Equality Office

Child Protection Framework

Child Protection Framework


Whilst DCU owes a duty of care to all its students, it also has a particular responsibility to safeguard;

the welfare of any individual under the age of 18 who under Irish law (Child Care Act 1991) is determined as being a child, excluding a person who is married or who has been married. 

DCU acknowledges that this responsibility applies whether the child is a student of the university or is otherwise under the care or supervision of university staff.

Best Practice in Child Protection
In our work with children/young people DCU shall always be guided by the principle of paramountancy which requires that:

  • the welfare of the child should be the paramount consideration

(Children First; Principles for Best Practice in Child Protection; 1.9)

Children may be present on the university premises or under the supervision or direction of University staff in a wide number of circumstances including for example.

  • University students under the age of 18
  • Attending Summer programmes
  • Work experience placements or temporary employees
  • Staying in Campus residences during the summer letting period
  • Attending open days
  • As visitors for any reason
  • Attending summer camps

Children may be accompanied by a responsible adult e.g. a teacher or parent, but in other circumstances they may also be unaccompanied.

Aims of the Guidelines

The aim of these guidelines is to promote best practice in child protection within the University, and to set out a procedural framework to ensure that:

  • The university protects children under its care or supervision
  • University staff are equipped to make informed and confident responses to specific child protection issues
  • University management are equipped to make appropriate decisions in the event of specific child protection concerns arising

Duties of the University

The University must ensure:

  • Allegations made or concerns reported by children or others to university staff are dealt with appropriately by the institution
  • All staff, students and volunteers who work with children are subject to an agreed recruitment and selection procedure which includes an application process, the furnishing of references, where appropriate the use of Garda vetting and an interview process.
  • That investigations into reported concerns or allegations are carried out in a proper and timely manner
  • An Garda Síochána , the Health Services Executive and other relevant statutory agencies are kept informed where necessary of any allegations or concerns that relate to children or vulnerable adults.

Staff and students have a responsibility at all times to:

  • Refrain from any inappropriate behaviour towards children or vulnerable adults
  • Avoid situations which could give rise to allegations of abuse
  • Report bullying of children or vulnerable people
  • Report disclosures, suspicions or concerns of abuse that relate to children or vulnerable adults.

Any person working on behalf of  DCU found to have committed any act of abuse towards a child or vulnerable person will be subject to DCU’s disciplinary proceedings and that person may also be subject of criminal proceedings.  Information on the DCU disciplinary process can be found at: http://www.dcu.ie/info/policies/contents.php

In addition any person working on behalf of  DCU and  found by the University to have inappropriate images of children (or inappropriate verbal or electronic communications with children) will be subject to disciplinary proceedings and the University will inform the appropriate authorities.

Types of Abuse

Child abuse is generally categorized as: Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Neglect.  A child may be subjected to one or more forms of abuse at any given time.  Children First (the National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children) adopted the following definitions of abuse:

  • Physical Abuse – Physical abuse is any form of non-accidental

injury that causes significant harm to a child,
This may include hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, suffocating.  It may also include munchausen’s syndrome by proxy
(where parents fabricate stories of illness about their child or cause physical illness) or 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.

  • Emotional Abuse – is normally to be found in the relationship between a caregiver and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s needs for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. It is rarely manifested in terms of physical symptoms.

This may include persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming; Conditional parenting; Emotional unavailability by the child’s parents/carer; Unresponsiveness, inconsistent or inappropriate expectations of a child; Premature imposition of responsibility on a child; Unrealistic or inappropriate expectations of a child’s capacity to understand something or to behave and control himself in a certain way; Under or over protection of a child;
Failure to show interest in, or provide age appropriate opportunities for a child’s cognitive and emotional development; Use of unreasonable or over harsh disciplinary measures; Exposure to domestic violence

  • Sexual Abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his/her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others.

This may include 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 a child, whether oral, vaginal or anal; Sexual exploitation of a child

In Ireland, criminal law as enacted in 2006 states that it is an offence to engage in a sexual act, or attempt to engage in a sexual act with a child under the age of 17 yrs.

  • Neglect - Neglect can normally be 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. Harm can be defined as the ill treatment or the impairment of the health or development of a child. Whether it is significant is determined by his/her health and development as compared to that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child.

Neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over a period of time rather than at one specific point. Neglect may include persistently being left alone without adequate care and supervision; Malnourishment, lacking food; Persistent failure to attend school thus depriving the child of intellectual stimulation; Failure to provide adequate care for a child’s medical problems; Exploitation and/or overworking of a child.

Concerns that a child has been harmed (or is at risk or being harmed) must be reported to the Child Protection Coordinator.

Child Protection Coordinator (CPC)

The university will appoint a child protection coordinator (CPC) to act as a liaison with outside agencies. The CPC will act as a resource to any member of the University who has child protection queries or concerns.  The CPC will also be responsible for reporting suspicions or allegations of child abuse to the An Garda Síochána or the Health Service Executive as appropriate.

Where the CPC is unavailable or unable to act for whatever reason, the university shall nominate a Deputy CPC.

