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1.0 “Protecting  People”  -   Summary of Policy 

Crosscare aims to create a safe and healthy environment for our staff, volunteers and service users. We are committed at all times to ensuring the safety and welfare of everyone who comes in contact with our organisation.

To this end we have developed this policy “Protecting our people” which primarily focuses on the protection of children and vulnerable adults in our services but also has a broader remit for the whole of our organisation

We have drawn on many sources in the preparation of this policy. However, it is first and foremost in line with the Governments policy “Children First – National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children” and secondly,  the Church’s own  policy “Safeguarding Children; the Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland 2009”.

Crosscare’s ethos is based on the principle that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Our four core values of Respect, Human Rights, Integrity and Excellence are cornerstones around which our policy has been developed.

1.1  Staff Conduct

Work practice guidelines ensure safety for those working in and those in contact with our services. There are a number of behaviours expected of staff and volunteers to ensure this is the case:

Violent or aggressive behaviour and physical punishment is not permissible under any circumstances.

Verbal abuse of people in contact with our services or telling jokes of a sexual nature in the presence of service users can never be acceptable. 

Great care should be taken if it is necessary to have a conversation regarding sexual matters with a service user.

Being alone with a child or young person may not always be wise or appropriate practice.  If a situation arises where it is necessary to be alone with a child, another staff member should be informed immediately, by telephone if necessary.  A diary note that the meeting with the young person took place, including the reasons for it, should be made.

Best practice in relation to travel with children and young people should be observed.  Staff should not undertake any car or minibus journey alone with a child or young person.  If, in certain circumstances, only one adult is available, and it is necessary to make a journey alone with a child or young person, a record of this should be made and the child’s parent or guardian should be informed.

Children and young people should not be permitted to work or remain in Crosscare Centres, unless there are at least two adults present.

All service users must be treated with equal respect; favouritism is not acceptable.

Personnel should not engage in or tolerate any behaviour – verbal, psychological or physical – that could be construed as bullying or abusive.

A disproportionate amount of time should not be spent with any particular service user.

Crosscare personnel should never

  • give drugs to service users.
  • take alcohol or drugs when supervising children, young people or service users
  • give alcohol or tobacco anyone under the age of 18
  • take tobacco when supervising anyone under the age of 18

Only age-appropriate language, material on media products (such as camera phones, internet, and video) and activities should be used when working with children and young people.  Sexually explicit or pornographic material is never acceptable.

1.2 Physical Integrity

The physical integrity of service users must be respected at all times.

Personnel must not engage in inappropriate physical contact of any kind – including tough physical play, physical reprimand and horseplay (tickling, wrestling).  This should not prevent appropriate contact in situations where it is necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of a service user (for example, where an individual is distressed).

1.3 Privacy

The right to privacy of service users children and young people must be respected at all times.

Particular care regarding privacy must be taken when young people are in locations such as changing areas, swimming pools, showers and toilets.

Photographs of service users, children or young people must never be taken while they are in changing areas (for example, in a locker room or bathing facility).

Tasks of a personal nature (for example, helping with toileting, washing or changing clothing) should not be done for service users if they can undertake these tasks themselves.

1.4 Meetings with under 18’s

If working with a child or young person alone is unavoidable such meetings should not be held in an isolated environment.  The times and designated locations for meetings should allow for transparency and accountability (for example, be held in rooms with a clear glass panel or window, in buildings where other people are present, and with the door of the room left open).

Both the length and number of meetings should be limited.

Parents or guardians should be informed that the meeting(s) took place, except in circumstances where to do so might place the child in danger.

Any visits by under 18’s to the home of staff and volunteers are not allowed.

When the need for a visit to the home of a child or young person arises, professional boundaries must be observed at all times.

1.5 Special Needs

Service Users with special needs or disability may depend on adults more than others for their care and safety, and so sensitivity and clear communication are particularly important.

Where it is necessary to carry out tasks of a personal nature for service user with special needs, this should be done with the full understanding and consent of the individual, parents or guardians.

In carrying out such personal care tasks, sensitivity must be shown to the service user and the tasks should be undertaken with the utmost discretion.

