Guidelines & Procedures in respect of Branch

Involvement with Children and Vulnerable Adults

Note: A child or young person is defined as any person under 18 years.


COMHALTAS CEOLTÓIRÍ ÉIREANN fully recognises its responsibilities for Child

Protection. Our policy applies to all staff, branch members, volunteers, teachers, etc

(hereinafter ALL refered to as “members”) working with the organisation.

COMHALTAS is an international organisation with many years experience in

passing on our cultural traditions to younger generations through music, song, dance

and the Irish language.

As a COMHALTAS member, staff or volunteer it is important to undersand that you

are in a position of responsibility, authority and trust with respect to the young people

you may work with or come in contact with in the course of Comhaltas related


The welfare of children and young people with whom Comhaltas works,their health

and well being and their best interests are considered paramount.

Comhaltas members are required to adhere to the Policy, Procedures and Code of

Practice in the exercise of their duties.

This document is written to ensure that working with Comhaltas in whatever capacity

will be a safe and enjoyable experience for all involved.


The health, safety and well being of all our children and young people are

of paramount importance to all the workers and volunteers who are a part

of Comhaltas. Our children have the right to protection, regardless of age,

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gender, race, culture or disability. They have a right to be safe in all our


In our activities we value our children and young people. A culture of

mutual respect between children and those who represent the organisation

in all its activities will be encouraged with adults modelling good practice in

this context.

Comhaltas recognises that good child protection policies and procedures

are of benefit to everyone involved with our work, including staff, branch

officers, members and volunteers, as these policies can help protect them

from erroneous or malicious allegations.


This policy ensures that staff, branch members and volunteers are clear about

the actions necessary with regard to child protection issues.

Its aims are :-

To raise the awareness of all – staff, branch members and volunteers and to

identify responsibility in reporting possible cases of abuse.

To ensure effective communication between staff, branch members and

volunteers when dealing with child protection issues.

To lay down the correct procedures for those who encounter an issue of

child protection.


Under The Child Care Act of 1991 and Children First – National Guidelines for

the Protection and Welfare of Children -1999, 2009,2011 voluntary sector

organisations such as ours have a statutory duty of care for the children and young

people to whom we provide services.

The principle, which should inform best practice in child protection, is that the welfare

of the child is of paramount importance.

“All organisations, whether statutory or voluntary, have an overall corporate

responsibility to safeguard children, and should pay particular attention to

Safe and clearly defined methods of selecting staff and volunteers

Developing effective procedures for the reporting and management of child

protection concerns

Identifying a designated staff member/volunteer to act as a liaison with outside

agencies and as a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has

child protection concerns. The designated person will be responsible for

reporting allegations or suspicions of child abuse to the HSE (Health Service

Executive) and/or An Garda Síochána.

(Children First – National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children –

1999 & 2009)

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This policy document applies to all Comhaltas activities in Ireland, Northern Ireland,

Britain, North America and elsewhere. They have been designed to work within

current guidelines to meet the legislative requirements of each country. Should any

conflict arise between any of our policies and procedures and the laws of individual

countries then the relevant law will take precedence. We will endeavour to ensure

that our policy documents are updated appropriately to reflect future changes in the



To adopt a Policy and Code Of Practice on safeguarding the welfare of


To plan the work of the Organisation so as to eliminate situations where the

abuse of a child may occur

To apply agreed procedures for protecting children to all members and


To use supervision as a means of protecting children

To ensure that staff, branch members and volunteers are aware of this Policy,

Code Of Practice and Child Protection procedures to be followed


A Designated Liaison Person will be nominated by each Comhaltas Branch each

year. The D.L.P has the responsibility for managing child protection issues within the

branch. The role and responsibilities of the DLP are:

To implement and promote the unit’s Child Protection Policy and Procedures.

To act as the main contact for child protection within the branch.

To provide information and advice on child protection for the branch


To create awareness of the importance of child protection.

To communicate with members on child protection issues.

To keep abreast of developments and understand the most recent information

on related issues – data protection, confidentiality, legal and other, that impact

on child protection.

To encourage good practice and support of the procedures involved.

To maintain confidential records of reported cases and the action taken and to

liaise with the statutory agencies and ensure that they have access to all

necessary information.