For DCU the CPC will be the Equality Director and the Deputy CPC will be the Senior Disability Officer.

There are a number of areas of responsibility throughout DCU where in our work with children a local point of contact may be warranted in order to address any issues that may arise in as quickly a manner as possible. Should any unit or department within the university feel it necessary to have a local child protection contact person in place they should ensure that this is reflected in their local policies and procedures. Although the contact person can provide immediate support to those with queries all incidents must be reported through the CPC.

The CPC and Deputy CPC along with any locally appointed contact person must familiarize themselves with the key legislative provisions, with appropriate guidelines and key publications referred to in Appendix 2

Reporting Incidents

The CPC shall report any reasonable suspicion or allegation of child abuse by a member of the university to the An Garda Síochána or the HSE as appropriate and to the College President and the appropriate university office. The appropriate university office being:

  • Where the incident involves a student the University Secretary must be informed
  • Where the incident involves a staff member the Director of HR must be informed.
  • In the case of someone other than a member of the university community the head of the area of the university within which the incident occurred must be informed.
  • Where a DCU staff member is working off campus and identifies potential child abuse or mistreatment they should advise the CPC or equivalent and appropriate child protection personnel in that institution or place of work.

The CPC shall ensure that any response made by a member of the University against whom an allegation has been made shall be passed to the HSE when submitting the formal notification report. It is recommended that all reports made by the CPC to the HSE should include as much as possible of the information sought in the standard reporting form as outlined in Appendix 1

In cases of an emergency, where it is believed that a child is at serious and imminent risk, and it is not possible to make contact with the HSE, An Garda Síochána must be contacted.

The CPC should inform the child’s family if a report is likely to be submitted to the HSE, unless doing so is likely to endanger the child. A decision not to inform a parent/guardian shall be briefly recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.  If, for any reason, it is not possible to inform the child’s family the CPC should discuss with the HSE what action will be taken.

The CPC when making a report to the HSE in good faith is protected by law. The law does not require proof that the abuse in fact happened, only that there are reasonable ground for concern that the abuse has occurred.

  1. Children First available from http://www.dohc.ie/publications/children_first.html
  2. Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abvuse1998 provides for immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to designated officers of health boards* or any member of an Garda Síochána. The Act provides significant protections for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to and including dismissal

Basis for reporting alleged or suspected child abuse

The HSE must be informed when there are reasonable grounds for concern that a child may have been abused, is being abused, or is at risk of abuse.
The following examples would constitute reasonable grounds for concern:

  • Specific indication or disclosure from the child that (s) he was abused.
  • An account by a person who may have witnessed abuse taking place.
  • Under-age pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection
  • Attempted suicide
  • Someone else (a parent, friend, co-worker) may disclose that a young person has told them they are being abused, or may have witnessed the abuse themselves
  • Evidence, such as injury or behaviour which is consistent with abuse and unlikely to be caused another way.
  • There may be consistent indication, over a period of time, that a young person is suffering from emotional or physical neglect
  • An injury or behaviour that is consistent both with abuse and with an innocent explanation but where there are corroborative indicators supporting the concern that it may be a case of abuse. An example of this would be a pattern of injuries, and implausible explanations as to the cause of the injuries/injury.
  • other indicators of abuse, a dysfunctional behaviour.
  • Consistent indication, over a period of time that a child is suffering from emotional or physical neglect.


All child protection policies operate within strict codes of confidentiality. Confidentiality is about managing sensitive information that arises in a trusting relationship and doing so in a manner that is respectful, professional and purposeful. In matters of child abuse college personnel should never promise to keep secret any information which is divulged to them. The requirement to report to the HSE must be explained in a supportive manner to the child.

All information should be shared only on a need to know basis. This information should never be the subject of conversation between any other persons in the college unless they are directly involved. In the case of some campus units the local child protection representative, where appropriate, may be a recipient of this information. Providing information to the CPC, HSE, or An Garda Síochána will not be seen as a breach of confidentiality

  1. any member of an Garda Síochána. The Act provides significant protections for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discriminadstion up to and including dismissal

Record keeping

When child abuse is suspected, it is most important to record the details of the allegation or reported incidents, regardless of whether or not a referral is subsequently made to the statutory authorities. The CPC shall ensure that proper records, dated and signed are retained. All records are highly confidential and are kept securely by the CPC. Details of allegations or actual incidents of abuse must be recorded. Appendix 1 contains the standard form for reporting Child Protection and/or Welfare Concerns to the HSE. However the CPC is required to record information for the University records as follows:

  • The date and time of disclosure, allegation or actual abuse incident
  • An indication of the parties involved (including third parties) including names and addresses
  • Details of what action the University has taken
  • The report from the member of the university who received the information or has concerns
  • Any suspicions consequent on the information and the factual grounds for such suspicions
  • Decisions not to inform or to inform a parent/guardian together with the reason
  • The response of the parents/guardians to the reported allegation
  • Details (dates, times, people, place) of any subsequent meetings and communications of interested parties
  • Decision re referral (or not) to the HSE, or An Garda Síochána, including how, why, when and by whom the decision was taken.