Any care task of a personal nature which service user can do for themselves should not be undertaken by a worker.

In an emergency situation where this type of help is required, parents should be fully informed as soon as is reasonably possible.

1.6 Trips away from Home for Under 18s

Trips, overnight stays and holidays, need careful advance planning, including adequate provision for safety in regard to transport, facilities, activities and emergencies.  Adequate insurance should be in place.

Written consent by a parent or guardian specifically for each trip and related activities must be obtained well in advance.

A copy of the itinerary and contact telephone numbers should be made available to parents and guardians.

There must be adequate, gender-appropriate, supervision for boys and girls.

Arrangements and procedures must be put in place to ensure that rules and appropriate boundaries are maintained in the relaxed environment of trips away.

Particular attention should be given to ensuring that the privacy of young people is respected when they are away on trips.

The provision of appropriate and adequate sleeping arrangements should be ensured in advance of the trip.

Sleeping areas for boys and girls should be separate and supervised by two adults of the same sex as the group being supervised where possible.

If, in an emergency situation, an adult considers it necessary to be in a children’s dormitory or bedroom without another adult being present they should (a) immediately inform another adult in a position of responsibility and (b) make a diary note of the circumstances.

2.0  Recruitment

 ‘Safe practice starts with safe recruitment procedures’.  Most people who apply to work with children, young people and vulnerable adults in organisations such as Crosscare are well-motivated and potentially suitable for the various tasks involved.  It is most important, however, that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that this is, in fact, the case.  As well as enhancing the prospects of identifying the best person for the post, rigorous recruitment procedures can act as a deterrent to unsuitable applicants.

 Information relating to the recruitment process in Crosscare is available in the Crosscare Staff handbook.

2.1 Crosscare and Garda  Vetting                                                            

Crosscare is committed to the protection and welfare of children & vulnerable adults in our care.  As part of our overall Child and Vulnerable Adults Protection strategy, Crosscare are committed to best practice in recruitment and selection procedures, which include Garda  vetting.  Therefore, every new & existing staff member, volunteer and / or student must undergo Garda  vetting. 

All posts within Crosscare will be subject to Garda  vetting.  Due to lengthy processing timelines (of up to 8 weeks) by the Garda  Vetting Unit, some applicants may be allowed commence their new posts prior to applications being returned.  It will be made clear that their offer of employment is subject to clearance and any concerns that may arise from the Garda  vetting checks will be addressed with the individual through the approved Review Meeting process.  For some posts however (e.g. those working with under 18s), employees will not be allowed to commence employment with Crosscare until the Garda Vetting process is complete.

All records returned from the Garda Vetting Unit will be kept securely and confidentially in staff personnel file. 

In accordance with best practice, this process will be completed for each staff member approximately every five years. 

Certain convictions or prosecutions of a serious nature, e.g. gross bodily harm, any sexual offence including child pornography, child abuse or a series of offences that might cause concern for the well being of children or vulnerable adults may automatically exclude an individual from working with children or vulnerable adults.

Further information relating to Garda Vetting is held in the appendices to this document.

3.0 Child and Vulnerable Adults Protection Officer (CVAP officer) 

As part of our policy, Crosscare is committed to nominating a Child and Vulnerable Adults Protection Officer as a point of reference for child and vulnerable adults protection issues.

3.1 The responsibilities of the CVAP  Officer will be:

  • To promote awareness of “Protecting our People” Crosscare’s Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and to provide training to all staff on same.
  • To ensure that all staff have a point of reference for any child and vulnerable adult protection concerns.
  • To facilitate anyone in the organisation in bringing an allegation or suspicion of child or vulnerable adult abuse to the attention of the relevant statutory organisations.
  • To hold all records regarding disclosures relating to suspicions, concerns or allegations of child or vulnerable adult abuse and report this as required to the Diocesan Designated Person.
  • To hold a central record of any allegations of child or vulnerable adult abuse made within Crosscare.
  • To advise on work practices to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.
  • The CVAP Officer will be given every assistance by the Senior Management Team in carrying out his/her task.
  • The CVAP Officer will liaise with the relevant statutory authorities in relation to every allegation, suspicion or concern.

