                                      Parental Consent Form: Consent should be obtained from parents/guardians before taking members away on trips without Parental involvement.                                                                                                                                  Medical Concerns: Medical information which might be relevant i.e. allergies etc., should be known to leaders prior to leaving for a trip.                                                                                                   Sleeping arrangements: The Club will normally book away events and it is Club policy that parents/carers will travel with the members and will be responsible for their own sleeping arrangements and will be designated rooms with their own children.

Adults/volunteers should always be respectful of the privacy of members in dormitories, changing rooms, showers and toilets.  It is recommended that when present in such areas, leaders do not spend time alone with members.


It is not advisable to transport members in volunteer’s private cars due to the limitations of insurance.

However, if a situation occurs where volunteers/adults are transporting members in their private car, they should try to ensure another adult/volunteer is present in the vehicle and the members travel in the back seat of the car. They should ensure seatbelts are worn by all passengers.

When hiring a minibus or coach, verify the legality and insurance cover of the operator prior to the use of transport. A copy of the operator`s insurance cover and operator’s licence should be seen.

Each person travelling on a bus or coach should have their own seat and should be protected with seatbelts/restraints. It is preferable that a leader sits near the exit point of the vehicle.


  1. Reporting Procedures

The Child/Vulnerable Person Protection Team at Rainbow 13+ Arch Club comprises the Chairperson, Designated Liaison Person and National Designated Liaison Person.

The role of this Team is to ensure that policies relating to Child/Vulnerable Person Protection are followed and implemented with appropriate reporting procedures in place in line with legislative requirements. The role also entails offering support to both the alleged victim and person who passed on the details of the allegation/complaint and to inform the affected parent(s)/carer, unless this might put the alleged victim at further risk.

Any person who suspects that a child/vulnerable person is being abused or is at risk of abuse or to whom a disclosure has been made has a responsibility to report their concerns. The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act (1998) provides immunity from civil liability to persons who report child abuse reasonably and in good faith. This also applies to vulnerable adults. The following are the Club reporting guidelines:


  • Report your concerns to the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) or person in charge.
  • The Standard Reporting Form must be completed with the DLP. This will include the time, date and location of where and when an allegation or disclosure is made.
  • The DLP will be responsible for making a formal report to the National Designated Liaison Person and to TUSLA.
  • The affected parent(s)/carer will be advised of the disclosure and action taken via the DLP if appropriate, i.e. if it does not put the child/vulnerable person at further risk.
  • If further information is required by the statutory authorities this will be requested through the Child Protection Team who will liaise with the person who made the initial report and the victim.
  • If a formal report is not required, the Child Protection Team should inform, in writing, the person who first raised the concern of the reasons supporting this decision.
  • The person who raised the concern should be advised that they can pursue their concerns with TUSLA if they are not satisfied with the decision and be provided with contact details of the relevant authorities.
  • Following the report of a disclosure/allegation to the Child Protection Team, the Child Protection Team should provide support to the alleged victim.
  • In the event of an emergency the Child Protection Team should report to An Garda Siochana.


  1. Confidentiality & Sharing Information

The effective protection of a child/vulnerable person often depends on the willingness of the staff in statutory and voluntary organisations to share and exchange relevant information. It is therefore critical that there is a clear understanding of professional and legal responsibilities with regard to confidentiality and the exchange of information.

All information regarding a concern or assessment of a safeguarding issue or neglect should be shared on ‘a need to know’ basis in the interests of the child/vulnerable person with the relevant statutory authorities.

No undertakings regarding secrecy can be given. Those working with a child/vulnerable person and their family should make this clear to all parties involved, although they can be assured that all information will be handled taking full account of legal requirements.

Ethical and statutory codes concerned with confidentiality and data protection provide general guidance. They are not intended to limit or prevent the exchange of information between different professional staff with a responsibility for ensuring the protection and welfare of children/vulnerable persons. The provision of information to the statutory agencies for the protection of a child/vulnerable person is not a breach of confidentiality or data protection.

It must be clearly understood that information gathered for one purpose must not be used for another without consulting the person who provided that information.


