Little Island Policy on Safeguarding of Children
a. As a company with collaborative relations with other arts organisations – in particular the Arts Council, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland – Little Island takes its lead in the matter of the safeguarding of children from such organisations. Poetry Ireland’s comprehensive policy on the safeguarding and welfare of children is a benchmark document for arts organisations in this area, and we have based our policy on that document. We are cognisant of Tusla guidelines and our policy is compliant with these.
- Commitment to Child Protection
a. As a publisher of books for children and young people, we in Little Island are fully committed to the principles enshrined in Children First and to the codes, practices and recommendations in Poetry Ireland’s Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children and Young People in the Arts Sector.
b. As a publishing house with limited direct contact with children, our main focus regarding the safeguarding of children is to ensure that Little Island staff members
i. Understand the issues and know how to find out more as the need arises, especially when organising events for and with children
ii. Follow the codes of behaviour outlined in Poetry Ireland’s Guideline’s and as summarised below (section 4)
iii. Communicate Little Island policy to authors (including writers, illustrators and occasionally other arts practitioners) and others associated with Little Island events (for example launchers, photographers etc)
iv. Encourage authors to adhere to best practice when working with children/young people
c. Our procedures in relation to children, parents and guardians includes making our Child Protection Policy available on our website as well as photographic information about members of staff. On the occasions when staff come into contact with children, we remind staff that they must adhere to the Code of Behaviour as outlined in Section 4.
i. Should an accident or incident occur at an event where Little Island is engaging with children as an audience, we would take appropriate action as follows:
ii. Call for medical assistance if deemed necessary
iii. Note any injuries and report to the parent/guardian/responsible adult
a. In order to ensure that the principles outlined above (numbers 2.b/i–iv) are implemented, the following practices are in place:
i. All staff members are required to familiarise themselves with Poetry Ireland’s Guidelines (http://www.poetryireland.ie/content/files/PoetryIreland_Child_Protection_Welfare_Policy_October_2017.pdf) and are encouraged to take the following e-learning programme: http://www.tusla.ie/children-first/children-first-e-learning-programme
ii. All staff members are required to follow the codes of practice outlined in section 4 below, regarding their own behaviour on the occasions when they come into contact with children/young people
iii. All staff members are also required to report any concerns on child protection, as outlined in section 5 below
iv. On signature of a contract to publish, all authors receive a one-page document summarising the elements of Little Island’s child protection policy (this document) and suggesting that they consult Poetry Ireland’s Guidelines for more information before they take on events involving children or young people
v. On the very rare occasions where it is judged that a particular author may not be willing to comply with our child protection policy, staff members shall not organise events with children for that author in the interests of keeping children and young people safe and in the interests of safeguarding Little Island’s practice in this regard
- Code of Behaviour for Staff and Authors in Contact with Children/Young People
a. Child-centred approach
i. Treat all children and young people equally
ii. Use appropriate language (written and oral)
iii. Treat all children and young people as individuals
iv. Respect differences of ability, culture, religion, race and sexual orientation
v. Avoid spending excessive amounts of time alone with children – request to have another adult present
b. Inappropriate behaviour
i. Do not use/allow offensive or sexually suggestive language
ii. Do not single out a particular child/young person (for unfair favouritism, criticism, ridicule, or unwelcome focus or attention)
iii. Do not allow/engage in inappropriate touching of any form
iv. Do not hit or physically chastise children/young people
v. Do not socialise inappropriately with children/young people e.g. outside of structured organisation
c. Physical contact
i. Seek consent of child/young person in relation to physical contact to support/help a child (except in an emergency if a child is in danger
ii. Avoid horseplay and inappropriate touch
d. Health and safety
i. Don’t leave children unattended or unsupervised
ii. Manage any dangerous materials
iii. Provide a safe environment
iv. Follow school’s or library’s own procedures in the case of an accident
i. Please note that photographs cannot be taken of children’s faces without the consent of their parents or guardians. Occasionally consent will be arranged by a school, library or festival, but this must be judged on a case by case basis. No photographs of children may be shared on social media or anywhere online without express consent of the parents.
Should there be an allegation or complain made against a staff member, it will be referred to our designated officer Jane O’Hanlon and may be taken further.