To assist the reporting of child protection concerns, the contact details of the Crosscare’s CVAP Officer, the H.S.E. and the Garda i will be made widely available. In the absence (annual leave etc) of the CVAP, the Senior Manager for Young People’s Services will act as CVAP.

4.0 Specific Protection for Children

Projects within Crosscare which work specifically with children and young people have a Child Protection Policy which is specifically tailored to suit their particular client-group.  These programmes are:

  1. Teen Counselling
  2. Young Peoples care services
  3. Youth Services 

Crosscare is fully committed to safeguarding the well-being of all the children and young people with whom we work.  Our overall policy on child protection is in accordance with the statutory guidelines “Children First 1999”.

The Child Care Act, 1991 defines a child as someone under 18 years of age who is not married. Similar definitions exist in the UN Convention and the National Children’s Strategy in Ireland.

4.1 Definitions of Abuse of children

The rationale behind drawing up a Policy for Crosscare is based on best practice as outlined in Statutory Guidelines.  With this in mind, perhaps it is helpful at this point to define what is meant by child abuse.

Child abuse occurs when the behaviour of someone in a position of greater power than a child or young person abuses that power and causes harm to that child or young person.  Child abuse, for our purposes, is categorised into four groups:

  1. 1.Emotional abuse
  2. 2.Physical Abuse
  3. 3.Sexual Abuse
  4. 4.Neglect

A child may be subjected to one or more forms of abuse at any given time. Definitions of the four types of abuse, how to recognise abuse and an explanation of “reasonable grounds for concern” are included in Appendix 1, which is based on “Children First – National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children”.

When developing structures to safe-guard children in Crosscare, special regard is given to children with particular vulnerabilities who may need additional support.

Each staff member and volunteer, together with Crosscare Council, will have access to a copy of the Policy document and asked to read it to ensure that everyone knows the Organisation Policy on Child Protection. All staff members must receive a briefing on the Child and Vulnerable Adults Protection Policy and further training will be provided for staff members who work or come in contact on a regular basis with children or young people.

If a staff member has a concern in relation to the welfare of a child in contact with any service, or if a child makes an allegation of abuse as defined above, the staff member should either :

  1. Follow the Project specific Child Protection Policy
  2. Contact the CVAP Officer for advice, in consultation with line manager

All groups operating in a Crosscare setting, including visiting groups, will be made aware of the policies and procedures for child protection in operation in the Organisation and shall be asked to confirm that they will implement these policies and procedures.  Responsibility for ensuring that our Policy has the agreement of such groups will fall on the relevant Manager.

4.2 Staff and volunteers from another agency/organisation

  • For staff/volunteers working directly with children/young people, Garda  vetting will be sought by Crosscare.
  • If the volunteer/staff has already obtained Garda vetting through their own organisation, in the previous 18 months, a letter should be sought by their organisation confirming this fact.

4.3 Under 18s Working as Volunteers

Where programmes work directly with children or young people, or have anyone under 18 working as a volunteer or student, the following procedures should be put in place:.

1. Parental Consent

Ensure that a signed consent form from parents or guardians is obtained prior to an under 18 being placed in any of Crosscare’s services or prior to participation of children and young people in events, activities and groups.

2. Work Practice

Work practice guidelines appropriate to working with any child or vulnerable adult as referred to in Section 1 should be implemented when working with under 18s as volunteers. 

4.4 Dealing with Challenging or disruptive behaviour

Staff who deal directly with children and young people will be given guidance and support in dealing with difficult behaviour.  Crosscare ensures that the safety and welfare of the children and young people is a priority and that staff will deal sensitively and professionally with any difficult issues that may arise.  Where instances of challenging or disruptive behaviour occur with children/young people, a record will be kept of this where the instance requires the intervention of a worker or volunteer or where the safety and well being of others are at risk.  In a case of such behaviour, two workers/volunteers should be present where possible in dealing with the situation.  Staff members who are present at the time, should complete the incident/accident report form.

The report of the incident should include:

  • The programme or activity which was happening at the time;
  • Date of Incident;
  • A record of what happened;
  • Details of who was involved;
  • Details of where and when it happened;
  • A record of any significant comments;
  • A record of any injury to person or property;
  • Details of how the situation was resolved or left.

