Section 1: Laws and Governance
Our child welfare and protection policy is based on a legal framework provided primarily by the Child Care Act 1991 and the Children First Act 2015. The policy and practice that applies in this area is outlined in this Guidance. There are a number of key principles of child protection and welfare that inform both Government policy and best practice for those dealing with children.
- 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
- Interventions by the State should build on existing strengths and protective factors in the family
- Early intervention is key to getting better outcomes. Where it is necessary for the State to intervene to keep children safe, the minimum intervention necessary should be used Children should only be separated from parents/guardians when alternative means of protecting them have been exhausted
- Children have a right to be heard, listened to and taken seriously. 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
1.2.1 CHILD CARE ACT 1991
This is the key piece of legislation which regulates child care policy in Ireland. Under this Act, Tulsa has a statutory responsibility to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection. If it is found that a child is not receiving adequate care and protection, Tusla has a duty to take appropriate action to promote the welfare of the child. This may include supporting families in need of assistance in providing care and protection to their children. The Child Care Act also sets out the statutory framework for taking children into care, if necessary.
1.2.2 PROTECTIONS FOR PERSONS REPORTING CHILD ABUSE ACT 1998
This Act protects you if you make a report of suspected child abuse to designated officers of Tusla, the Health Service Executive (HSE) or to members of the Gardaí as long as the report is made in good faith and is not malicious.
Designated officers also include persons authorised by the Chief Executive Officer of Tusla to receive and acknowledge reports of mandated concerns about a child from mandated persons under the Children First Act 2015.
This legal protection means that even if you report a case of suspected child abuse and it proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that you had not acted reasonably and in good faith in making the report. If you make a report in good faith and in the child’s best interests, you may also be protected under common law by the defence of qualified privilege.
You can find the full list of persons in Tusla and the HSE who are designated officers under the 1998 Act, on the website of each agency (www.tusla.ie and www.hse.ie).
1.2.3 CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT 2006
Section 176 of this Act created an offence of reckless endangerment of children.
This offence may be committed by a person who has authority or control over a child or abuser who intentionally or recklessly endangers a child by:
- Causing or permitting the child to be placed or left in a situation that creates a substantial risk to the child of being a victim of serious harm or sexual abuse; or
- Failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child from such a risk while knowing that the child is in such a situation.
1.2.4 CRIMINAL JUSTICE (WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION ON OFFENCES AGAINST CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE PERSONS) ACT 2012
Under this Act, it is a criminal offence to withhold information about a serious offence, including a sexual offence, against a person under 18 years or a vulnerable person. The offence arises where a person knows or believes that a specified offence has been committed against a child or vulnerable person and he or she has information which would help arrest, prosecute or convict another person for that offence, but fails without reasonable excuse to disclose that information, as soon as it is practicable to do so, to a member of An Garda Síochána.
The provisions of the Withholding legislation are in addition to any reporting requirements under the Children First Act 2015.
1.2.5 NATIONAL VETTING BUREAU (CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE PERSONS)
Under these Acts, it is compulsory for employers to obtain vetting disclosures in relation to anyone who is carrying out relevant work with children or vulnerable adults. The Acts create offences and penalties for persons who fail to comply with their provisions. Statutory obligations on employers in relation to Garda vetting requirements for persons working with children and vulnerable adults are set out in the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons)
1.2.6 CHILDREN FIRST ACT 2015
The Children First Act 2015 is an important addition to the child welfare and protection system as it will help to ensure that child protection concerns are brought to the attention of Tusla without delay.
The Act provides for mandatory reporting of child welfare and protection concerns by key professionals; comprehensive risk assessment and planning for a strong organisational culture of safeguarding in all services provided to children; a provision for a register of non-compliance; and the statutory underpinning of the existing Children First Interdepartmental Implementation
Group which promotes and oversees cross-sectoral implementation and compliance with Children First.
1.2.7 CRIMINAL LAW (SEXUAL OFFENCES) ACT 2017
This Act addresses the sexual exploitation of children and targets those who engage in this criminal activity. It creates offences relating to the obtaining or providing of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation. It also creates offences of the types of activity which may occur during the early stages of the predatory process prior to the actual exploitation of a child, for example, using modern technology to prey on children and making arrangements to meet with a child where the intention is to sexually exploit the child. The Act also recognises the existence of underage, consensual peer relationships where any sexual activity falls within strictly defined age limits and the relationship is not intimidatory or exploitative.
Section 2: Olympian Gymnastics Statement and Goal
Olympian Gymnastics Club is committed to teaching gymnastics to all levels and abilities in a safe and fun environment. We want all our gymnasts to leave their classes with a big smile on their face and a sense of achievement.
Our company, Olympian Educational Service Ltd. and associated clubs, operates under strict rules and guidelines set out by statutory government bodies to be aware of and to ensure the welfare and protection of all members in our club. We are obliged to inform all our members, their parents and employees of all of these policies.
These obligations are:
- To keep children safe from harm while they are using the service.
- To carry out a risk assessment to identify whether a child or young person could be harmed which using the service, and
- To develop a Child Safeguarding Statement [which must include both the written risk assessment and the procedures that are in place to:
- Manage any risk identified
- Investigate an allegation against any staff member about any act, omission or circumstance in respect of a child availing of the service
- Select and recruit staff who are suitable to work with children
- Provide information and training to staff on child protection and safeguarding issues
- Enable staff members, whether mandated persons or otherwise, to make a report to Tusla in accordance with the Act or any guidelines issued by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
- Maintain a list of persons in the organisation who are mandated persons under the Act
- Appoint a relevant person in the organisation for the purpose of the Act
Our Child Safeguarding Statement is reviewed every year, in order to assess whether there has been a material change in any of the issues to which it refers. The review takes into account the detailed policies and procedures in place on the following:
- Dealing with child protection concerns
- Reporting child protection concerns
- Working safely with children
- Recruiting and managing staff
- Child safeguarding awareness and training
- Involving parents and children
- Implementing and reviewing the safeguarding strategies
Child Protection Policy
Olympian Gymnastics Club strives to ensure that children, young people and vulnerable adults are protected and kept safe from harm whilst participating in gymnastics activities. We endeavour to promote the highest standards of care for participants.
Our aims and principles for each class include the following:
- The welfare and safety of children is of paramount importance to the club.
- Provide and implement procedures to safeguard the well-being of all participants and protect them from abuse.
- Respect and promote the rights, wishes and feelings of all participants.
- Adopt good practice in recruitment, training and supervision of all employees and volunteers, and provide guidance to parents and carers.
- Olympian Gymnastics Club aims to work in cooperation with all agencies and organisations concerned with the protection and welfare of children.
- Require all employees, members and clubs to adopt Irish Gymnastics’ Code of Ethics and the Child Protection Policy and Procedures.
- Olympian Gymnastics aims to prevent bullying at all times in order to fulfil our obligation to creating a safe environment for the children. However, in the event of an incident, we aim to resolve in an effective and efficient manner.
If you have any concerns about any gymnast in our care, you should report it to the Club’s Children’s Officer (the Site Manager, and Supervisors of each venue are appointed to these roles), or the Club’s Designated Liaison Person (Operations Manager for the company, Ashwin Kesso). See section below for more details.
2.3.1 Legal Duty of Care
In many sports activities, given the health and safety considerations, it is recognised that a sports organisation or individual (e.g. coach) owes a duty of care to its members. However, it is also understood and recognised that accidents can and do happen, and that it is not possible to predict every eventuality. Liability for the legal duty of care would only arise when an incident occurs and it can be demonstrated that the risk was foreseeable but no action had been taken to remedy it.
