Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Of Safeguarding in Northern Ireland Schools

It’s all happening in the world of safeguarding in Northern Ireland at the moment. We’ve seen important new legislation such as the Special Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (SEND Act). This places new duties on Boards of Governors, the Education Authority and health and social services authorities when dealing with those with special needs. Secondary legislation and a code of practice are expected soon.

Two new documents have produced welcome clarification and additions recently too. These are “Co-operating to Safeguard Children 2016” and “Safeguarding and Child Protection in Schools – A Guide for Schools”. The former document provides the overarching policy framework for safeguarding children and young people in the statutory, private, independent, community, voluntary and faith sectors. The latter publication provides wide ranging guidance on safeguarding and child protection within the school environment. It is relevant to Board of Governors, Principals and all staff including paid and unpaid, non teaching staff and volunteers.

Significantly the two documents set out an additional type of child abuse that of Exploitation This is defined as :

the intentional ill-treatment, manipulation or abuse of power and control over a child or young person; to take selfish or unfair advantage of a child or young person or situation, for personal gain. It may manifest itself in many forms such as child labour, slavery, servitude, engagement in criminal activity, begging, benefit or other financial fraud or child trafficking. It extends to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation can be sexual in nature”.

Whilst many of the activities now captured by this new definition would have fallen under one or more of the previous four abuse categories this development is to be welcomed. 

Legal-Island’s own e-learning module on Safeguarding in Northern Ireland Schools is now by far the most popular online resource tool in the area of child protection here and regarded by many as one of the most important developments in training in this critical area for a very long time.

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