4.5 Bullying

Bullying behaviour can be defined as repeated aggression be it verbal, psychological or physical which is conducted by an individual or group against others. 

Examples of bullying include:

  • Teasing
  • Taunting
  • Threatening
  • Hitting
  • Extortion
  • Exclusion.
  • Cyber and text

Crosscare will not tolerate any bullying behaviour by children/young people or adults and will deal with any incidents immediately.

4.6 Dealing with a disclosure of abuse

Everyone must be alert to the possibility that children with whom they are in contact may be experiencing abuse or have been abused in the past. This is an important responsibility for staff and volunteers when working with children and young people.

In the event of a child/young person disclosing an incident of abuse it is essential that this is dealt with sensitively and professionally by the staff member/volunteer involved.  The following are guidelines to support the worker/volunteer in this:

  • React calmly;
  • Listen carefully and attentively; take the young person seriously;
  • Reassure the young person 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/young person that what you have heard is correct and understood;
  • Do not express any opinions about the alleged abuser;
  • Record the conversation as soon as possible, in as much detail as possible.  Sign and date the record;
  • Ensure that the child/young person understands the procedures which will follow;
  • Pass the information to the CVAP Officer, do not attempt to deal with the problem alone;
  • Treat the information confidentially.

4.7 Reporting procedure in respect of child abuse

Crosscare has put in place the following standard reporting procedure for dealing with disclosures, concerns or allegations of child abuse. 

The guiding principles in regard to reporting child abuse are summarised as follows:

  • The safety and well-being of the child or young person must take priority
  • Reports should be made without delay to the HSE
  • While the basis for concern must be established as comprehensively as possible, children or parents should not be interviewed in detail about disclosures, concerns or allegations of abuse. 

The reporting procedure for dealing with disclosures, concerns or allegations of child abuse is outlined in the following steps:

  • If a staff member is working in a Project with a specific Child Protection policy, he/she refers to that policy, and notifies the CVAP Officer that they are doing so. If not, the following steps should be followed.
  • The employee or volunteer who has received a disclosure of child abuse or who has concerns of abuse should bring it to the attention of the CVAP Officer immediately.
  • The CVAP Officer will assess and review the information that has been provided.  The CVAP will contact the HSE for informal advice relating to the allegation, concern or disclosure.
  • After consultation with the HSE officials, the CVAP Officer will then take one of two options:
    • Report the allegation, concern or disclosure to the HSE or
    • Not make a formal report to HSE but keep a record of the concerns on file.  The reasons for not reporting the allegation, concern or disclosure will be clearly recorded.

In an emergency a report should be made directly to An Garda  Síochána.

In making a report on suspected or actual child abuse, the individual must ensure that the first priority is always for the safety and welfare of the young person and that no child or young person is ever left in an un-safe situation.  

Parents/guardians of the child will be informed of the allegation, concern or disclosure unless doing so is likely to endanger the child.

4.8 Information required when making a report

The more information which is gathered and put together on the Standard Reporting Form which has been adopted by Crosscare, the easier it will be to assess an allegation, concern or disclosure of abuse.   Reports which are made anonymously to staff will be followed up but this may take longer and will make it more difficult for the professionals involved to assess the situation.  If a person is unsure about the case, it may be useful to talk over the issue with the CVAP Officer. The CVAP Officer may advise discussion with a HSE worker before making an official report. 

4.9 Confidentiality

In matters of child abuse, an employee/volunteer should never promise to keep secret, any information which is divulged.  It should be explained to the young person that this information cannot be kept secret but only those who need to know, will be told.  

It is essential in reporting any case of alleged/suspected abuse that the principle of confidentiality applies.  The information should only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis and the number of people that need to be informed should be kept to a minimum.

4.10 The Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998

This Act provides immunity from civil liability to persons who report child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to the HSE or An Garda  Síochána [see Appendix for further details]

4.11 Allegation relating to a staff member

Where an allegation of abuse is made against an employee of Crosscare, there are two procedures that Crosscare will put in place:

  • The reporting procedure in respect of the allegation (Section 4.7)
  • The procedure for dealing with the employee.

