Fianna Fáil has expressed concerns that the new Children First Bill does not include any sanctions for those who refuse to report child protection issues.
The party’s Children Spokesperson Robert Troy welcomed the long-awaited publication of the Bill but raised concerns that a lack of sanctions represents a watering down of the robust legislation that was promised.
Deputy Troy commented, “While I very much welcome the long-awaited publication of the Children First Bill, I am deeply concerned that it may be lacking teeth. This Bill is supposed to end a culture of turning a blind eye to child abuse and other child protection issues. While professionals working with children will now be legally obliged to report concerns, it seems there will be no penalties if they don’t.
“This represents a significant u-turn by this Government. The heads of the Bill published two years ago included robust sanctions for failure to comply with the Children First legislation – including up to 5 years in prison. But following two years of protracted delays and with no meaningful explanation, we now appear to have ended up with a watered down version of the Bill. There will be no sanctions for mandated persons who do not report child protection concerns or for organisations that fail to have child safety statement in place.
“I am also concerned that no additional resources are being provided to implement the measures in this Bill. The introduction of mandatory reporting of allegations of child abuse must be backed up with adequate resources to handle all cases of suspected abuse. There will not be a properly functioning child protection structure in this State if our system cannot handle allegations that are reported to the authorities.
“I intend to make a series of amendments to this Bill when it comes before the Oireachtas. Chief among these will be the re-introduction of tough sanctions for those who fail to comply. Children have waited far too long for these guidelines to be put into law. There’s no room for tokenism or half-hearted efforts. We need a bold step that ensures that people are forced to speak up when children are vulnerable to abuse”.