Best practice in safeguarding children requires a multiagency approach that allows for exchange of information proportionate to the risk, and in line with relevant legislation. The statutory authorities are Tusla and An Garda Síochána in the Republic of Ireland.
1. On an individual case-by-case basis, the Bishop will liaise with the statutory authority agencies to notify them of allegations, and to consider with them the appropriate actions to take in terms of notifying the respondent and of managing risk. No action by the Bishop will be taken that may interfere with any criminal or statutory inquiries being conducted by state agencies.
2. Notification of an allegation will be made in writing using the appropriate form (See S4.34). All fields will be completed, and if the information is not known this should be stated.
3. A copy of this form will be forwarded to the statutory authorities and, if it relates to Clerics/ Religious, to the NBSCCCI, and a copy retained on the case file.
4. Any contacts and/or meetings with statutory authority agencies will be recorded in writing and a copy kept securely in the respondent case file.
5. Prior to informing the respondent that an allegation has been made, there should be a discussion with An Garda Síochána, whose view on informing the respondent should be sought. The purpose is to ensure that the Bishop is not prejudicing any criminal investigation.
6. Prior to proceeding with the preliminary investigation in the case of clergy, or collecting the proofs in the case of a religious, written confirmation should be received from the statutory authorities, stating that their investigations have concluded (See S2.28).
It is acknowledged that the inter-agency review committees envisaged in the report of the Ferns Inquiry (3) cannot be instituted in the Republic of Ireland due to legal difficulties.However, at least on an annual basis, the Bishop, An Garda Síochána and Tusla should liaise to discuss general matters relating to safeguarding.
The rationale behind such meetings is explained in Children First, where the benefits of inter-agency cooperation and exchange of information in relation to child protection and welfare are explained and encouraged, and in which joint working is considered to extend across the planning, management, provision and delivery of child safeguarding services.
These general meetings will include:
- an update by the Bishop on all allegations notified during the previous year;
- sharing information on the management of respondents;
- strengthening the working relationships between the three organisations.
The meetings will be recorded and the minutes circulated to all participating agencies. Any reference to individual cases will be anonymised or recorded separately and retained on the case management record (2.11 – Case management records; S4.35,S4.36,S4.37,S4.38).
Contact details for the relevant social work office, central Gardaí office and the DLP are displayed in areas where there is public ministry. This information sets out how to raise a concern about a child or make an allegation of child abuse. A summary of these contacts is contained in Appendix 2.
3 Ferns Report, 2005, p. 265.