If an allegation of abuse is made against a staff member, the line manager must be immediately informed. If the line manager is unavailable, the next most senior staff member available should be contacted.

In the case of the allegation being against an employee of Crosscare the same person will not deal with both the young person and the alleged abuser.  Employment/contractual issues will be dealt with separately. The CVAP Officer will follow the normal reporting procedure in Crosscare.  It will be the responsibility of the HR Manager to advise on the HR policy relating to the staff member against whom an allegation has been made. 

  • The safety of the child is the first priority of Crosscare and all necessary measures will be taken to ensure that the child is safe.  The measures taken will be proportionate to the level of risk. 
  • Crosscare will ensure that no other children/young people are at risk during this period and will inform other relevant agencies.
  • The measures which can be taken to ensure the safety of children and young people can include the following: suspension of duties of the person accused, re-assignment of duties where the accused will not have contact with children/young people, working under increased supervision during the period of the investigation or other measures as deemed appropriate.
  • If a formal report is being made the employer will notify the employee that an allegation has been made and what the nature of the allegation is.  The employee has a right to respond to this and this response should be documented and retained.
  • Crosscare will ensure that the principle of ‘natural justice’ will apply whereby a person is considered innocent until proven otherwise.
  • Crosscare will work in co-operation with An Garda  Síochána and the HSE and any decisions on action to be taken in regard to the employee will be taken in consultation with these agencies.
  • The person against whom the allegation is made will need support during this period and Crosscare will provide advice on how to access the relevant support services.

4.12 Adults disclosing abuse

Retrospective Disclosures

A retrospective disclosure occurs when a child, young person or adult attending the service reports abuse in their past, generally as a child. It is important that all service users are aware of the limits to confidentiality.  In the case of retrospective disclosures there is a need for balance between the needs/rights of the service user and the addressing of Child Protection issues. This is a complex issue and requires good assessment and supervision.

Where there is an obvious potential risk to children, a referral is made to the H.S.E. immediately. If the service user does not provide identifying details the case is discussed with the local CVAP Officer for direction.

Where current risk to a client or other children is not clear the following issues are to be considered in consultation with the staff member’s line manager and CVAP Officer:

  1. 1.Is this an actual first disclosure or has the allegation been made previously elsewhere? If it is a first disclosure then serious consideration must be given to referral to the H.S.E. Discuss the issue of referral of the disclosure with the service user. Consider with them the protection of children currently, their own right to have their abuse recognised and validated, the importance of breaking the cycle of abuse and our obligations under the Children First Guidelines.
  1. 2.Does the service user consider there is current risk to a child? Our policy is that the H.S.E. is the agency with responsibility for risk assessment. However, this is an important question to consider with our service users as it may help them engage fully with a referral to the H.S.It may take time to involve the service user in this process.
  1. 3.Has the service user provided identifying details of the alleged abuser? A service user will not be asked for identifying details until the process of referral has been discussed with them. If a service user would like to provide identifying details they will be advised that these details will be passed on to the H.S.E. There is no onus on the service user to provide these details.
  1. 4.What is the likely impact of a referral to the H.S.E. on the mental health and welfare of the service user? Is there any risk for them in relation to self-harm/suicide? Is their mental health at risk in some way e.g. history of mental health problems which may be exacerbated or improved by this referral? A referral to the H.S.E. will note any of these concerns.
  1. 5.When a decision is taken to refer to the H.S.E. the policy on Reporting to the H.S.E. is followed. The adult client should be given the option of self-referral, but in all instances Crosscare will make the referral for a service user under 18.

            In all cases the situation may be discussed informally with the Child Care Manager of the H.S.E. for direction.  

4.13 Adults disclosing that they have abused or are abusing children

It can often be the case that adults with whom we work in Crosscare, may have themselves been abusers of children. By disclosing this to a staff member, they are in fact disclosing a criminal act, and this must in all cases be reported to the HSE following the guidelines as defined above in 4.7.

The principle governing all actions in the disclosure of child abuse is that the safety and welfare of the child is paramount.