It is important that we being responsible for the management or supervision of children and young people in our club consider what steps are needed to take in order to demonstrate the reasonable standard of care. Examples of this include:
- Keeping up to date registers of attendance.
- Keeping up to date records of contact details.
- Maintaining appropriate supervision ratios.
- Maintaining up to date information on specific medical conditions – allergies, asthma, and epilepsy.
- Ensuring that first aid provision is available at the venue.
- Ensuring those responsible for supervising the children and young people have been subject to appropriate checks.
Even with these in place, accidents and other instances may occur.
2.3.2 Moral Duty of Care
The Moral Duty of Care is more correctly a responsibility for safety and welfare. Our members of staff have a responsibility for those children and young people, and other staff, who are under their control. In specialist sports activities the qualified instructor has a duty of care for all those taking part irrespective of their age or position. The key point here is that the individual administering the activity, whatever their status, should be appropriately trained and authorised.
Below are the codes of conduct that our coaches must adhere to with regards to child protection, safety and welfare:
- Ensure the safety of all children by careful supervision, proper pre-planning of coaching sessions, using safe methods at all times.
- Actively encourage all children and not to discriminate on the grounds of religious beliefs, race, gender, social classes or lack of ability.
- Not allow any rough or dangerous play, bullying, or the use of bad language or inappropriate behaviour.
- Always be positive and promote the objectives of the club at all times.
- Do not let any allegations of abuse of any kind to go unchallenged or unrecorded if appropriate.
- Report accidents or incidents to the Head Coach and Senior coaches
- Incidents and accidents to be recorded on a club incident/accident sheet and filed appropriately
- Administer minor first aid in the presence of others and where required refer more serious incidents to the Head Coach / First Aider
- Have access to telephone for immediate contact to emergency services if required
- Foster team work to ensure the safety of youth members in our care
- Ensure the rights and responsibilities of youth members are enforced
- Report suspected abuse to the Designated Liaison Person
- Do not abuse members physically, emotionally or sexually. Emotional abuse includes constantly picking out and destructively criticising certain individuals without balancing with constructive criticism
- Maintain confidentiality about sensitive information
- Proper equipment set-up and safety mats MUST be in place at all times for all skills at all levels
- Be a role model (disciplined/ committed/ time keeping) remember children learn by example
- Co-operate with management to ensure that safe and healthy working practices and workplace are maintained.
- Contribute to a positive safety culture by acting responsibly at all times – and not actively or tacitly condone unsafe behaviour
- Tell their manager/supervisor if they recognise a significant change to an activity, or notice a significant risk that is not being addressed in their workplace;
- The coach has a responsibility for their own health and safety and that of the gymnasts they coach.
- To teach safe and effective exercise. To provide a high standard of gymnasts induction, exercise instruction and supervision consistent with customer satisfaction.
- Ensure gymnasts are advised assisted and instructed in a manner that is consistent with guidelines for safe practice.
- Ensure gymnasts are fit to participate and are free from injuries and illness.
- Ensure gymnasts are suitable attired for the activities, including clothing and footwear.
- Check that hair is tied back and grooming is appropriate, such as nails are trimmed.
- Ensure all equipment is checked and in good condition prior to use.
- Conduct routine inspection of machines and exercise areas to ensure that they are safe to use, personally taking immediate remedial action as appropriate or reporting the matter as required.
- Only teach new skills after assessing the readiness of the gymnast by observing ability, confidence, and background experience.
- Ensure compliance with organisation’s health and safety policy and procedures, in particularly the fire precautions and arrangements for first aid.
- Coaches should refer to the Safety Guidelines when coaching their groups.
- With regards to Supervising & Travelling Procedures, where possible, and for their own safety, coaches should avoid:
- Spending excessive amounts of time with children away from others
- Taking sessions alone
- Taking children on journeys alone in their car
- Taking children to their home
- When transporting gymnasts to events/courses. Coaches should
- Ensure there is adequate insurance on their car and that they follow the rules of the road, including the legal use of seat belts
- Ensure they do not carry more than the permitted number of passengers
- Avoid being alone with one passenger, put passengers in the back seat, have central drop off locations.
- Consult with parents/guardians about the travel and collection arrangements.
- Be sure all parties, especially the gymnasts are happy with the transport arrangements.
- Supervision should be done using the following guidelines
- Avoid being left alone with gymnasts. If a coach needs to talk separately to a participant this should be done in an open environment, in view of others.
- Respect the privacy of the gymnasts while changing. Coaches may only need to enter changing rooms where the gymnasts are very young or require special assistance, or in the case of a medical emergency.
- Coaches should supervise in pairs or seek assistance, it is the safety and welfare of the participants that is of paramount importance.
- If late collections occur, coaches should remain in pairs until all gymnasts have been collected. Be careful about who you give your phone number to and don’t respond to unfamiliar numbers
Below are the codes of conduct that our gymnasts must adhere to with regards to child protection, safety and welfare:
- Gymnasts should listen and respect the decision of the coaches
- No rough, dangerous, or violent play, including bullying and inappropriate behaviour
- Gymnasts must wear suitable clothing to class. No gymnasts will be permitted to train unless they are wearing the correct training clothing. (NO SKIRTS, JEANS or ANY UNSUITABLE CLOTHING). Gymnast should wear a garment that is fairly light in weight and allows for complete freedom of movement without being too loose. When glasses are worn, ensure they are securely fastened around the head.
- No jewellery allowed (long earrings, bracelets, rings, watches)
- Use of the equipment is strictly forbidden without the proper supervision of a qualified Olympian Gymnastics Club coach
- Gymnasts should never engage in activity without supervision.
- Gymnasts should not pursue skills or activities that exceed their current abilities without the proper supervision or support. Any skill which is unfamiliar to a person cannot be performed.
- Gymnasts are not allowed on the equipment without the consent or supervision of their coach
- Any faults in the equipment or set-up should be reported immediately to their coach
- No dress shoes, boots or dirty runners allowed on the gym floor
- No socks on beam.
- Gym shoes are required footwear in all clubs from January 2018 onwards.
- Grooming is important, ensuring nails are kept short enough to prevent interference with gripping or footing, as well as self-inflicted injuries. Hair should be securely tied to prevent entanglement and to prevent obscuring sight when engage within an activity.
- No smoking or alcohol allowed. Anybody appearing to be “under the influence” will be immediately expelled
- No shouting, swearing or rude language
- No gum, sweets, food or drink (open cups) allowed in the hall area. Except bottled water
- Olympian Gymnastics Club has a NUT ALLERGY ALERT in effect. No nut products allowed in our facility
- Gymnasts should report to the coach anything that will compromise their ability to perform.
- Gymnasts taking medication should obtain clearance from a physician that indicates that the medication will not interfere with gymnastics activity.
- Gymnasts suffering from an illness should inform the coach, obtain clearance from a physician prior to participation, and closely monitor their condition and ability to perform.
- Gymnasts should approach the Children‟s Officer/Designated Person with any questions or concerns they may have
- Gymnasts should not tell lies or spread rumours about adults or other children
- Gymnasts should not keep secrets about any person who may have caused them harm
- Parents may wait outside the hall in the entrance area
- Parents are not allowed inside the hall or on the gym floor.
- Parents are not permitted to wait near exits or beside the adjacent walls.
- If your child has been injured outside of class, contact the office to inform them when they‟ll be returning to class.