To regularly monitor and review the branch Policy and Procedures


1. We establish a safe environment in which Children can learn, perform

and develop

a. We create an environment where children feel secure, are encouraged

to communicate and are listened to.

b. We ensure children know that there are adults in Comhaltas whom they

can approach if they have concerns.

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c. We ensure that adult members of Comhaltas, and other adults working

with Comhaltas, possess an understanding of the responsibility placed

on the organisation for child protection by stating its obligation in this


2. We raise awareness of the child protection issues among members and


a. We ensure every member in contact with children is aware of this

Policy and Procedures/guidelines and are aware of their inherent


b. We raise awareness of the Child Protection Policy with all members,

parents, tutors and supervisors.

3. We practise safe recruitment and check the suitability of staff/teachers.

a. We recognise the importance of checking the background of teachers

(music, singing, dancing, etc) and others before they are given

responsibility to work with children. Comhaltas , as a voluntary

organisation, has registered with the GCVU, An Garda Síochána

Central Vetting Unit. Current best practice requires that all adults

working with children in Éire receive garda vetting. (Please check

requirements in Northern Ireland, Britain, North America, etc)

4. We implement Procedures in respect of suspect, alleged or confirmed

cases of abuse

a. We recognise that members may in some instances have cause for

concern. Should the latter occur guidance should be sought from the

DLP and liaise with statutory agencies, namely the HSE (Health

Service Executive) and An Garda Síochána. Please refer to the

relevant officers in other juristictions – Northern Ireland,Britain, North

America etc.

b. We will maintain effective links with the relevant agencies and cooperate

with any enquiry regarding child protection matters.

c. We will follow child protection procedures where an allegation is made

against a member/volunteer. (Refer to “Children First National

Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children” (1999 & 2009) –

Government Publications.

Please refer to child protection guidelines in Northern Ireland, Britain,

North America, etc.

Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998

This act was passed on 23rd Jan 1999. The main provisions of the act are:

The provision of immunity from civil liabliity to any person who reports child

abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to designated officers of the HSE or An

Garda Síochána.

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The creation of a new offence of false reporting of child abuse where a person

makes a report “knowing that statement to be false”

“ A person shall not be liable in damages in respect of the communication,

whether in writing or otherwise, by him or her to an appropriate person of his

or her opinion that

1. A child has been or is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or

sexually abused, or

2. A child’s health, development or welfare has been or is being

avoidably impaired or neglected, unless it is proved that he or she

has not acted reasonably and in good faith in forming that opinion

and communicating it to the appropriate person”

3. Unless it is proved that he or she has not acted reasonably and in

good faith in forming that opinion and communicating it to the

appropriate person”


1. If a member of Comhaltas receives an allegation, or has a suspicion that a

child is being abused, he or she must, in the first instance, consult with the

branch DLP.

2. It is important that the suspicions or allegations are recorded by the DLP.

3. In cases where an allegation is made, the DLP must report the matter

immediately to the relevant authorities, ie. to the designated officer in the HSE

or to An Garda Síochána.

4. It is essential that at all times the matter is treated in a confidential manner.

5. It is NOT the responsibility of the DLP or any other person to find a resolution

or discuss the matter with anyone else except the approporiate agencies.

6. All advice proferred by the HSE and An Garda Síochána should be strictly

adhered to.

7. From this point on, only the Statutory Authorities should deal with the matter.


The following guidance includes a variety of contexts in which Comhaltas members

carry out their activities:

The Code Of Practice is to safeguard the welfare of the young children in our charge

and to ensure that safe and sensible steps will continue to be taken to ensure the

safe practice and environment for young people, staff, branch members and

volunteers alike.

1. Branch Classes / Activities

a. All Branches should be responsible for the appointment of teachers /


b. Ensure that TWO Branch adults, preferably one male and one female,

or an adult tutor and one other adult arrive together to open the venue.

c. Arrange seating appropriately for both tutor and pupil with respect to

physical proximity.

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d. Where a tutor is dealing with an individual pupil, ensure another adult,

preferably a Branch adult is in close vicinity.

e. It is necessary for a tutor to report inappropriate behaviour to a Branch

adult and to the DLP

f. Trust your intuition if a pupil in acting inappropriately and take action, ie

share concerns with the DLP and implement measures to reduce risk.

g. Use verbal affirmation to praise rather than physical touch.

h. Never use physical forms of discipline.

i. Tutors and parents should be made aware of class timetable.

j. Ensure that after class all children are collected promptly and TWO

Branch adults, preferably one male and one female or a tutor and one

other adult are present to lock up the venue.

k. Drop off and collection times should be strictly adhered to.

l. There should be adequate supervision of young people while they are

waiting for class.

m. A class register and incident book should be kept.

