In this week’s essay - the third in our recent series on the Children First Act 2015 - we’re doing a bit of a deep-dive into what I call the road-signs of the Act.
That is, the ‘definitions’. These are the 17 words or phrases that are key to getting to grips with the Children First Act.
So, what’s the value in understanding the definitions?
Well, if you deliver services to children, in any way, then the Act impacts your delivery of those services. It’s a good idea to understand a little better the way that the Act does this.
STRUCTURE OF THE CHILDREN FIRST ACT 2015
The Children First Act 2015 has five main blocks (or ‘parts’).
There are 28 sections in the Act.
And there are three bits at the end of the Act called ‘schedules’.
You might recall we spent some time mapping out the legislation and this is what it looked like:
I then spent some time turning that into a one-page overview of the Act:
This time we’re looking at the meanings of the words and phrases used in the Act.
In the Act, these come under the ‘definitions’ section.
Let’s take a look at them, so we’re all on the same page.
Which of course begs the question, ‘What is the Child and Family Agency’, when it’s at home?
According to the Tusla website, The Child and Family Agency was established on the 1st January 2014 and is now the dedicated State agency responsible for improving wellbeing and outcomes for children. It represents the most comprehensive reform of child protection, early intervention and family support services ever undertaken in Ireland. It is an ambitious move which brings together over 4,000 staff and an operational budget of over €750m.
(Now, I’m not going to set myself out as an expert on video.
But, seriously, if you’re going to spend a shed load of valuable money on a swish corporate video, would someone please let the Tusla team know that videos over 60 seconds have a massive drop-off rate, with people switching off?).
As I understand it, "The name comes from two Irish words Tús, meaning a new beginning and Lá the Irish for day…a new day for children".
I wonder the extent to which that optimism in the (re-)branding exercise is shared/believed in by the the on-the-ground professionals?
Let’s do a bit of a deeper dive into our new found friends at Tusla.
The Child and Family Agency’s services include a range of universal and targeted services:
- Child protection and welfare services;
- Educational welfare services;
- Psychological services;
- Alternative care;
- Family and locally-based community supports;
- Early years services;
- Domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services.
2. AUTHORISED PERSON
So, what’s s.15(1) got to say for itself?
“child” has the same meaning it has in section 2 of the Child Care Act 1991;
Child Care Act 1991, s.2:
“child” means a person under the age of 18 years other than a person who is or has been married;
4. CHILD SAFEGUARDING STATEMENT
“enactment” means a statute or an instrument made under a power conferred by statute;
Basically, a piece of ‘law’.
7. IMPLEMENTATION GROUP
“Implementation Group” has the meaning assigned to it by section 20;
Part 4 of the Act deals with the ‘Children First Inter-Departmental Implementation Group’.
Section 20 says that:
Section 21 gives a little more detail about the make-up of the Implementation Group:
Here’s some more information, taken from the Tusla website. Rather cleverly, they’ve realised that ‘Children First Inter-departmental Implementation Group’ is something of a mouthful. So they’re using the acronym “CFIDIG” instead:
A significant provision in the Children First Act 2015 (Sections 20-26) is the establishment of the CFIDIG. Membership of the CFIDIG includes all Government Departments, Tusla, the HSE and An Garda Síochána. This reflects the importance that is being attached by all Departments, sectors, agencies and services in fully complying with the ethos of Children First, and their specific statutory and non-statutory responsibilities.
The CFIDIG will be required to keep under review the implementation across the Public Sector of the Children First legislation and the Guidance, and to report on an annual basis to the Minister. The Children First Act requires every Department to prepare a Sectoral Implementation Plan as soon as may be after commencement of Section 27 of the Act.
While Departments and Agencies are responsible for child protection issues arising in their own sphere of responsibility, the CFIDIG provides a forum at which child safeguarding issues with a cross-Departmental focus can be raised as required.
The First Annual Report of the Group can be found below.
9. MANDATED PERSONS
Schedule 2 of the Act contains a list of the types of persons / roles that the Act calls ‘mandated persons’.
10. MANDATED REPORT FORM
S.14(6) tells us that a ‘mandated report form’ is simply a specific form which a ‘mandated person’ uses to make a report. A mandated person has to make a report under sections 14(1) and (2) of the Act where what they know, or reasonably suspect, or are told by a child, triggers a concern that a child has ben harmed, is being harmed, or is at risk of being harmed. (There are some limited exceptions to this requirement, which we’ll go into on another occasion).
This is the politician who runs the Department for Children and Youth Affairs.
The focus in ‘neglect’ is the concept of ‘deprivation’.
This refers to the power of the political Minister to state authoritatively that a particular course of action should be carried out. Section 3 states:
14. RELEVANT SERVICE
Schedule 1 is a list at the back of the Act. The list talks about the services which are relevant in terms of the Children First Act impacting on the service.
15. SECTORAL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
16. SEXUAL ABUSE
“sexual abuse” means, in relation to a child—
(a) an offence against the child, specified in Schedule 3, (b) F1[...]
- Rape under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990.
- Sexual assault.
- Aggravated sexual assault within the meaning of section 3 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990.
- An offence under section 1 of the Punishment of Incest Act 1908 (incest by males).
- An offence under section 2 of the Punishment of Incest Act 1908 (incest by females of or over 17 years of age).
- An offence under section 6(1) of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 (soliciting or importuning for purposes of commission of sexual offence).
- An offence under section 2 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 (defilement of child under 15 years of age).
- An offence under section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 (defilement of child under 17 years).
F2[9A. An offence under section 3A of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 (offence by person in authority).]
- An offence under either of the following provisions of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998:
- section 3 (child trafficking and taking, etc., child for sexual exploitation); F3[(b) section 4 (allowing child to be used for child pornography);
- section 4A (organising etc. child prostitution or production of child pornogra-
- section 5A (participation of child in pornographic performance).]
- An offence under section 5 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 in so far as it relates to a child who has been trafficked for the purpose of his or her exploitation (soliciting or importuning for purposes of prostitution of trafficked person).
- An offence under section 176 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (reckless endan- germent of children).
- An offence under section 249 of the Children Act 2001 (causing or encouraging sexual offence upon a child).
F4[14. An offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017:
- section 4 (invitation etc. to sexual touching);
- section 5 (sexual activity in presence of child);
- section 6 (causing child to watch sexual activity);
- section 8 (use of information and communication technology to facilitate sexual exploitation of child).]
We will be looking at these offences in more detail in a later essay.
Funnily enough some people aren’t that interested in definitions!
"Life’s too short", they say. It’s a good argument.
But when it comes to understanding legislation, you need to be able to read the road-signs.
That way, you’re more likely to get to where you need to go.
Understanding the definitions helps you to understand the legislation. And that helps you in the delivery of services, too.
This essay is for general information and guidance purposes only and, just to be clear, does not constitute legal or other professional advice.
You should always seek your own specific legal advice, from a firm of solicitors, on the application of the law in a situation.
Whilst we used endeavours to ensure the accuracy of this content, we do not accept any liability for any omissions or errors; or for any action or omission taken in reliance of the information in this essay.