- Gymnasts should arrive a few minutes before the start of training. It is particularly upsetting for the younger children to arrive after all the others have started. All gymnasts should attend and take part in the warm up. It is an essential part of the training that helps the prevention of injury.
- Please do not drop off your own, or other children, early to watch the classes unattended. Olympian Gymnastics Club cannot be responsible for these children until they enter the gym.
- Please ensure you are punctual collecting your children and remind them that they must wait in the building until collected.
- Please advise the Club of any change of circumstances, i.e. medical, change of address and particularly Mobile Phone Number.
- Parents of children with an illness or condition will be asked to fill out a form (Medical Conditions Instruction Sheet) instructing the coaching staff of all necessary steps in the case of an emergency related to their child‟s medical condition or the administration of medicine.
- Parents should be aware of the relevant Coaches and their role within the club, especially the Children‟s Officer and the Site Manager/Supervisor.
- Parents should show appreciation of and respect for the Coaches and their decisions
- Parents should encourage their child to play by the rules
- Parents should not ignore or dismiss complaints or concerns expressed by a child which relate to his/her involvement in sport
- Parents should not put undue pressure on their child to please or perform well, including forcing a child to participate when ill
- Parents should not treat the club as a child-minding service
Olympian Gymnastics has a no-tolerance policy with regards to bullying in our classes or on social media platforms.
Bullying is repeated aggression be it verbal, psychological or physical, which is conducted by an individual or group against others. It is behaviour, which is intentionally aggravating and intimidating and occurs mainly among children in social environments such as schools, sports clubs and other organisations working with children. It includes behaviours such as teasing, taunting, threatening, hitting or extortion by one or more children against a victim. It is our responsibility to deal with bullying that may take place in the organisation in a prompt and decisive manner.
Many children are reluctant to tell adults that they are being bullied. Older children are even more reluctant. This underlines the need for constant vigilance and encouragement to report bullying.
The following measures should be implemented in all our classes:
- Raising awareness of bullying as an unacceptable form of behaviour
- Create a club ethos which encourages children, Coaches and parents/guardians to report bullying and to use the procedures of the complaints mechanism of the organisation to address this problem
- Providing comprehensive supervision of children at all times
- Providing a supportive environment for victims of bullying
- Obtaining the co-operation of parents/guardians to counter bullying
Olympian Gymnastics coaches use the following guidelines when addressing the discipline of gymnasts for misbehaviour
If any gymnasts behaviour is out of line or a danger to others,
- Give one verbal warning
- Time out for one rotation or a set amount of time, in a location which isolates the gymnasts but does not preclude them from the group. (Explain what the behaviour was that resulted in the timeout so the gymnast understands what behaviour was that cannot be tolerated. If negative behaviour persists give an additional warning to the gymnasts with another coach present then record what was said.
- Consult with Head Coach so all relevant people are informed. Then inform parents that behaviour cannot be tolerated in the presence of an additional coach. (record the conversation, noting all relevant details)
- Repeated bad behaviour not inline to the club rules will result in expulsion. If coaches have exhausted all avenues then the case for expulsion must be brought to the parents of the gymnast, outlining all the evidence recorded and discussed, regarding the gymnast in question, so everyone understands the situation.
Section 3: Who to Contact
The Role of Children’s Officers: The appointment of Children’s Officers in Governing Bodies and sports clubs/organisations is an essential element in the creation of a quality atmosphere. They act as a resource with regard to children’s issues.
- Children’s Officers should review current policies in relation to young people, check that all activities are safe and fun, and inform adults of how to deal with any concerns that may arise in relation to the protection of young people.
- Club Children’s Officers should be child centred in focus and have as the primary aim the establishment of a child centred ethos within the club. S/he is the link between the children and the adults in the club.
- S/he also takes responsibility for monitoring and reporting to the Club Management Committee on how club policy impacts on young people and Sports Leaders.
- The Children’s Officer should be a member of or have access to, the Club Management Committee and should be introduced to the young people in an appropriate forum. The Children’s Officer should have the following role:
- To promote awareness of the code within the club, among young members and their parents/guardians. This could be achieved by:- the production / distribution of information leaflets, the establishment of children’s/age-group specific notice boards, regular information meetings for the young people and their parents/guardians
- To influence policy and practice within the club in order to prioritise children’s needs
- Establish contact with the National Children’s Officer at governing body level.
- To ensure that children know how to make concerns known to appropriate adults or agencies.
- To encourage the appropriate involvement of parents/guardians in the club activities
- To act as an advisory resource to Sports Leaders on best practice in children’s sport
- To report regularly to the Club Management Committee
- To monitor changes in membership and follow up any unusual dropout, absenteeism or club transfers by children or Sports Leaders
- To ensure that the children have a voice in the running of their club and ensure that there are steps young people can take to express concerns about their sports activities / experiences.
- Establish communication with other branches of the club, e.g. facilitate parent’s information sessions at the start of the season
- Keep records on each member on file, including junior members, their contact numbers and any special needs of the child that should be known to leaders
- Ensure each member signs an annual membership form that includes signing up to the code of conduct
- Ensure that the club rules and regulations include:
- complaints, disciplinary and appeals procedures
- an anti-bullying policy
- safety statement
- rules in relation to traveling with children
- supervision and recruitment of leaders
Our Club Children Officers Each of our venues has a different Children’s Officer depending on who’s in charge of the running on the site for that day. We feel it’s important that this individual is ever-present to the parents and gymnasts of those classes so that if they have any issues it’s someone they’re familiar with.
You should contact them if you require further information about……
Milltown Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays : Joao Ferreira – email@example.com Saturdays : Sam Wright – firstname.lastname@example.org Sundays : Marianne Quirke Bolt – email@example.com
Ballinteer Wednesdays : Joao Ferreira – firstname.lastname@example.org
Old Bawn Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sundays : Rachael Tobin – email@example.com Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sundays : Deborah Butler – firstname.lastname@example.org Saturdays: Saoirse Nisbett – email@example.com
St. Anne’s Tuesdays : Lucas Rodrigues – firstname.lastname@example.org
Holy Spirit Wednesdays : Rachael Tobin – email@example.com
Knocklyon Display Fridays & Saturdays : Caoimhe McCormack – firstname.lastname@example.org
Milltown Display Saturdays : Lauren Cuthbert – email@example.com
Cheerleading Mondays & Fridays: Lauren Cuthbert – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Role of Designated Liaison Person
Every club/organisation should designate a person to be responsible for dealing with any concerns about the protection of children. The designated person is responsible for reporting allegations or suspicions of child abuse to Health Services Executive or Social Services (NI) and/or An Garda Siochán / PSNI. It is recommended that this person is a senior club person. The Designated Liaison Person should:
- Have knowledge of the Code of Ethics and statutory guidelines
- Have a knowledge of categories and indicators of abuse
- Undertake training in relation to child protection
- Be familiar with and able to carry out reporting procedures as outlined in Section 5.12 – 5.19 of the Code of Ethics
- Communicate with parents and/or agencies as appropriate
- Assist with the ongoing development and implementation of the organisation’s child protection training needs
- Liaise with the national children’s officer in relation to child protection training needs
- Be aware of local contacts and services in relation to child protection, i.e. principal and duty social workers and their contacts
- Inform local duty social worker in the Health Services Executive Local Area Board / local Social Services and/or An Garda Síochána/PSNI of relevant concerns about individual children, using the Standard Reporting Form. And keep a copy of this form and ensure acknowledgement of receipt of this form
- Report persistent poor practice to the National Designated Person
- Advise club administrators on issues of confidentiality, record keeping and data protection
Our Designated Liaison Person Ashwin Kesso, Operations Manager for Olympian Gymnastics – email@example.com
On 1 January 2014, Tusla – Child and Family Agency, became an independent legal entity. It merged portions of three former statutory bodies: the Health Service Executive’s Children and Family Services, the Family Support Agency, and the National Educational Welfare Board.