(Record details of any incident occuring – date, time, place and summary

of the incident pertaining to children’s welfare)

2. Transport

a. Ensure that two adults, preferably one male and one female, travel in

the car when only one child is being transported.

b. When transporting young persons seat them in the back seat,

c. Only carry the appropriate number vis a vis seat belts.

d. Journey duration should be reported to another adult.

e. A parental consent proforma should be completed regarding trips /


3. Insurance

Comhaltas Insurance Policy provides cover for all Branch Activities.

While Comhaltas has an Insurance Policy the following rules must be

adhered to:

a. Ensure adults are first to arrive at the venue.

b. Ensure classes are supervised if or when the tutor has to leave the


c. Ensure that all pupils have been collected prior to the adults leaving the


d. Pupils must be supervised at all times.

e. Ensure the venues are safe from all / any potential hazards.

4. Photography: Authorisation.

Child protection issues and sensitivity towards identity theft have presented

challenges to all those involved with recording images of people for promotional

purposes. In the same way that video and audio recordings require authorisation and

permissions at competitions, it is also important to follow the proper procedures in

photographing young persons.

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A model release form is available in the downloads section of the Press room


The subjects of any photographs must be informed that their picture has been

taken and may be used for promotional purposes by Comhaltas. Ideally, if

under 18 years, it is preferable that subjects’ parents or their guardians sign

approval on the official form.

All Comhaltas personnel, tutors and all other volunteers working with children will be

provided with a copy of this policy to raise awareness of child protection and to

provide as much information as possible.

Comhaltas will review this policy at regular intervals and will provide effective

management and training for all personnel.

Policy Amended Nov 2010

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Appendix 1: Definitions of abuse

There are four main categories of abuse as outlined in Children First: National

Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. The following is a synopsis

ofthe information contained in that document. For the full definitions please refer to

Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children 1993


1. Neglect

“Neglect can be defined as being where the 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, medical care….The threshold of significant harm is reached when

the child’s needs are neglected to the extent that his or her well-being and/or

development are severely affected.” (Children First p.31)

2. Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse usually happens where there is a relationship between a carer and

a child rather than as a specific incident or incidents.

“Unless other forms of abuse are present, it is rarely manifested in terms of physical

signs or symptoms.” (Children First p.31)

Rather, it can manifest in the child’s behaviour or physical functioning. Examples of

these include ‘anxious’ attachment, unhappiness, low self-esteem, educational and

developmental underachievement and uncooperative or hostile behaviour.

“The threshold of significant harm is reached when interaction is predominantly

abusive and become typical of the relationship between the child and the parent/

carer.” (Children First p.32)

Examples of emotional abuse in children include:

• Imposition of negative attributes on children, expressed by persistent criticism,

sarcasm, hostility or blaming;

• Emotional unavailability by the child’s parent/carer;

• Unresponsiveness, inconsistent or inappropriate expectations of the child;

• Premature imposition of responsibility on the child;

• Unrealistic or inappropriate expectations of the child’s capacity to understand

something or to behave and control him/herself in a certain way;

• Under or over-protection of the child;

• Use of unreasonably harsh discipline;

• Exposure to domestic violence.

3. Physical abuse

Physical abuse is any form of non-accidental injury or injury which results from wilful

or neglectful failure to protect a child.

Examples of physical injury include the following:

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• Shaking;

• Use of excessive force in handling;

• Deliberate poisoning;

• Suffocation;

• Allowing or creating a substantial risk of significant physical harm to a child.

4. Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse involves the use of a child for gratification or sexual arousal by a

person for themselves or others.

Examples of sexual abuse 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 the child or involvement of the child in an

act of masturbation;

• Sexual intercourse with a child whether oral, vaginal or anal;

• Sexual exploitation of a child… may also include showing sexually explicit

material to children which is often a feature of the ‘grooming’ process by

perpetrators of abuse;

• Consensual sexual activity involving an adult and an under-age person.