Child Safeguarding Statement
Legal Aid Board (“the Board”) ---
1. Nature of Service
The Board provides family mediation services to couples who have decided to separate or divorce, or who have already separated, to negotiate their own terms of agreement, taking into account the needs and interests of all involved. Services are also provided to parents of children who are not married to each other and may only have been in a short term relationship. Services are provided from eighteen offices around the country. A mediation service is also offered in some Court buildings, sometimes contemporaneously with the hearing of family cases.
Meeting and talking with children enables the views of the child to be heard directly as part of the mediation process. Children and young people are offered the opportunity to provide what they consider might be useful information for their parents, while also being assured that they will not be asked to make decisions.
By meeting and talking with children, the Mediator gives parents an opportunity to consider the unique needs of each of their children, and can help parents develop a parenting arrangement that will ensure that they will each continue to have involvement in all aspects of their children’s lives. Parents are the decision makers based on a thorough exploration of their children’s needs.
2. Principles to Safeguard Children from Harm
In its delivery of service the Board is following the principles informing best practice in child protection following the Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 which states the following;
• The safety and welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility;
• The best interests of the child should be paramount;
• The overall aim in all dealings with children and their families is to intervene proportionately to support families to keep children safe from harm;
• Children have a right to be heard. Taking account of their age and understanding, they should be consulted and involved in all matters and decisions that may affect their lives;
• Parents/guardians have a right to respect and should be consulted and involved in matters that concern their family;
• A proper balance must be struck between protecting children and respecting the rights and needs of parents/guardians and families. Where there is conflict, the child’s welfare must come first;
• Child protection is a multiagency, multidisciplinary activity. Agencies and professionals must work together in the interests of children.
3. Risk Assessment
As the Board’s family mediation services are a ‘relevant service’ under the Children First Act 2015 the Board has undertaken a risk assessment of any potential for harm to come to a child while availing of those services. It should be noted that in this context it is the risk of abuse and not a general health and safety risk. Section 2 of the Children First Act 2015 defines harm as follows:
Harm means in relation to a child
(a) Assault, ill treatment or neglect of the child in a manner that seriously affect or is likely to seriously affect the child’s health, development or welfare or
(b) Sexual abuse of the child whether caused by a single act, omission or circumstance or a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances or otherwise”
|Risks Identified||Procedure to Manage Risk|
|1 Staff inadequately trained ||All mediators must receive specialist Child Consultation training before undertaking this work, including Children First training.|
|2 Staff not Garda vetted ||All staff in the Board’s family mediation offices are Garda vetted as part of the Legal Aid Board’s recruitment procedures|
|3 Allegations of abuse or misconduct against mediators||Mediators follow safe/best practice protocols including the Board’s Child Protection Policy when working with children.|
|4. Tusla not informed when there are reasonable grounds for concern that a child may be or may have been abused. ||All staff attend child protection awareness training and mandatorily report, as required under the guidelines.|
There is a Designated Liaison Person in each region of the country.
4. Policies and Procedures
Our Child Safeguarding Statement has been developed in line with requirements under the Children First Act 2015, the Children First National Guidance 2017, and Tusla’s Child Safeguarding: A guide for policy, procedure and practice. The following procedures support our intention to safeguard children while they are availing of our service:
(i) Procedure for the management of allegations of abuse or misconduct against workers, of a child while availing of our service;
(ii) Procedure for the safe recruitment and selection of mediators to work with children;
(iii) Procedure for provision of and access to child safeguarding training and information including the identification of the occurrence of harm;
(iv) Procedure for the mandatory reporting of child protection or welfare concerns to Tusla;
(v) The appointment of fully trained designated liaison persons in each region of the country. Their role is to be a resource person for any staff member in the mediation service who may have child protection concerns, and will ensure that reporting procedures are followed so that child welfare and protection concerns are referred promptly to Tusla.
All procedures listed are documented in the Mediation service’s Child Safeguarding Policy and Child Consultation Policy and are available on request.
The Board recognises that implementation is an on-going process. The Board is committed to the implementation of this Child Safeguarding Statement and the procedures that support its intention to keep children safe from harm while availing of its services. This Child Safeguarding Statement will be reviewed on 1st January 2020 or as soon as practicable after there has been any material change in any matter to which the statement refers.
For queries please contact one of the following Designated Liaison Persons
Family Mediation Services
Tel: 01 8747446
Family Mediation Services
River Point, Lower Mallow Street
Tel: 061 214310