Tusla has responsibility for child welfare and protection services, family support, educational welfare and a range of other services, including those relating to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
The key functions of Tusla, as set out in the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, are to:
- Support and promote the development, welfare and protection of children, and the effective functioning of families.
- Offer care and protection for children in circumstances where their parents have not been able to, or are unlikely to, provide the care that a child needs.
- To fulfil these responsibilities, Tusla is required to maintain and develop the services needed to deliver these supports to children and families, and provide certain services for the psychological welfare of children and their families.
- Be responsible for ensuring that every child in the State attends school or otherwise receives an education, and provide education welfare services to support and monitor children’s attendance, participation and retention in education.
- Ensure that the best interests of the child guide all decisions affecting individual children.
- Consult with children and families to help shape Tusla’s policies and services.
- Strengthen interagency cooperation to ensure seamless services that respond to needs.
- Undertake research relating to its functions, and provide information and advice to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs about those functions.
- Commission child and family services.
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.
Phone: 01 7718500 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents/guardians play a key role in the promotion of an ethical approach to sport and young people’s enjoyment in sport. Parents/guardians therefore need to be aware, informed and involved in promoting the safest possible environment for children to enjoy their participation in sport. Sports Leaders need the support of parents/guardians in conveying the fair play message.
Section 4: Coaching Staff Policies
The Company requires all coaches employed to be Garda Vetted through the National Vetting Bureau.
The Company’s policy on vetting requires re-vetting at least every 2-4 years and will be organised by the Operations Manager.
Olympian Gymnastics requires that all coaches employed by the Company attend the Safeguarding Level 1 – Basic Awareness workshop, as it allows for greater consciousness and understanding of the areas that children may be at risk. Olympian Gymnastics also requires that any Site Manager and Supervisor employed by the Company attends the Safeguarding Level 2 – Children’s Officer workshop, ensure that they have read the Child Safety and Reporting Procedures document, and have completed its accompanying online quiz, to ensure they’re fully briefed on the duties that come with that role.
The Company requires all classes to have at least two First Aid trained coaches on site at any time. All coaches will be put on a First Aid course once every two years, which will be organised by the Company every August. If a coach already has First Aid training they should inform the Operations Manager.
First aid supplies in each venue should be adequately stocked and re-supplied by way of the office when necessary.
4.4.1 Informal Counselling
Minor misconduct, poor performance or minor breaches of rules will normally result in informal counselling or advice being given by the immediate manager/supervisor. If this approach is not successful it may be necessary to use the formal disciplinary procedure.
4.4.2 Formal Disciplinary Procedure
This procedure will be used in cases of breaches of the rules or poor performance which have not been remedied by informal counselling. Normally the procedure will follow the stages listed below, although it is acceptable to move immediately to Stages 3, 4 or 5 if a case appears sufficiently serious.
From the first formal stage of the disciplinary procedure, employees are advised and have the option to have a colleague/workplace representative present.
4.4.3 The Investigation Procedure
Prior to taking the decision to invoke the disciplinary procedure, The Company will ensure that the situation has been thoroughly investigated. This will be a fact finding process and will require the gathering of detailed information. It may necessitate the carrying out of formal interviews and the taking of written statements. It is an integral part of the process and on occasions may require employees to be suspended on full pay, while it is carried out. Suspension on pay is not considered to be action taken under the disciplinary procedure. It is there to ensure that issues are dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner.
Equally, the employee has the right to present information in the defence of his/her position, if the decision is taken to invoke the disciplinary procedure. Once the investigation has been completed the Manager will inform the employee of the ndings and the outcome. Where the decision is taken to invoke the disciplinary procedure then the employee will be informed of the case against them, so they can respond in an informed manner at a disciplinary hearing.
Where the decision is taken not to take disciplinary action, the employee will be counselled.
4.4.4 The Disciplinary Procedure
The following disciplinary measures and procedures will apply in matters of discipline, the constant repetition of minor offences, wilful negligence or unsatisfactory performance or written complaints against employees received through the Grievance Procedure, that are found to be proven against the employees.
At each stage in the procedure a disciplinary meeting will be held where all the facts will be considered and any mitigating circumstances discussed. Where a warning is issued, a copy will be placed on the employees personnel file for a defined period. All warnings issued under this procedure will state clearly that the employee will be liable for further disciplinary action should their performance not improve or should there be a further breach of company rules or procedures. In the event of no further transgression occurring and the performance improving, the warning will be removed after a period of no more than 12 months, other than in exceptional circumstances, and the employee’s file will be clear. The employee will also be advised of his/her right to appeal against disciplinary action taken
The stages in the procedure are as follows:
Stage 1: Verbal Warning
Stage 2: First Written Warning
Stage 3: Final Written Warning
The Final written warning will state clearly that the next stage may be termination of employment if conduct and/or performance does not improve.
Stage 4: Action Short of Dismissal
In exceptional circumstances, and depending on the individual case, The Company may exercise its discretion to suspend with or without pay. Demotion to a lower position or rate of pay and transfer to another position may also be considered. This is action short of dismissal.
Stage 5: Dismissal
In an instance of gross misconduct, an employee will normally be dismissed without going through the previous stages of procedure. In these circumstances a full investigation will be conducted and a disciplinary meeting will be held. This will follow the normal procedures outlined above, but the outcome, if found to be gross misconduct, will almost certainly result in dismissal due to the serious nature of the situation.
At any stage, the employee has the right to appeal in writing above the level of the Manager taking the action, within seven days of notification of a decision.
Appeals will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible within a timeframe proportionate with the seriousness of the issue.
Nothing in this policy affects an employee’s right to further appeal in line with the Labour Relations Commission Code of Practice.
Section 5: Awareness
The prevention and detection of child abuse depends on the collaborative effort of everyone concerned.
The following factors are central to effective child protection in sport:
- Awareness of the behavioural and physical indicators of various forms of abuse
- Knowledge of the appropriate response and action to be taken where abuse is revealed or suspected
- Vigilance, and avoidance of all situations conducive to risk
- Open, trusting and co-operative relationships within the club/organisation, and with parents/guardians and others concerned with children’s progress or welfare
- Willingness to co-operate with the Statutory Authorities
All Coaches should be familiar with signs and behaviours that may be indicative of child abuse.
Abuse is normally categorised into four different types: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
5.2.2 Child Neglect
Neglect is normally defined in terms of an omission, where a 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, or medical care. It may also include neglect of a child’s basic emotional needs.
5.2.3 Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between an adult and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s need for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. It is rarely manifested in terms of physical symptoms.
Examples of emotional abuse include:
- Persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming;
- Where the level of care is conditional on his or her behaviour;
- Unresponsiveness, inconsistent or unrealistic expectations of a child;
- Premature imposition of responsibility on the child;
- Over or under protection of the child;
- Failure to provide opportunities for the child’s education and development;
- Use of unrealistic or over-harsh disciplinary measures;
- Exposure to domestic violence.
Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone. The threshold of significant harm is reached when abusive interactions dominate and become typical of the relationship between the child and the parent/guardian.