The Club reserves the right to hire in whatever professional assistance is required to deal with any situation which may arise as a result of an allegation or complaint.

Information Sharing:

With Members:

Members should be made aware when possible of the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club Child/Vulnerable Persons Protection Policy and Code of Behaviour.

Members should be encouraged to feel comfortable to speak with leaders/volunteers regarding their concerns and anxieties.

With Parents/GuardiansCarers:

The Club should inform parents of:

  1. Activities being undertaken
  2. The Rainbow 13+ Arch Club Child/Vulnerable Persons Protection Policy
  3. Name(s) of person(s) to contact in event of concern

Parents should be asked to complete a form when joining the Club to provide the Club with parental consent for their children/vulnerable adult to take part in the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club activities, medical details and emergency contact details. Parents/carers should advise the Club of any changes to these details as they arise.

It should be made known to the parents/carers of new members that the Club have a Child/Vulnerable Persons Protection Policy in operation and that they are expected to familiarise themselves with its content.

With helpers and volunteers:

Volunteers should be made aware of the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club Child/Vulnerable Persons Protection Policy and are expected to familiarise themselves with its contents.

Data Protection Statement relating to Volunteer information

We in the Rainbow 13+ Arch Club respect the privacy of our volunteers and their data protection rights. We recognise that we have responsibilities in this regard and will apply the following principles to any data held:

  1. Obtainand process the information fairly.
  2. Keepit only for one or more specified and lawful purposes.
  3. Processit only in ways compatible with the purposes for which it was given.
  4. Keep itsafe and secure.
  5. Keep itaccurate and up-to-date.
  6. Ensure that it isadequate, relevant and not excessive.
  7. Retain itno longer than is necessary for the specified purpose or purposes.
  8. Give a copy of his/her own personal datato any individual, on request.



  1. Recruitment, Vetting & Selection Procedures


The Rainbow 13+ Arch Club will be responsible for recruiting volunteers and helpers and will follow the guidelines outlined below:

  • The position may be advertised  by whatever means the Committee may decide e.g. website; local newspapers; churches etc.;
  • Prospective candidates will be invited to attend a meeting with the Chairperson and Coordinator or other Committee member
  • The suitability of the applicant for the role will be assessed taking account of the needs and requirements of members.
  • Carry out Garda vetting and check references
  • All information regarding Garda check and references will be electronically filed where possible and will only be accessed by relevant Committee member(s).  This information will be protected by password. Where applicable hard copies will be held by the Chairperson/Secretary on a confidential basis.
  • Verification of identity and qualifications will be held in the same manner.
  • Prospective volunteers may be invited to attend the Club (always under supervision) to assess suitability and while Garda vetting is ongoing.



  1. Support, supervision & training for new and existing volunteers


Once a candidate has been properly vetted, and identity and qualifications verified, the following procedures will be adhered to:

  • Induction will be carried out by Coordinator and one other member of the Committee.
  • This induction will include recommendations and advice regarding the supervision and care of members highlighting the health and safety and Child/Vulnerable Person Protection Policy of the Club.
  • During the induction the Volunteer will be given some background information, where appropriate, regarding specific needs of some or all of the members.
  • Volunteers will be made aware of the preferred maximum ratio of members to adult leaders and may be designated to a particular member or members.  The preferred maximum ratio is 6 :1.
  • The Volunteers membership fee will be deemed to have been paid by the Club.
  • Volunteers will be made aware of our Child/Vulnerable Person Protection Policy including an outline of definition and signs of abuse and must agree to abide by the Rules and Code of Behaviour.
  • Child Protection Training, which will be organised by the Club, will be made available to all volunteers.
  • Training and information regarding any changes in policies or information regarding new members will be communicated on a regular basis.
  • Volunteers will be made aware of location of First Aid Kit and Accident/Incident Report Folder
  • Volunteers will be directed to involve the Coordinator and/or Committee member in relation to any incident/accident or any other concerns they may have.
  • The name and contact details of Designated Liaison Person will be posted on the Notice Board and volunteers will be advised regarding reporting procedure to the Designated Liaison Person.
  • The Club will endeavour to keep volunteers motivated and engaged and will encourage their feedback and ideas.
  • The Club Coordinator and volunteers will ultimately report to the Committee.






