5. Reporting and Designated Officer
a. Anyone associated with Little Island who has a concern that a child is in danger should report that concern to Little Island’s designated officer for child protection. It is the designated officer’s responsibility to advise the person expressing the concern or making the report, to make sure that procedures are followed and that the report is brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
b. The designated officer for Little Island is Jane O’Hanlon, who is a member of the Little Island board. She can be contacted at 01 6789815. The deputy designated officer is Siobhán Parkinson, who can be contacted on 01 4922224.
c. The obligations of the designated officer are to report any harm to children to Tusla and to assist Tusla, if requested, in assessing a concern which has been the subject of a mandated report.
6. Recruitment and HR Policy
a. We shall follow Tusla guidelines with regard to the recruitment of staff. See ‘Best Practice Theme 4: Working Safely with Children and Young People’, Tusla, Child Safeguarding: A Guide for Policy, Procedure and Practice.
b. All staff shall provide a copy of their vetting disclosure, which shall be held confidently on file by our designated officer and held in the care of Poetry Ireland.
c. Nobody shall be recruited as an employee or volunteer who comes into contact with children if they cannot provide a satisfactory vetting disclosure to our designated officer. Lack of experience with or interest in engaging positively with children would also be a prohibiting factor.
The information in the appendices to this document is taken from Tusla’s document Children First. Not all of it may be directly relevant to your situation, but it is included here for completeness, and so that you have information you may need if you have any concerns.
If you require further information, consult the full Tusla document, Children First.
Types of Child Abuse and how they may be recognised
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. Abuse and neglect can occur within the family, in the community or in an institutional setting. The abuser may be someone known to the child or a stranger, and can be an adult or another child. In a situation where abuse is alleged to have been carried out by another child, you should consider it a child welfare and protection issue for both children and you should follow child protection procedures for both the victim and the alleged abuser.
The important factor in deciding whether the behaviour is abuse or neglect is the impact of that behaviour on the child rather than the intention of the parent/carer.
The definitions of neglect and abuse presented in this section are not legal definitions. They are intended to describe ways in which a child might experience abuse and how this abuse may be recognised.
Child neglect is the most frequently reported category of abuse, both in Ireland and internationally. Ongoing chronic neglect is recognised as being extremely harmful to the development and well-being of the child and may have serious long-term negative consequences.
Neglect occurs when a child does not receive adequate care or supervision to the extent that the child is harmed physically or developmentally. It is generally defined in terms of an omission of care, where a child’s health, development or welfare is impaired by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, medical care, intellectual stimulation or supervision and safety. Emotional neglect may also lead to the child having attachment difficulties. The extent of the damage to the child’s health, development or welfare is influenced by a range of factors. These factors include the extent, if any, of positive influence in the child’s life as well as the age of the child and the frequency and consistency of neglect. Neglect is associated with poverty but not necessarily caused by it. It is strongly linked to parental substance misuse, domestic violence, and parental mental illness and disability. A reasonable concern for the child’s welfare would exist when neglect becomes typical of the relationship between the child and the parent or carer. This may become apparent where you see the child over a period of time, or the effects of neglect may be obvious based on having seen the child once. The following are features of child neglect: Children being left alone without adequate care and supervision Malnourishment, lacking food, unsuitable food or erratic feeding Non-organic failure to thrive, i.e. a child not gaining weight due not only to malnutrition but also emotional deprivation Failure to provide adequate care for the child’s medical and developmental needs, including intellectual stimulation Inadequate living conditions – unhygienic conditions, environmental issues, including lack of adequate heating and furniture Lack of adequate clothing Inattention to basic hygiene Lack of protection and exposure to danger, including moral danger, or lack of supervision appropriate to the child’s age Persistent failure to attend school Abandonment or desertion
Emotional abuse is the systematic emotional or psychological ill-treatment of a child as part of the overall relationship between a caregiver and a child. Once-off and occasional difficulties between a parent/carer and child are not considered emotional abuse. Abuse occurs when a child’s basic need for attention, affection, approval, consistency and security are not met, due to incapacity or indifference from their parent or caregiver. Emotional abuse can also occur when adults responsible for taking care of children are unaware of and unable (for a range of reasons) to meet their children’s emotional and developmental needs. Emotional abuse is not easy to recognise because the effects are not easily seen. A reasonable concern for the child’s welfare wouldexist when the behaviour becomes typical of the relationship between the child and the parent or carer.