5.2.4 Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is any form of non-accidental injury that causes significant harm to a child, including:
- Shaking, hitting or throwing
- Use of excessive force in handling;
- Deliberate poisoning;
- Suffocation or drowning
- Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy (where parents/guardians fabricate stories of illness about their child or cause physical signs of illness);
- Allowing or creating a substantial risk of significant harm to a child;
- For children with disabilities it may include confinement to a room or cot, or incorrectly given drugs to control behaviour
- Burning or scalding
5.2.5 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, For example:
- Exposure of the sexual organs or any sexual act intentionally performed in the presence of a child;
- Intentional touching or molesting of the body of a child whether by a person or object for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification;
- Masturbation in the presence of a child or involvement of the child in the act of masturbation;
- Sexual intercourse with the child, whether oral, vaginal or anal;
- Sexual exploitation of a child;
- It may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
5.3.1 Psychological Stress, Burnout and Dropout of Children in Sport
Burnout may be defined as a process resulting from an activity that was once a source of fun and personal satisfaction, but later becomes associated with progressive physical and psychological distress.
Burnout itself may result from a combination of the number of hours involved in physical training with high expectations and pressure from Sports Leaders and parents/guardians. It represents a loss of energy and enthusiasm for sport and is characterised by anxiety and stress.
- Pressuring a child to perform at a level which is beyond his/her capacity based on age or maturation level
- Over-training or the making of demands on a child that lead to burnout
- Knowingly permitting an injured child to participate in a sporting activity
- Failure to take adequate precautions to protect a child from environmental hazards
- Failure to take account of known ailments or relevant weaknesses of a child
- Psychological stress within the sporting context can be caused by:
- Age-inappropriate expectations
- Excessive criticism
- Inappropriate use of sanctions/discipline
- Disapproval of skill/performance ability
- Failure to provide support and encouragement for effort and achievement
- Failure to involve a child/children as fully as possible in the activity
- The use of coarse, inappropriate language
5.3.2 Signs of psychological stress and burnout
- Sleep disturbance
- Lack of energy
- Frequent illness
- Loss of interest and enthusiasm
- Absenteeism, arriving late, leaving early
5.3.3 Combating psychological stress and burnout
Stress and burnout can be prevented and dropout rates reduced by measures such as:
- Listening to and respecting children’s views about participation
- Parents/guardians and Sports Leaders encouraging the development of individual skills and effort
- Ensuring that the physical or sporting abilities of the child are not viewed by the child as indications of his/her self-worth
- Ensuring that children have fun and enjoy activities in which they are involved
Section 6 – Grounds for Concern & Reporting Procedures
You should always inform the Designated Liaison Person of the Club or 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 the Designated Liaison Person of the Club or Tusla. All that is required is that you have reasonable grounds for concern. It is the role of the Designated Liaison Person of the Club or 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
- The guiding principles on reporting child abuse or neglect may be summarised as follows:
- The safety and well-being of the child must take priority over concerns about adults against whom an allegation may be made
- Reports of concerns should be made without delay to the Designated Liaison Person of the Club or Tusla
Everyone must be alert to the possibility that children with whom they are in contact may be suffering from abuse or neglect. This responsibility is particularly relevant for professionals such as teachers, child care workers, health professionals and those working with adults with serious parenting difficulties. It is also an important responsibility for staff and people involved in sports clubs, community activities, youth clubs, religious/faith sector and other organisations catering for children.
The Designated Liaison Person of the Club or Tusla should always be informed when a person has reasonable grounds for concern that a child may have been, is being or is at risk of being abused or neglected.
Child protection concerns should be supported by evidence that indicates the possibility of abuse or neglect.
A concern about a potential risk to children posed by a specific person, even if the children are
unidentifiable, should also be communicated to the Designated Liaison Person of the Club or Tusla.
Any reasonable concern or suspicion of abuse or neglect must elicit a response. Ignoring the signals or failing to intervene may result in ongoing or further harm to the child.
Section 176 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 introduced the criminal charge of reckless endangerment of children. It states: ‘A person, having authority or control over a child or abuser, who intentionally or recklessly endangers a child by – (a) causing or permitting any child to be placed or left in a situation which creates a substantial risk to the child of being a victim of serious harm or sexual abuse, or (b) failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child from such a risk while knowing that the child is in such a situation, is guilty of an offence.’
The following steps should be followed in reporting child abuse to the Statutory Authorities:
- Observe and note dates, times, locations and contexts in which the incident occurred or suspicion was aroused, together with any other relevant information;
- Report the matter as soon as possible to the designated person. If there are reasonable grounds for believing that the child has been abused or is at risk of abuse, s/he will make a report to the statutory authorities who have statutory responsibility to investigate, assess and validate suspected or actual child abuse;
- In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk and the Designated Person is unable to contact a duty social worker the police authorities should be contacted. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending intervention by the Statutory Authorities;
- If the Designated Person is unsure whether reasonable grounds for concern exist or not, s/he should informally consult with the local duty social worker. S/he will be advised whether or not the matter requires a formal report;
- A Designated Person reporting suspected or actual child abuse to the Statutory Authorities should first inform the family of their intention to make such a report, unless doing so would endanger the child or undermine an investigation;
- A report should be given by the Designated Person to the Statutory Authorities in person or by phone, and in writing; without delay
- It is best to report child abuse concerns by making personal contact with the relevant personnel in the Statutory Authorities and follow up in writing
- In those cases where the sports club/organisation finds that it does not have reasonable grounds for reporting a concern to the Statutory Authorities, the member who raised the concern should be given a clear written statement by the designated person of the reasons why the sports club/organisation is not taking action. The member should be advised that, if they remain concerned about the situation, they are free to consult with, or report to, the Statutory Authorities in their area.
6.3.2 Response to a child reporting any form of abuse
The following points should be taken into consideration:
- The child should understand in an age appropriate way that it is not possible that any information will be kept a secret;
- It is important to deal with any allegation of abuse in a sensitive and competent way through listening to and facilitating the child to tell about the problem, rather than interviewing the child about details of what happened;
- It is important to stay calm and not to show any extreme reaction to what the child is saying. Listen compassionately, and take what the child is saying seriously;
- It should be understood that the child has decided to tell about something very important and has taken a risk to do so. The experience of telling should be a positive one so that the child will not mind talking to those involved in the investigation;
- No judgmental statement should be made against the person against whom the allegation is made;
- The child should not be questioned unless the nature of what s/he is saying is unclear. Leading questions should be avoided. Open, non-specific questions can be used if necessary such as “Can you explain to me what you mean by that”. Try to let the child tell their story, use their words
- The child should be given some indication of what would happen next, such as informing parents/guardians, health board or social services. It should be kept in mind that the child may
Tusla has the statutory responsibility to assess all reports of child welfare and protection concerns. Assessments are carried out by Tusla social workers. If concerns are found after the initial checks, further evaluation involving a detailed examination of the child and family’s circumstances will follow.
If concerns about a child’s welfare are found, but do not involve a child protection issue, then the family may be referred to community or family support services. If no concerns are found, then the information gathered is recorded and kept on a confidential file where it will be examined if further concerns or more information comes to light.
If you make a report about a child, Tusla will normally acknowledge it, and may contact you for further information, if necessary. It is understandable that you would like to be assured that the matter is being followed up. However, to protect the privacy of the child and family, it may not be possible for Tusla to inform you of the progress or outcome of Tusla’s contact with the child or family, unless you are involved in discussions around family support or child protection plans. If you continue to have concerns about the child, or if additional information comes to light, you should contact Tusla.