Appendix 1

Definitions of Child/Vulnerable Person abuse


(As  per  Children  First)

Child abuse can be categorised into four different types: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.  A child may be subjected to one or more forms of abuse at any given time


Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults, and/or medical care.

Harm can be defined as the ill-treatment or the impairment of the health or development of a child. Whether it is significant is determined by the child’s health and development as compared to that which could reasonably be expected of a child of similar age.

Neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over a period of time rather than at one specific point. For example, a child who suffers a series of minor injuries may not be having his or her needs met in terms of necessary supervision and safety. A child whose height or weight is significantly below average may be being deprived of adequate nutrition. A child who consistently misses school may be being deprived of intellectual stimulation.

The threshold of significant harm is reached when the child’s needs are neglected to the extent that his or her well-being and/or development are severely affected.

The following points illustrate the consequences of different types of neglect for children:

Inadequate food – failure to develop;

household hazards – accidents;

lack of hygiene – health and social problems;

lack of attention to health – disease;

inadequate mental health care – suicide or delinquency;

inadequate emotional care – behaviour and educational;

inadequate supervision – risk-taking behaviour;

unstable relationship – attachment problems;

unstable living conditions – behaviour and anxiety, risk of accidents;

exposure to domestic violence – behaviour, physical and mental health;

community violence – anti social behaviour.



Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between a parent/carer and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s developmental need for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. Unless other forms of abuse are present, it is rarely manifested in terms of physical signs or symptoms. Examples may include:

  1. the imposition of negative attributes on a child, expressed by persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming;
  2. conditional parenting in which the level of care shown to a child is made contingent on his or her behaviours or actions;
  3. emotional unavailability of the child’s parent/carer;
  4. unresponsiveness of the parent/carer and/or inconsistent or inappropriate expectations of the child;
  5. premature imposition of responsibility on the child;
  6. unrealistic or inappropriate expectations of the child’s capacity to understand something or to behave and control himself or herself in a certain way;
  7. under- or over-protection of the child;
  8. failure to show interest in, or provide age-appropriate opportunities for, the child’s cognitive and emotional development;
  9. use of unreasonable or over-harsh disciplinary measures;
  10. exposure to domestic violence;
  11. exposure to inappropriate or abusive material through new technology.

Emotional abuse can be manifested in terms of the child’s behavioural, cognitive, affective or physical functioning. Examples of these include insecure attachment, unhappiness, low self-esteem, educational and developmental underachievement, and oppositional behaviour. The threshold of significant harm is reached when abusive interactions dominate and become typical of the relationship between the child and the parent/carer.

Emotional neglect and abuse can be identified with reference to the indices listed below. However, it should be noted that no one indicator is conclusive of emotional abuse. In the case of emotional abuse and neglect, it is more likely to impact negatively on a child where there is a cluster of indices, where these are persistent over time and where there is a lack of other protective factors.

  • rejection;
  • lack of comfort and love;
  • lack of attachment;
  • lack of proper stimulation (e.g. fun and play);
  • lack of continuity of care (e.g. frequent moves, particularly unplanned);
  • continuous lack of praise and encouragement;
  • serious over-protectiveness;
  • inappropriate non-physical punishment (e.g. locking in bedrooms);
  • family conflicts and/or violence;
  • every child who is abused sexually, physically or neglected is also emotionally abused;
  • inappropriate expectations of a child relative to his/her age and stage of development.

Children who are physically and sexually abused and neglected also suffer from emotional abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction, or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents.

Physical abuse can involve:

  1. severe physical punishment;
  2. beating, slapping, hitting or kicking;
  3. pushing, shaking or throwing;
  4. pinching, biting, choking or hair-pulling;
  5. terrorising with threats;
  6. observing violence;
  7. use of excessive force in handling;
  8. deliberate poisoning;
  9. suffocation;
  10. fabricated/induced illness
  11. allowing or creating a substantial risk of significant harm to a child.