4.12 Record Keeping

The CVAP Officer is responsible for keeping the following records related to child protection in a locked filing cabinet. The CVAP Officer, Senior Manager for Young People’s Services, Director of Crosscare and the Diocesan Designated Person are the only people who have access to these records:

  • Any complaints about the safety and welfare of children/young people while working with Crosscare
  • Any disclosures, concerns or allegations of child abuse;
  • The follow up to any complaints, disclosure, concerns or allegations, including informal advice from the HSE, reports to the HSE and informing parents/guardians. 

4.13 Staff Training

All staff working directly with children and young people will be expected to participate in the full Diocesan Training – Keeping Safe.  All staff must attend the briefing on Keeping Safe.

Where young people, under 18 years, are assisting in the work of Crosscare, they will receive appropriate information on the Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and national child protection policy at a level suitable to their age and experience.  These young people will always work in partnership with or under the supervision of an adult.

Induction training for any new staff will include briefing on the Crosscare Child and Vulnerable Adult protection policy.

5.0 Specific Protection of Vulnerable Adults

There is no universally accepted definition of the term “vulnerable adults”.  In the past, gardai have referred to the definition of a vulnerable adult as: “Adults who are over 18 and who are in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who are or may be unable to take care of themselves or who are unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.”

For the purposes of this policy, it is acknowledged that all services within Crosscare come in contact with vulnerable adults and adults in vulnerable situations and therefore should adhere to the following guidelines. Crosscare acknowledges that the same legislative protection is not yet in place for vulnerable adults, as is for the protection of children. Therefore concerns for the welfare of such clients will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with best practice.  This policy will be updated in accordance with any development in legislation. 

Whilst there is not currently the same legislative protection for vulnerable adults, Crosscare upholds the human right of all our clients to live a life free from abuse.

5.1 Definition of abuse relating to vulnerable adults

“A single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any

relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to a person or violates their human and civil rights.’’

Abuse can take place in any context. It may occur when a person lives alone or with a relative; it may occur within residential or day-care settings, in hospitals, home support services and other places assumed to be safe, or in public places.

A wide range of people may abuse vulnerable people, including relatives and family members, professional staff, paid care workers, volunteers, other service users, neighbours, friends and associates.

5.2 Forms of Abuse

There are several forms of abuse, any or all of which may be perpetrated as the result of deliberate intent, negligence or ignorance.

 Physical abuse, including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint, or inappropriate sanctions.

Sexual abuse, including rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not consented, or could not consent, or into which he or she was compelled / coerced to consent.

Psychological abuse, including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.

Financial or material abuse, including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Neglect and acts of omission, including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.

Discriminatory abuse, including racism, sexism that based on a person’s disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.

 5.3 Dealing with complaints or allegations

The seriousness or extent of abuse is often not clear when concern about it is first expressed. It is important, therefore, when considering the appropriateness of intervention, to approach reports of incidents or allegations with an open mind. In making any assessment of seriousness, the following factors should be considered:

Information may come from a variety of sources including the person suffering abuse, a staff member, a concerned relative, or a health and social care worker. The information may come in the form of a complaint or an expression of concern, or it may come to light during a health or social care assessment. It is worth noting that, in the first instance, this information may not come with the knowledge or consent of the person who is suffering the abuse. Therefore, further evaluation should take place with his or her knowledge and consent, if he or she has capacity and is free from undue duress.

Some instances of abuse constitute a criminal offence and should be reported to the Gardai. Examples of actions that might constitute criminal offences are physical assault, sexual assault and rape, theft and fraud or other forms of financial exploitation.

5.4 Basic reporting procedure

All reports and/or suspicions of abuse should be taken seriously. Any staff member or volunteer who receives information, suspects or is concerned that a person in contact with our services has been abused, is being abused or is at risk of abuse should discuss the matter with his or her line manager as soon as possible.

The follow on from this initial step can differ depending on the nature of the report / suspicion, and on the external agencies potentially involved in a person’s care.

Examples of actions that may be taken are :

1. A written referral form could be completed at the earliest opportunity following this discussion and sent to the health board appointed Senior Case-Worker / Social Worker if the person has such a HSE appointed person attached to their case, who should take responsibility for it and begin an assessment or investigation. 