The safety of the child making the allegation and any others who are/may be at risk should be ensured and this should take precedence over any other consideration. In this regard, the Organisation should take any necessary steps which may be immediately necessary to protect children
- If a Coach is the subject of the concern s/he should be treated with respect and fairness
- Where reasonable grounds for concern exist the following steps should be taken by the organisation:
- Advice should be sought from the local duty social worker with regard to any action by the club deemed necessary to protect the child/children who may be at risk
- The matter should be reported to the local statutory authorities following the standard reporting procedure outlined above
- In the event that the concern is connected to the actions of a Coach in the club, the Coach involved in the concern should be asked to stand aside pending the outcome of any investigation by the Statutory Authorities. It is advisable that this task be undertaken by a senior member of staff other than the designated person/children’s officer who takes the responsibility for reporting
- When the Coach is being privately informed by the senior member of staff
- The fact that an allegation has been made against him/her and
- The nature of the allegation, s/he should be afforded an opportunity to respond. His/her response should be noted and passed on to the statutory authorities.
All persons involved in a child protection process (the child, his/her parents/guardians, the alleged offender, his/her family, Coaches) should be afforded appropriate respect, fairness, support and confidentiality at all stages of the procedure.
Once the criminal process is completed, employers should consider the need to examine whether there are grounds for disciplinary proceedings for misconduct. The fact that the alleged abuser has not been prosecuted or has been found not guilty does not mean that such proceedings are not necessary or feasible.
Confidentiality should be maintained in respect of all issues and people involved in concerns about the welfare of a child or bad practice within a club. It is important that the rights of both the child and the person about whom the complaint has been made are protected.
A guarantee of confidentiality or undertakings regarding secrecy cannot be given, as the welfare of the child will supersede all other considerations
- All information should be treated in a careful and sensitive manner and should be discussed only with those who need to know
- Information should be conveyed to the parents/guardians of the child about whom there are concerns in a sensitive way
- Giving information to others on a “need to know” basis for the protection of a child is not a breach of confidentiality
Rumours should not be allowed to hang in the air. Any rumours relating to inappropriate behaviour circulating in the club should be brought to the attention of the Designated Person and checked out without delay. Any ensuing information should be handled confidentially and with sensitivity. If the designated person has reasonable grounds for concern that a child has been abused s/he should refer the matter to the Statutory Authorities, using the standard reporting procedure.
The Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 provides immunity from civil liability to persons who report child abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to the Health Board (now Health Services Executives) or the Gardai. This means that, even if a reported suspicion of child abuse proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that the reporter had not acted reasonably and in good faith in making the report.
Section 7: Other Parental Complaints & Concerns Procedures
Purpose of this Complaints Procedure
- To provide a fair, consistent and equitable mechanism for processing complaints against coaches.
- To do so in a manner that affords all concerned full rights in accordance with natural justice.
- To outline the procedures, which should be followed by all – Managing Director, Operations Manager, Site Manager, coaches, parents and students and/or their representatives – in the event of complaints being made against coaches
- Verbal complaints may be processed informally through Stage 1 of the procedure. Where the complaint is made in writing initially, the complaint should be processed through Stage 1 but a copy of the complaint should be given to the teacher at Stage 1.
- Only those complaints which are written and signed by the complainants may be investigated through Stages 3 and 4 of these procedures.
- The complainant shall be informed if the complaint is amenable to resolution within the terms of these procedures and, if not, the reasons for this decision.
- A parent who wishes to make a complaint should, unless there is good and sufficient reason, in the first instance make an appointment to discuss the matter with the coach concerned, with a view to resolving the complaint. A student who wishes to make a complaint should in the first instance lodge the complaint through the Site Manager of the venue.
- If the parent or coach is unable to resolve the complaint with the coach, she/he should approach the Site Manager with a view to resolving it.
It is envisaged that most complaints received under Stage 1 will be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties to the complaint.
- A parent/student who is unable to resolve the complaint at Stage 1 may seek an appointment to report and discuss the matter with the Operations Manager. The Operations Manager will arrange a meeting with a view to resolving the complaint. In some instances and where deemed appropriate by the parent and the coach it may be necessary for the parent, coach and the Operations Manager to meet with a view to resolving the complaint. Such a meeting will take place within a maximum of seven days. Both parties to the complaint may be accompanied at such a meeting by a friend/colleague.
- Following the consultation process with both parties to the complaint, the Operations Manager will communicate the outcome verbally to both parties.
- If after Stages 2.1 and 2.2 the complaint is still unresolved, the parent/student should be advised that they may raise the matter formally with the Board of Management as set out at Stage 3 with a view to resolving it.
- In the case of a complaint against the Operations Manager, the parent/student should discuss the complaint with the Operations Manager, who may be accompanied by a colleague in the first instance. If the parent/student is unable to resolve the complaint with the Operations Manager, the complaint may be processed as provided for at Stages 3 and 4 of this procedure.
It is envisaged that the overwhelming majority of complaints will be resolved at either Stages 1 and 2.
- If the issue is not resolved at Stage 1 or 2 then the parent/student should lodge the complaint in writing with the Managing Director. If the Managing Director is the subject of the complaint, then correspondence in this instance should be addressed to the Operations Manager.
- The Board of Management will formally acknowledge receipt of the complaint, note it formally and appoint a company Manager and the Operations Manager to deal with the matter. Any member of the Board of Management to whom a complaint refers shall be excluded from discussion/decision of the Board of Management on the matter.
- The appointed representatives (if Operations Manager is the subject of the complaint then two Board of Management representatives) must, subject to the general authorisation of the Board of Management:-
- supply the coach with a copy of the written complaint, and a copy of all other written evidence submitted by the parent/student.
- supply the parent/student with copy of all written documentation concerning the complaint received by the Operations Manager from the coach or report written by the Operations Manager following his/her investigation at Stage 2.2.
- The duly authorised representatives of the Board of Management should convey the outcome of any discussions / investigation, in writing, to the coach, complainant and the Board of Management and indicate whether or not the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.
- If the complaint has not been resolved at this stage and the complainant wishes to proceed to Stage 4 she/he shall indicate this in writing to the Board of Management within a maximum of ten working days of receipt of the letter referred to in 3.4.
- If the Board of Management considers the complaint is not substantiated, the coach and the complainant should be so informed within three days of the Board of Management meeting.
- If the Board of Management considers that the complaint warrants further investigation, it shall proceed as follows:
- both parties to the complaint shall be informed that the investigation is proceeding to the next stage;
- both parties to the complaint shall be supplied with a copy of all written evidence relevant to the complaint;
- the coach shall be requested to supply a written statement to the Board of Management in response to the complaint;
- both parties to the complaint shall be afforded an opportunity to make formal presentations of their case/position to the Board of Management. Both parties to the complaint will be entitled to be accompanied and assisted by a friend/colleague (non-legal) at any such meeting,
- the meeting/hearing of the Board of Management referred to in 4.2(d) will take place within a maximum of eleven working days of the meeting referred to in 2.2.
- When the Board of Management has completed its investigation, the decision of the Board of Management shall be conveyed in writing to the coach and the complainant within five working days of the decision being taken. The Board will also outline how its decision is to impact on the student. A member(s) of the Board of Management who has acted as an authorized representative(s) of the Board of Management in the investigation of the complaint should not participate in the decisions of the Board of Management relating to the application of any disciplinary action.
