HIQA publishes new Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children

Date of publication:

New National Standards to radically strengthen and improve Ireland’s child protection services have been published today by the Health Information and Quality Authority.

Speaking at the launch of the Standards, Tracey Cooper, Chief Executive of HIQA, said: “These new National Standards are a significant milestone in putting safer and more reliable child protection systems in place for our vulnerable and at-risk children. With the scale and seriousness of child abuse and neglect in Ireland, highlighted in various inquiry reports in recent years, it has been clear for some time that the needs of vulnerable children have not always been responded to in an appropriate and timely way. As a society we need to learn from the past and take steps to ensure that services work effectively and safely to deliver better care and support for our vulnerable children.”

“HIQA is committed to ensuring that the safety and wellbeing of children should be the top priority for those working in the child protection services. These outcome-based National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children have been developed with the help of a special advisory group. This included direct input from a wide range of people and organisations, including representatives of the social work profession who manage and deliver HSE child protection and welfare services on a daily basis.”

“The Standards are designed to follow a child’s journey within the child protection system to ensure that his or her safety and welfare is being protected. Along that journey children will be supported through a range of measures. These should include providing accessible information, timely access to the appropriate services, effective risk-based screening of child referrals, good case assessment and planning to ensure that appropriate services are made available to children as required, the taking of timely action to protect children at risk of harm, working with and sharing information with other agencies in the child’s interest and ensuring appropriate records are kept and maintained securely.”

Tracey Cooper concluded: “All children have a right to be safe and to have access to appropriate services and support to enable their growth and development. For too long, the needs of children have not played a sufficiently significant priority in how the child protection service, and the wider range of relevant agencies and organisations in our society, respond to concerns over the welfare of vulnerable children. With the approval of the National Standards, HIQA will monitor the current HSE Children and Family Services’, and the future Child and Family Agency’s, compliance with the Standards and will assess how the HSE undertakes its statutory function under the law and its implementation of Children First – the national guidance for the protection and welfare of children.“

Further Information: 

Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, Health Information and Quality Authority, 01 814 7481 / 086 244 7623, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to the Editor: 

  • Child protection is the process of protecting individual children identified as suffering, or likely to suffer from, significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect.
  • The National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children will assess the wider performance of the HSEChildren and Family Services or successor agency, as a service provider, in relation to its statutory functions to provide adequate care and protection to children, under Section 3 of the Child Care Act, 1991 and its statutory duties under Children First. The Standards will also guide the HSE’s or successor agency’s response to child protection concerns and how these concerns are managed.
  • The National Standards promote the principles outlined in Children First, the national guidance for the protection and welfare of children 2011.
  • HIQA set up a Standards Advisory Group in 2011 to advise it on the development of draft Standards for public consultation. The Standards Advisory Group was a group of key experts and representatives from the HSE, Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Education and Skills, the Irish Youth Justice Service, An Garda Síochána, other regulatory bodies, and people from the academic and legal fields, non-statutory organisations providing services to children, and other key people involved in or with an interest in children’s and child protection services.
  • Draft standards were published for public consultation earlier this year by HIQA. There were over 50 submissions received to the public consultation process which were used to inform the development of the Standards. By implementing these Standards, the HSE Children and Family Services will continuously improve the services it provides to children and families.
  • These National Standards have been developed through a structured process aimed at reflecting best practice in social care regulation in Ireland and abroad. They are based on key principles which guide services on how to protect children and promote their welfare and are grouped according to six key themes as follows:
    • Child-centred services
    • Safe and effective services
    • Leadership, governance, and management
    • Use of resources
    • Workforce
    • Use of information.
  • The Government will enact specific legislation to underpin Children First. Children First should be used in conjunction with all relevant legislation and the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children.
  • These Standards have been approved by the Board of HIQA and by the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
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