Unsatisfactory explanations, varying explanations, frequency and clustering for the following events are high indices for concern regarding physical abuse:

  • bruises (see below for more detail);
  • fractures;
  • swollen joints;
  • burns/scalds (see below for more detail);
  • abrasions/lacerations;
  • haemorrhages (retinal, subdural);
  • damage to body organs;
  • poisonings – repeated (prescribed drugs, alcohol);
  • failure to thrive;
  • coma/unconsciousness;

There are many different forms of physical abuse, but skin, mouth and bone injuries are the most common.



Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his or her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others. Examples of child sexual abuse include:

  1. exposure of the sexual organs or any sexual act intentionally performed in the presence of the child;
  2. intentional touching or molesting of the body of a child whether by a person or object for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification;
  3. masturbation in the presence of the child or the involvement of the child in an act of masturbation;
  4. sexual intercourse with the child, whether oral, vaginal or anal;
  5. sexual exploitation of a child, which includes inciting, encouraging, propositioning, requiring or permitting a child to solicit for, or to engage in, prostitution or other sexual acts. Sexual exploitation also occurs when a child is involved in the exhibition, modeling or posing for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or sexual act, including its recording (on film, video tape or other media) or the manipulation, for those purposes, of the image by computer or other means. It may also include showing sexually explicit material to children, which is often a feature of the ‘grooming’ process by perpetrators of abuse;
  6. consensual sexual activity involving an adult and an underage person. In relation to child sexual abuse, it should be noted that, for the purposes of the criminal law, the age of consent to sexual intercourse is 17 years for both boys and girls. An Garda Síochána will deal with the criminal aspects of the case under the relevant legislation.

It should be noted that the definition of child sexual abuse presented in this section is not a legal definition and is not intended to be a description of the criminal offence of sexual assault.

Carers and professionals should be alert to the following physical and behavioural signs:

  • bleeding from the vagina/anus;
  • difficulty/pain in passing urine/faeces;
  • an infection may occur secondary to sexual abuse, which may or may not be a definitive sexually transmitted disease. Professionals should be informed if a child has a persistent vaginal discharge or has warts/rash in genital area;
  • noticeable and uncharacteristic change of behaviour;
  • hints about sexual activity;
  • age-inappropriate understanding of sexual behaviour;
  • inappropriate seductive behaviour;
  • sexually aggressive behaviour with others;
  • uncharacteristic sexual play with peers/toys;
  • unusual reluctance to join in normal activities that involve undressing, e.g. games/swimming.


Particular behavioural signs and emotional problems suggestive of child abuse in young children (aged 0-10 years) include:

  • mood change where the child becomes withdrawn, fearful, acting out;
  • lack of concentration, especially in an educational setting;
  • bed wetting, soiling;
  • pains, tummy aches, headaches with no evident physical cause;
  • skin disorders;
  • reluctance to go to bed, nightmares, changes in sleep patterns;
  • school refusal;
  • separation anxiety;
  • loss of appetite, overeating, hiding food.


Particular behavioural signs and emotional problems suggestive of child abuse in older children (aged 10+ years) include:

  • depression, isolation, anger;
  • running away;
  • drug, alcohol, solvent abuse;
  • self-harm;
  • suicide attempts;
  • missing school or early school leaving;
  • eating disorders.

All signs/indicators need careful assessment relative to the child’s circumstances.



More details can be found at the following website –
















Appendix 2

Relevant Legislation dealing with Safeguarding issues


1)   The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 commenced in April 2016. The Act provides a legislative basis for the mandatory vetting of persons who wish to undertake certain work or activities relating to children or vulnerable persons or to provide certain services to children or vulnerable persons.


2)   The Children First Act 2015 was enacted on 19th November 2015.

3)  The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act, 2012 

It is a criminal offence to withhold information from An Garda Síochána in relation to serious offences committed against a child or vulnerable adult.


4)  Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998

This Act came into operation on 23 January 1999. It deals with the provision of immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of the HSE or to any member of An Garda Síochána.

5)  Child and Family Agency Act 2013 

TUSLA – the Child and Family Agency – is a statutory organisation, established in January 2014 under this Act. Under Section 8 of the Act, it is required to:

         Support and promote the development, welfare and protection of children, and

         Support and encourage the effective functioning of families