- The decision of the Board of Management shall be final subject to section 4.5.
- In the event of the complaint being upheld, the coach will have recourse to management agreements, where they exist, but all disciplinary procedures undertaken by the Board of Management will proceed in accordance with the Company Discipline Procedures.
- If disciplinary action is to be initiated against a coach after stage 4.4 it will be effected in accordance with procedures agreed based on their employment contract.
- Where the complaint lodged is proved to be groundless, then all correspondence relating to complaint should be removed from the coach’s file except for a statement of the complaints and outcome of the investigation.
If the complaint is upheld then the relevant file may be removed from the company records following agreement between all the parties involved.
- In this procedure a working day means a day on which the administration office is in operation.
- At all stages of the Complaints Procedure a written record should be kept of
- the investigation undertaken;
- communications to Board of Management/Parent/Guardian or a Student (who has reached the age of 18 years) and Coach, and
- the steps and /or decision taken.
Copies of this written record may be made available for inspection to the complainant and to the coach concerned.
Section 8: Online Safety Policies
Sports organisations like ours, our coaches and others involved in providing activities for children and young people are increasingly using the internet and social media to promote sport and communicate with them.
These forms of digital media and communication can provide great benefits. However, they can also pose potential safeguarding risks to children and young people. Communicating with children and young people online can have great benefits for an organisation, from encouraging a team ethos, to gaining new club members.
Unfortunately, having negative experiences online can affect a young person’s enjoyment of sport as well as their performance. It’s important that organisations like ours has appropriate safeguards in place to protect children from potential risks whilst in our care or communicating with them online.
8.1.2 Potential risks to young people
Due to social media’s 24 hour nature, it’s much easier for young people to be subjected to or become involved in negative behaviour and it may be more difficult to get away from.
Additional risks include:
- cyberbullying or berating by peers and people they consider ‘friends’ – in sport this can include negative comments or reactions to their performance or achievement
- being encouraged to create or share inappropriate or harmful material of themselves or others, including sexting (sexual images or video)
- making themselves identifiable by posting personal details on social media such as where they attend school or their home address
- encouragement to take part in violent behaviour or harmful trends
- communicating with people they don’t know, including potentially dangerous individuals
- communicating directly with staff or other adults in an inappropriate way
- risks of online grooming
8.1.3 How to minimise the risks
Organisations should put practices in place to ensure young people are kept safe online. As an organisation we aim to:
- be open and transparent in all communications, whether online or by traditional means
- make sure our use of social media as an organisation is in line with our aims and values
- ensure staff and volunteers who manage the organisation’s online presence have appropriate training on the types of technology, sites and applications young people use
- address the safeguards that affect young people with clear guidelines for them to follow, as well as informing them of who they can contactand including online behaviour into our codes of conduct
- equip young people with knowledge about the risks to them and how to deal with and report any concerns
- develop guidance and advice for staff and volunteers that include guidance on how to behave online when representing the organisation and how to respond to inappropriate behaviour
- think about how social media is used in our organisation both during activities or events and outside of normal ‘office hours’ and make sure that’s reflected in our policy and procedures
- reference our online safety policy in your safeguarding policy and make sure staff are aware of the reporting procedures for online abuse
Olympian Gymnastics has implemented the following online codes of conduct for its Coaches, Members and the Parents of our members.
- Use common sense: Use your best judgment at all times. If you’re uncertain if something is inappropriate or questionable, don’t post it.
- Mind your manners: Be respectful, kind and civil. You should not tolerate discrimination or hateful comments about anyone.
- Be human: Use your own voice; speak in a warm, approachable tone and most importantly, be yourself. Anything posted on the behalf of the club is permanent and a reaction of the club and its members.
- Respect copyrights and fair use: Always give people proper credit for their work, and make sure you have the right to use something before you publish, for example – photographs taken by someone else.
- Be aware of confidentiality: Only reference information that is publically available. Do not disclose any information that is confidential without prior consent. For example – a personal telephone number of a coach or a member.
- Security: Social media accounts should be created using an official club email address, which a designated individual should have responsibility for. Passwords should be protected and any suspicions of account hacking should be raised with the social media platform immediately
This policy provides guidance on how our organisation uses the internet and social media, and the procedures for doing so. It also outlines how we expect the staff and volunteers who work for us, and the children and young people who are members of our organisation, to behave online.
The aims of our online policy are:
- To protect all children and young people involved with our organisation and who make the use of technology (such as mobile phones, games consoles and the internet) while in our care
- To provide staff and volunteers with policy and procedure information regarding online safety and information on how to respond to incidents.
- To ensure our organisation is operating in line with our values and within the law regarding how we behave online.
As part of using the internet and social media, our organisation will:
- Understand the safety aspects – including what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for staff and children – when using the websites, social media apps, and other forms of digital communication
- Be aware that it doesn’t matter what device is being for used for digital interaction, but that the same safety aspects apply whether it is a computer, mobile phone or game console.
- When using social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat and Instagram), ensure that we adhere to relevant legislation and good practice guidelines.
- Regularly review existing safeguarding policies and procedures to ensure that online safeguarding issues are fully integrated, including:
- Making sure concerns of abuse or disclosure that take place online are written into our reporting procedures
- Incorporating online bullying (cyberbullying) in our anti bullying policy.
- Provide training for the person responsible for managing our organisation online presence
8.3.3 Managing our online presence
Our online presence through our website and social media platforms will adhere to the following guidelines:
- All social media accounts will be password-protected, and at least 3 members of staff will have access to each account and password
- The account will be monitored by a designated person, who will have been appointed by the club management
- The designated person managing our online presence will seek advice from our designated liaison person to advise on safeguarding requirements.
- A designated supervisor will remove inappropriate posts by children or staff, explaining why, and informing anyone who may be affected (as well as parents of children involved)
- Account, page and event settings will be set as ‘private’ so that only invited club members can see their content.
- Identifying details such as a child’s name, home address, school name or telephone number shouldn’t be posted on social media platforms
- Any posts or correspondence will be consistent with our aims
- We’ll make sure children and young people are aware of who manages our social media account and who to contact if they have any concerns about the running of the account.
- Parents will be asked to give their approval for us to communicate with their children through social media, or by any other means of communication.
- Parents will need to give permission for photographs or videos of their child to be posted on social media.
- All of our accounts and email addresses will be appropriate and fit for purpose.
8.3.4 Guidelines for Company Staff and Children/Young People in our Care
- Staff should be aware of this policy and behave in accordance with it.
- Staff should seek the advice of the designated liaison person if they have any concerns about the use of the internet or social media.
- Staff should communicate any messages they wish to send out to children and young people to the designated person responsible for the organisations online presence
- Staff should not ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ children or young people from their personal accounts on social media
- Staff should make sure any content posted is accurate and appropriate, as young people may ‘follow’ them on social media
- Staff should not communicate with young people via personal accounts or private messages.
- Rather than communicating with parents through personal social media accounts staff should choose a more formal means of communication, such as face to face, in an e-mail or in writing, or use in an organisational account, profile or website.
- At least one other member of staff should be copied in to any emails sent to children or young people.
- Staff should avoid communicating with children or young people via email outside of normal office hours
- Emails should be signed off in a professional manner, avoiding the use of emojis or symbol’s such as ‘kisses’ (X)
- Any disclosure of abuse reported through social media should be dealt with in the same way as face-to-face disclosure, according to our reporting procedures
- Smartphone users should respect the private lives of others and not take or distribute pictures of other people if it could invade their privacy
- Staff and young people must not engage in ‘sexting’ or send pictures to anyone that
- are obscene, indecent or menacing.