2. A report could be reported directly to An Garda  Siochana where a criminal offence has been committed and where the person making the allegation is in agreement that the report be made.

3. Advice may be sought from the Child & Vulnerable Adult Protection Office.

4. If a report and/or suspicion is in relation to a staff member then the matter should be referred to HR

5. Where a report or suspicion is made in relation to the quality of care a person receives, the matter should be referred to the relevant Senior Manager.

All those making a complaint, whether staff, service-users, carers or members of the general public, should be assured of the following:

Concerns reported anonymously should be followed up, depending on the content of the report and the nature of any other information about the older person held by the service provider.

Those reporting anonymously should be informed that anonymity may restrict the ability of professionals to access information or to intervene to protect the person. The anonymous reporter should be urged to identify himself or herself and encouraged to make a statement in writing or in person.

5.5 Management and co-ordination of the response to allegations

The task of investigating an allegation or complaint will involve the management and coordination of the following, several of which may run in parallel:

An investigation should be co-ordinated in a way that ensures that there is no unnecessary duplication, especially in interviewing the person making the allegation or the alleged perpetrator of the abuse.

In exceptional circumstances, especially if the matter is very serious or there is evidence that a criminal offence has taken place, the first notification may be to the Gardaı.

An early referral to or consultation with the Gardaı , however, does not mean that criminal proceedings will follow, and it may have benefits:

5.6  Assessing the needs of the person

Once an investigation has established the facts, an assessment of the needs of the person must be made. This assessment will be organised by the Case-Worker and will involve discussion, decision-making and planning for the person’s well-being and protection. A case conference may take place.

In deciding what action to take, the rights of people to make choices and take risks and their capacity to make decisions about arrangements for investigating or responding to the abusive situation should be taken into account. Therefore the person should be included in the assessment process, as a matter of course, unless mental incapacity has been established.

The person’s capacity is key to decisions about action to be taken. For example, if someone has mental capacity and refuses assistance, this limits the help that he or she can be given; it will not, however, limit the action that may be required to protect others who are at risk. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, people should be assumed to have the mental capacity to make decisions and give consent. If there is evidence of intimidation, a misuse of authority or undue influence, an assessment of the  person’s mental capacity may be necessary.

5.7  Making a decision

One outcome of the investigation and assessment will be the formulation of an agreed care plan for the  person.

Every effort should be made to involve the person, his or her carer or family member (if any) and the alleged perpetrator, if appropriate, in both the assessment and planning of his or her future care. However, the person’s wishes with regard to who should be involved must be respected.

The services recommended by the care plan should be tailored to the needs of the person. They must be designed to alleviate the stress caused by the abuse. The relevant service will be responsible for implementing the care plan. Implementation of the care plan should fulfil the requirements of the assessment by providing the most suitable services available. Priority must be given to the prevention of future abuse (guidelines on intervention can be found in the Appendix).

5.8  Allegation relating to a staff member

Where an allegation of abuse is made against an employee of Crosscare, there are two procedures that Crosscare will put in place:

In the case of the allegation being against an employee of Crosscare the same person will not deal with both the service user and the alleged abuser.  Employment/contractual issues will be dealt with separately. The CVAP Officer will advise on matters relating to the care of the service user and it will be the responsibility of the HR Manager to advise on the HR policy relating to the staff member against whom an allegation has been made.  

5.9  Record-keeping

When a complaint or allegation of abuse is received, a clear and accurate record of it and any action taken in relation to it must be made. All relevant details should be incorporated into the service and the service-user’s file.

Files may be used in legal and/or disciplinary proceedings; in addition, under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and Data Protection Act, people have a right to see what is written about them in files. Staff, via training and written guidance, should be instructed about how to record information, what information is relevant and what information should not be recorded for fear that it may be in breach of a person’s legal rights. The issue of confidentiality of information should also be examined.

A record of all complaints or allegations of abuse should be forwarded to the Child & Vulnerable Adult Protection Officer.

5.10 Alleged perpetrators who are also service users

If the alleged perpetrator is also a service user, potentially living with, sharing accommodation with the vulnerable adult, the organisation must balance its duty of care to both.