Emotional abuse may be seen in some of the following ways: 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 Persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming of the child Bullying Conditional parenting in which care or affection of a child depends on his or her behaviours or actions Extreme overprotectiveness Inappropriate non-physical punishment (e.g. locking child in bedroom) Ongoing family conflicts and family violence Seriously inappropriate expectations of a child relative to his/her age and stage of development There may be no physical signs of emotional abuse unless it occurs with another type of abuse. A child may show signs of emotional abuse through their actions or emotions in several ways. These include insecure attachment, unhappiness, low self-esteem, educational and developmental underachievement, risk taking and aggressive behaviour. It should be noted that no one indicator is conclusive evidence of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is more likely to impact negatively on a child where it is persistent over time and where there is a lack of other protective factors.
Physical abuse is when someone deliberately hurts a child physically or puts them at risk of being physically hurt. It may occur as a single incident or as a pattern of incidents. A reasonable concern exists where the child’s health and/ or development is, may be, or has been damaged as a result of suspected physical abuse. Physical abuse can include the following: Physical punishment Beating, slapping, hitting or kicking Pushing, shaking or throwing Pinching, biting, choking or hair-pulling Use of excessive force in handling Deliberate poisoning Suffocation Fabricated/induced illness Female genital mutilation The Children First Act 2015 includes a provision that abolishes the common law defence of reasonable chastisement in court proceedings. This defence could previously be invoked by a parent or other person in authority who physically disciplined a child. The change in the legislation now means that in prosecutions relating to assault or physical cruelty, a person who administers such punishment to a child cannot rely on the defence of reasonable chastisement in the legal proceedings. The result of this is that the protections in law relating to assault now apply to a child in the same way as they do to an adult.
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his or her gratification or arousal, or for that of others. It includes the child being involved in sexual acts (masturbation, fondling, oral or penetrative sex) or exposing the child to sexual activity directly or through pornography. Child sexual abuse may cover a wide spectrum of abusive activities. It rarely involves just a single incident and in some instances occurs over a number of years. Child sexual abuse most commonly happens within the family, including older siblings and extended family members. Cases of sexual abuse mainly come to light through disclosure by the child or his or her siblings/friends, from the suspicions of an adult, and/or by physical symptoms
Examples of child sexual abuse include the following:
- Any sexual act intentionally performed in the presence of a child
- An invitation to sexual touching or intentional touching or molesting of
- a child’s body whether by a person or object for the purpose of sexual
- arousal or gratification
- Masturbation in the presence of a child or the involvement of a child in
- an act of masturbation
- Sexual intercourse with a child, whether oral, vaginal or anal
- Sexual exploitation of a child, which includes:
- Inviting, inducing or coercing a child to engage in prostitution or the
- production of child pornography [for example, exhibition, modelling
- or posing for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or sexual
- act, including its recording (on film, videotape or other media) or the
- manipulation, for those purposes, of an image by computer or other
- Inviting, coercing or inducing a child to participate in, or to observe,
- any sexual, indecent or obscene act
- Showing sexually explicit material to children, which is often a
- feature of the ‘grooming’ process by perpetrators of abuse
- Exposing a child to inappropriate or abusive material through
- information and communication technology
- Consensual sexual activity involving an adult and an underage person
An Garda Síochána will deal with any criminal aspects of a sexual abuse case under the relevant criminal justice legislation. The prosecution of a sexual offence against a child will be considered within the wider objective of child welfare and protection. The safety of the child is paramount and at no stage should a child’s safety be compromised because of concern for the integrity of a criminal investigation.
In relation to child sexual abuse, it should be noted that in criminal law the age of consent to sexual intercourse is 17 years for both boys and girls. Any sexual relationship where one or both parties are under the age of 17 is illegal. However, it may not necessarily be regarded as child sexual abuse
Circumstances which may make children more vulnerable to harm
If you are dealing with children, you need to be alert to the possibility that a welfare or protection concern may arise in relation to children you come in contact with. A child needs to have someone they can trust in order to feel able to disclose abuse they may be experiencing. They need to know that they will be believed and will get the help they need. Without these things, they may be vulnerable to continuing abuse. Some children may be more vulnerable to abuse than others. Also, there may be particular times or circumstances when a child may be more vulnerable to abuse in their lives. In particular, children with disabilities, children with communication difficulties, children in care or living away from home, or children with a parent or parents with problems in their own lives may be more susceptible to harm. The following list is intended to help you identify the range of issues in a child’s life that may place them at greater risk of abuse or neglect. It is important for you to remember that the presence of any of these factors does not necessarily mean that a child in those circumstances or settings is being abused.