Best Practice for University Staff engaged in Activities involving children

All staff members who work with children and young people must familiarise themselves with the CPG and sign an Acceptance of the DCU’s CPG form Appendix 3. The faculty/staff member should return the form to their Head of Department/ Unit or line manager for retention on file.

Students who work with children and young people must be made aware of the university’s CPG by their academic supervisor or in the case of campus companies and research centers, their line managers and must sign an acceptance of DCU’s guidelines form. The student should return the completed form to their Faculty office or the Head of unit.

Students on placement in schools, colleges or with any other bodies providing services to children must comply with the Child Protection Guidelines/ Policies of those bodies.

At all times Members of the university community must ensure that they:

  • Always work in an open environment (i.e. avoiding private or unobserved situations).
  • Avoid being alone with a child;
  • Treat all children equally , and with respect and dignity;
  • Demonstrate exemplary behaviour in the presence of children;
  • Provide a safe, appropriately monitored environment for any children visiting campus;
  • Adopt the safest possible practices to minimise the possibility of harm or accidents happening to children;
  • Give enthusiastic and constructive feedback instead of negative criticism;
  • Never use physical punishment;
  • Always refer child abuse, welfare and safety issues to the CPC. If a member of the university is inhibited for any reason in reporting the incident internally to the CPC or where they are dissatisfied with the response, they should contact the HSE or An Garda Síochána.

Best practice for Staff undertaking research involving children

Research involving children must be approved the University’s Research Ethics Committee prior to the commencement of the work. The research must comply with the points highlighted in section 9 above. In addition they must also ensure that:

  • Informed consent is obtained from the parents/guardians of children under 18
  • Informed assent must also be obtained from the children themselves. Children need to be informed in appropriate language so that they understand the purpose of the research for which they have agreed to participate;
  • The effect of the research on the child must be monitored to ensure that they feel comfortable with continuing with the research.
  • In addition to the child one other person should be present during the research. There may be rare occasions when a confidential interview or a one-to-one meeting is necessary and in such circumstances, the interview should be conducted in a room with an open door or visual access.

Further information is available on the DCU Research Ethics Committee website: www.dcu.ie/rss/research_ethics.shtml

Dealing with allegations of child abuse

If an allegation is made against a member of the university, all action will be guided by the rules of natural justice, and the procedural and contractual arrangements in force at that time. The most important consideration to be taken into account by the CPC and the university is the protection of children and their safety and wellbeing must be a priority. However, because of the involvement of a member of the university, the university and CPC have duties in respect of them as well. Members of the university may be subject to erroneous or malicious allegations. Therefore any allegation of abuse must be dealt with sensitively and the member of the university community treated fairly. This includes the right not to be judged in advance of a full and fair enquiry.

In a situation where a claim is brought against a staff member the Director of HR will make every reasonable effort to advise the person against whom an allegation of child abuse has been made of the following

  • The fact that an allegation has been made against him/her
  • The available details of the nature of the allegation
  • Provide the member of staff with an opportunity to respond in writing to the allegation
  • The member of staff will be advised that the written response may also be passed on to the HSE if it is determined that reasonable grounds exist.

In a situation where a claim is brought against a student the University Secretary will be the university officer charged with advising the student as per above.

Following an allegation against a member of the university community, which is deemed to have substance, any next steps should be made in consultation between the relevant university officer, the HSE and if appropriate An Garda Síochána.

It should also be noted that when an allegation is being pursued the university will also pursue an internal enquiry in line with staff and student policies such as the Policy to promote respect and to protect dignity.

In our work with children/young people DCU shall always be guided by the principle of paramountancy which requires that the welfare of the child should be the paramount consideration

Associated organisations

The university provides these guidelines which are intended for use by all members of the university community. There are a number of associated organisations on campus providing facilities and services to children in the course of their business and it is essential that they adopt appropriate procedures to ensure that they are complying with the CPG. It may be appropriate to have a child protection advisor nominated and named in all local policies which aim to ensure that they are protecting and safeguarding the best interests of children and young people.

Communication of Child Protection Guidelines to university members

New employees of the university will be informed of these guidelines as part of the DCU staff induction process. Employees of associated organisations such as campus companies and research centers will be advised of these guidelines during locally arranged induction process. Students shall be informed of these guidelines during orientation week. All other DCU personnel shall be informed as to the contents of these guidelines.

Appendix 1

Standard form for Reporting Child Protection Concerns

Appendix 2

Key Publications

The following legislative provisions and key publications were taken into account when developing this Code of Practice:

  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005
  • The Child Care Act, 1991
  • Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998
  • Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection of Children (1999) Department of Health and Children
  • Our Duty to Care: The principles of good practice for the protection of Children and Young People (2004) Department of Health and Children
  • Child Protection Guidelines for Post-Primary Schools (2001) Department of Education and Science
  • Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (2001) Department of Education and Science
  • DCU Framework Safety Statement http://www.dcu.ie/safety/pdfs/safety_statment.pdf

Appendix 3

Acceptance of the Dublin City University Child Protection Guidelines