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Children First Awareness Week

Government Launches Children First Awareness Week 

Campaign aims to raise awareness of Children First and remind organisations and individuals working with children and young people of their responsibilities

Monday, 25 September 2023: Today marks the launch of National Children First Awareness Week, which will run from the 25th September to 1st October. The campaign aims to raise awareness of Children First and remind everyone, including organisations and individuals working or volunteering with children and young people, of our collective responsibility to keep them safe in our communities. 

Children First promotes the protection of children from abuse and neglect, by setting out what individuals and organisations need to do to keep children safe, and how to deal with concerns about a child’s safety or welfare. The term ‘Children First’ refers to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 and the Children First Act 2015.

All organisations and individuals providing services or activities to children and young people should have child safeguarding policies and procedures in place to protect them from harm and promote their welfare. In addition, organisations classed as providers of relevant services under the Children First Act are required to carry out a risk assessment and develop a Child Safeguarding Statement, which outlines how risks to children’s welfare and protection will be managed.

Although these responsibilities apply throughout the year, with children returning to school and to normal activities it is an opportune time to remind organisations and individuals of their obligations, when it comes to protecting the children and young people with whom they work.

Throughout the week, the campaign will highlight the range of resources available to support organisations and individuals to keep children safe. These resources include online and in-person training, guidance documents, templates and advice on how to assure themselves, and others, that children and young people are as safe as possible while in their care. Find out more at gov.ie/childrenfirst

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, officially launched the campaign on behalf of the statutory Children First Inter-Departmental Implementation Group (CFIDIG). Also present at the launch were senior figures from the Department of Education, An Garda Síochána, the HSE, Sport Ireland and Tusla – Child and Family Agency. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Colm Noonan, Garda National Protective Services Bureau, said:

“The safety of children and young people is a key policing goal and the effective and efficient operation of Children First is instrumental in that goal. An Garda Síochána remain committed to the principles of Children First, namely the protection of children from welfare concerns, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. We remain committed to working jointly with other stakeholders to ensure that the best interests and welfare of the child are of paramount importance.”

Speaking at the launch, Minister O’Gorman, said: 

“It is everyone’s responsibility to protect children and young people and to do our best to keep them safe. All organisations and individuals providing services or activities to children should have child safeguarding measures in place to protect them from harm. And it is the responsibility of each Government Department, including my own, to ensure that children and young people are kept safe while accessing services provided or funded by them.”

Minister for Education, Norma Foley added: 

“A key priority across all the work of the Department of Education is helping to ensure that all the children and young people who attend our schools are supported and nurtured in a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment. This reflects the values of Children First Awareness Week, which importantly highlights that child safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. The Child Protection Procedures for primary and post-primary schools (revised 2023) give clear direction and guidance to school management and school personnel in relation to meeting the statutory obligations under Children First. As part of the Department of Education’s oversight of the implementation of the Child Protection Procedures, the Department’s Inspectorate checks on compliance with key aspects of the Procedures during all school inspections.”

Bernard Gloster, Chief Executive of the HSE welcomed Children First Awareness Week. He said:

“The importance of a National Children First Awareness Week campaign like this cannot be overstated. It provides an important reminder to us as organisations and individuals working with children and young people, that we have a collective responsibility to protect them and keep them safe. Implementing Children First must therefore be an ongoing priority for us all. The HSE remains committed to supporting actions across our services that enhance awareness and identification of risks to children, and protecting them from harm.”

 Sport Ireland CEO, Dr Una May commented: 

"Sport Ireland is pleased to embrace the opportunity presented by Children First Awareness Week to enhance awareness regarding the importance of ensuring children's safety. The safeguarding of children in sport is of paramount importance. Sport Ireland works to ensure children's and young people’s experiences of sport are fun, enjoyable and conducted in the spirit of fair play. This is an area of ongoing focus for Sport Ireland, and we will continue to support our National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships to ensure they can meet their child safeguarding and child protection responsibilities”.

 Speaking about the week, Kate Duggan, Chief Executive, Tusla, said: 

“We all have a vital role to play in keeping children in our communities safe, whether you are a professional, a volunteer, or a member of the wider community. As National Children First Awareness Week begins, we want to remind individuals and organisations in our society about the importance of protecting children from abuse and neglect, and highlight the range of resources available to them in meeting their child safeguarding responsibilities. As always, if anyone has a concern about a child they can contact Tusla, or in an emergency, contact An Garda Síochána. Everyone, at an individual, and organisational level has a role to play in protecting children from harm.”

Anyone who has a concern about a child and young person should report it to the Tusla social work department in the area where the child lives. In cases of emergency, where a child or young person appears to be at immediate and serious risk, contact An Garda Síochána.