Parent or carer factors:
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Addiction, including gambling
- Mental health issues
- Parental disability issues, including learning or intellectual disability
- Mental health issues, including self-harm and suicide
- Conflictual relationships
- Domestic violence
- Adolescent parents
- Communication difficulties
- Previous abuse
- Young carer
- Cultural, ethnic, religious or faith-based norms in the family or community which may not meet the standards of child welfare or protection required in this jurisdiction
- Culture-specific practices, including
- Female genital mutilation
- Forced marriage
- Honour-based violence
- Housing issues
- Children who are out of home and not living with their parents, whether temporarily or permanently
- Internet- and social media-related concerns
- Poor motivation or willingness of parents/guardians to engage:
- Non-attendance at appointments
- Lack of insight or understanding of how the child is being affected
- Lack of understanding about what needs to happen to bring about change
- Avoidance of contact and reluctance to work with services
- Inability or unwillingness to comply with agreed plans
You should consider these factors as part of being alert to the possibility that a child may be at risk of suffering abuse and in bringing reasonable concerns to the attention of Tusla.
Reporting a concern about a child
Whom to contact
You should always inform Tusla if you have reasonable grounds for concern that a child may have been, is being, or is at risk of being abused or neglected. You can report your concern in person, by telephone or in writing — including by email — to the local social work duty service in the area where the child lives. You can find contact details for the Tusla social work teams on the Tusla website (www.tusla.ie).
If you are concerned about a child but unsure whether you should report it to Tusla, you may find it useful to contact Tusla to informally discuss your concern. This provides an opportunity to discuss the query in general and to decide whether a formal report of the concern to Tusla is appropriate at this stage. If the concern is below the threshold for reporting, Tusla may be able to provide advice in terms of keeping an eye on the child and other services that may be more suitable to meeting the needs of the child and/or family.
What information to include
To help Tusla staff assess your reasonable concern, they need as much
information as possible. You should provide as much relevant information as
you can about the child, his/her home circumstances and the grounds for
concern. These could include:
- The child’s name, address and age
- Names and addresses of parents or guardians
- Names, if known, of who is allegedly harming the child or not caring for them appropriately
- A detailed account of your grounds for concern (e.g. details of the allegation, dates of incidents, and description of injuries)
- Names of other children in the household
- Name of school the child attends
- Your name, contact details and relationship to the child
You should give as much information as possible to social workers at an early stage so that they can do a full check of their records. For instance, they can see if the child and/or a sibling have been the subject of a previous referral, or if an adult in the household had previous contact with the child protection services. It also helps social workers to prioritise cases for attention, as they are not in a position to respond immediately to all cases. However, they will always respond where a child is in immediate danger or at high risk of harm. It will also help Tusla to decide if another service would be more appropriate to help meet the needs of the child, i.e. a community or family support service rather than a social work service.
Reasonable grounds for concern
You should always inform Tusla when you have reasonable grounds for concern that a child may have been, is being, or is at risk of being abused or neglected. If you ignore what may be symptoms of abuse, it could result in ongoing harm to the child. It is not necessary for you to prove that abuse has occurred to report a concern to Tusla. All that is required is that you have reasonable grounds for concern. It is Tusla’s role to assess concerns that are reported to it. If you report a concern, you can be assured that your information will be carefully considered with any other information available and a child protection assessment will be carried out where sufficient risk is identified.