When using mobile phones and other digital technology to communicate:
- Staff will avoid having children’s or young people’s personal mobile numbers and will seek contact through a parent or guardian.
- Staff will seek parental permission on each occasion needed to contact children or young people directly, the purpose for each contact will be clearly identified and agreed upon.
- A method of accountability will be arranged, such as copies of text also being sent to the club’s child welfare officer or to parents
- Staff should have a separate phone from their personal one, or should block their number for any contact with parents or young people.
- Texts will be used for communication of information – such as reminding children or young people about upcoming events, which kit to bring or practice timings-and not to engage in conversation
- If a young person misinterprets such communication and tried to engage a staff member in conversation, the member of staff will take the following steps.
- End the conversation or stop replying
- Suggest discussing the subject further at the next class or event
- If concerned about the children or young person, provide contact details for the club’s child welfare officer or appropriate agencies.
Guidelines for Children and Young People
- Children should be aware of the online policy and agree to its terms.
- We expect children and young people’s behaviour online to be consistent with our guidelines where it relates to them
- Children should follow the above guidelines on all digital devices, including smartphones, tablets and consoles
As an organisation, we commit to implementing this policy and addressing any concern quickly within these guidelines.
8.3.5 Further Information or Parents/Guardians for Keeping Children Safe Online
The following websites provide information for organisations and parents about online safety to help them protect their children from harm:
Cyber safe Ireland cybersafeireland.org
Hotline – safety tips www.hotline.ie/internet-safety/safety-tips
NSPCC / o2 helpline www.02.co.uk/help/nspcc/child-protection
Child exploitation and online protection Centre www.ceop.policy.uk
Section 9: Mandated Persons
9.1.1 About this section
The Children First Act 2015 places a legal obligation on certain people, many of whom are professionals, to report child protection concerns at or above a defined threshold to Tusla – Child and Family Agency. These mandated persons must also assist Tusla, on request, in its assessment of child protection concerns about children who have been the subject of a mandated report.
9.1.2 Who are Mandated Persons
Mandated persons are people who have contact with children and/or families and who, because of their qualifications, training and/or employment role, are in a key position to help protect children from harm.
9.1.3 Legal Obligations of Mandated Persons
Mandated persons have two main legal obligations under the Children First Act 2015. These are:
- To report the harm of children above a defined threshold to Tusla;
- To assist Tusla, if requested, in assessing a concern which has been the subject of a mandated report.
9.2.1 Criteria for Reporting
As a mandated person, under the legislation you are required to report any knowledge, belief or reasonable suspicion that a child has been harmed, is being harmed, or is at risk of being harmed. The Act defines harm as assault, ill-treatment, neglect or sexual abuse, and covers single and multiple instances. The threshold of harm for each category of abuse at which mandated persons have a legal obligation to report concerns is outlined below.
If you are in doubt about whether your concern reaches the legal definition of harm for making a mandated report, Tusla can provide advice in this regard. You can find details of who to contact to discuss your concern on the Tusla website (www.tusla.ie). If your concern does not reach the threshold for mandated reporting, but you feel it is a reasonable concern about the welfare or protection of a child, you should report it to Tusla under this Guidance.
Neglect is defined as ‘to deprive a child of adequate food, warmth, clothing, hygiene, supervision, safety or medical care’. The threshold of harm, at which you must report to Tusla under the Children First Act 2015, is reached when you know, believe or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child’s needs have been neglected, are being neglected, or are at risk of being neglected to the point where the child’s health, development or welfare have been or are being seriously affected, or are likely to be seriously affected.
Ill-treatment is defined as ‘to abandon or cruelly treat the child, or to cause or procure or allow the child to be abandoned or cruelly treated’. Emotional abuse is covered in the definition of ill-treatment used in the Children First Act 2015. The threshold of harm, at which you must report to Tusla under the Children First Act 2015, is reached when you know, believe or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been, is being, or is at risk of being ill-treated to the point where the child’s health, development or welfare have been or are being seriously affected, or are likely to be seriously affected.
Physical abuse is covered in the references to assault in the Children First Act 2015. The threshold of harm, at which you must report to Tusla under the Children First Act 2015, is reached when you know, believe or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been, is being, or is at risk of being assaulted and that as a result the child’s health, development or welfare have been or are being seriously affected, or are likely to be seriously affected.
If, as a mandated person, you know, believe or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been, is being, or is at risk of being sexually abused, then you must report this to Tusla under the Children First Act 2015. Sexual abuse to be reported under the Children First Act 2015 [as amended
by section 55 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017] is defined as an offence against the child, as listed in Schedule 3 of the Children First Act 2015. A full list of relevant offences against the child which are considered sexual abuse is set out in Appendix 3 of the Guidance.
As all sexual abuse falls within the category of seriously affecting a child’s health, welfare or development, you must submit all concerns about sexual abuse as a mandated report to Tusla. There is one exception, which deals with certain consensual sexual activity between teenagers, which is outlined on page 23 of the Guidance.
9.2.2 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 the Guidance.
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 the Guidance and legislation
9.2.3 Concerns Developed Outside of Professional Duties
The legal obligation to report under the Act applies only to information that you acquire in the course of your professional work or employment. It does not apply to information you acquire outside your work, or information given to you on the basis of a personal rather than a professional relationship. While the legal obligation to report only arises for employment or professional duties, you should comply with the requirement of this Guidance to report all reasonable concerns to Tusla.
Section 14 of the Children First Act 2015 requires mandated persons to report a mandated concern to Tusla ‘as soon as practicable’. You should submit a report of a mandated concern to Tusla using the required report form, on which you should indicate that you are a mandated person and that your report is about a mandated concern. You should include as much relevant information as possible in the report as this will aid effective and early intervention for the child and may reduce the likelihood of Tusla needing to contact you for further information. You can find the report form and contact details on the Tusla website (www.tusla.ie).
9.3.2 Informing the Family about the Report
The Children First Act 2015 does not require you to inform the family that a report under the legislation is being made to Tusla. However, it is good practice to tell the family that a report is being made and the reasons for the decision.
It is not necessary to inform the family that a report is being made if by doing so the child will be placed at further risk or where the family’s knowledge of the report could impair Tusla’s ability to carry out a risk assessment. Also, you do not need to inform the family if you reasonably believe that by doing so it may place you at risk of harm from the family.
9.3.3 Informing your Employer/Designated Liaison Person
As part of their child protection reporting procedures policy, Olympian Gymnastics requires mandated persons to inform the company’s Designated Liaison Person if a mandated report has been made and to provide a copy of the report.
9.4.1 Company Policies for Mandated Persons
Olympian Gymnastics requires all coaching staff of ages 18 years and over, who directly supervise, coach and monitor the welfare of children and young people in our clubs, to complete the E-Learning module called Introduction to Children First. After completion, they must send on a copy of the certificate to the Designated Liaison Person.
9.4.2 E-Learning Course and Children First Act
This e-learning module, covers recognising and reporting child abuse, the role of mandated persons, including mandated assisting, and the responsibilities of organisations working with children to safeguard children using their services. Information on how you can access the e-learning module can be found on the Tusla website (www.tusla.ie).
The full text of the Children First Act 2015 can be found here: http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2015/a3615.pdf
The complete document of the Children First National Guidance can be found here: http://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content/Children_First_National_Guidance_2017.pdf