Reasonable grounds for a child protection or welfare concern include:
- Evidence, for example an injury or behaviour, that is consistent with abuse and is unlikely to have been caused in any other way
- Any concern about possible sexual abuse
- Consistent signs that a child is suffering from emotional or physical neglect
- A child saying or indicating by other means that he or she has been abused
- Admission or indication by an adult or a child of an alleged abuse they committed An account from a person who saw the child being abused
Dealing with a retrospective allegation
Some adults may disclose abuse that took place during their childhood. Such disclosures may come to light when an adult attends counselling, or is being treated for a psychiatric or health problem. If you are, for example, a counsellor or health professional, and you receive a disclosure from a client that they were abused as a child, you should report this information to Tusla, as the alleged abuser may pose a current risk to children. If, as a mandated person, you provide counselling, it is recommended that you let your clients know, before the counselling starts, that if any child protection issues arise and the alleged perpetrator is identifiable, you must pass the information on to Tusla. If your client does not feel able to participate in any investigation, Tusla may be seriously constrained in their ability to respond to the retrospective allegation. The reporting requirements under the Children First Act 2015 apply only to information that you, as a mandated person, received or became aware of since the Act came into force, whether the harm occurred before or after that point. However, if you have a reasonable concern about past abuse, where information came to your attention before the Act and there is a possible continuing risk to children, you should report it to Tusla under this Guidance.
Disclosures of abuse from a child
If, as a mandated person, you receive a disclosure of harm from a child, which is above the thresholds set out above, you must make a mandated report of the concern to Tusla. You are not required to judge the truth of the claims or the credibility of the child. If the concern does not meet the threshold to be reported as a mandated concern you should report it to Tusla as a reasonable concern under this Guidance.
If you receive a disclosure of harm from a child, you may feel reluctant to report this for a number of reasons. For example, the child may say that they do not want the disclosure to be reported, or you may take the view that the child is now safe and that the involvement of Tusla may not be desired by either the child or their family. However, you need to inform Tusla of all risks to children above the threshold, as the removal of a risk to one child does not necessarily mean that there are no other children at risk. The information contained in a disclosure may be critical to Tusla’s assessment of risk to another child either now or in the future.
You should deal with disclosures of abuse sensitively and professionally. The following approach is suggested as best practice for dealing with these disclosures:
- React calmly
- Listen carefully and attentively
- Take the child seriously
- Reassure the child that they have taken the right action in talking to you
- Do not promise to keep anything secret
- Ask questions for clarification only. Do not ask leading questions
- Check back with the child that what you have heard is correct and understood
- Do not express any opinions about the alleged abuser
- Ensure that the child understands the procedures that will follow
- Make a written record of the conversation as soon as possible, in as much detail as possible
- Treat the information confidentially, subject to the requirements of this Guidance and legislation
Little Island Risk Assessment for Safeguarding of Children
Events organised by Little Island Books that may include the presence of a young person include:
- A book launch organised and hosted by Little Island staff in a bookshop or other venue
- An author event in a school or library or s part of a festival, which may be organised but not carried out by Little Island staff
The risks of harm at a book launch include:
- Assault or inappropriate behaviour towards a child by any adult present at an event
- Assault or inappropriate behaviour towards a child by an intruder who might be a stranger to Little Island, the author and our associates in the book trade or literary community
The risks of harm at an author event include:
- Assault or inappropriate behaviour towards a child by any adult present at an event
- Assault or inappropriate behaviour towards a child by an intruder who might be a stranger to Little Island, the author and our associates in the book trade or literary community
The risk to a young person are extremely low for the following reasons:
- Both book launches and author events take place in public.
- At a book launch, young people only attend in the company of their parents or guardian. At an author event, a responsible teacher, librarian or other adult is always present to supervise behaviour, and our authors, are informed that they must insist on another responsible adult being present during their event.
- There is never any private interaction between Little Island staff/authors or members of the public and young people at these events.
The risk is owned jointly by Little Island as organisers, the bookshop owners/staff, and the supervising adults – whether festival staff, librarians, teachers or parents, where relevant.
Little Island Child Safeguarding Statement
The risks outlined above are managed by the presence of a parent, teacher, librarian, guardian or other responsible adult at all times during author events.
Any allegation against a staff member or author would be referred to our Child Protection Officer, Jane O’Hanlon. Her contact details are available in our Child Protection Policy.
Our procedure for assessing whether staff members are suitable to work with children is based on our knowledge of them personally and professionally and on our requirement that they have read, understood and agree to the Child Protection Policy of Little Island.
If a staff member feels they need to make a report on another person, we will inform them on how to contact our Child Protection Officer and Tusla.
The list of persons in the organisation mandated under the act is included in our Child Protection Policy.
Our current Child Protection Officer, Jane O’Hanlon, is in place for the foreseeable future. For the appointment of a new Child Protection Officer we will refer to our board to appoint a new mandated person.