Session: 2013/2014

Date: 15 October 2013

Reference: NIA 140/11-15

ISBN: 978-0-339-60497-1

Mandate Number: Mandate 2011/2015 Second Report

Committee: Culture, Arts and Leisure

NIA-140-11-15.pdf (15.69 mb)

Download the full report here.

Executive Summary

The Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure (‘the Committee’) began its specific and focused consideration of the topic of child protection and safeguarding in sport after a briefing from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in November 2012 on the work of its Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU). The Committee joins in the wide acknowledgment of the excellent work undertaken by the CPSU and the standards and best practice which have been established in sport as a result. Members believe that the following six best practice standards for safeguarding vulnerable groups, applied by and audited by Sport NI, represent an excellent foundation. They closely mirror the “building blocks” set out by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI):

  • Recruitment good practice;
  • Effective management of volunteers and staff;
  • Reporting;
  • Codes of behaviour;
  • Sharing information; and
  • General safety and management.

The protection and safeguarding standards applied in sport have taken considerable effort to achieve and Members wanted to get a clearer picture of what was happening in other areas of the Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) remit. In doing this the Committee hoped to identify any gaps and consider ways to remedy these, particularly issues around individuals and groups which operate privately and outside the ‘system’, particularly ‘self-employed persons’. The Committee is extremely mindful of the policies, networks and frameworks for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups that exist outside the CAL remit and believes that the recommendations coming from this report must acknowledge these. Members sought out examples of best practice to share across the CAL family and to support the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (‘the Department’) in developing a more joined-up approach to these issues. At its meeting on 13th December 2012, the Committee agreed to conduct an investigation into gaps in child protection and safeguarding across the CAL remit. During the investigation, the Committee widened out its consideration to include all vulnerable groups, not solely children. The Committee agreed to proceed with an investigation rather than a full inquiry so that the evidence-gathering process could be undertaken over a more condensed period and would be specifically focused.

During the evidence gathering process, the Committee received written submissions and heard oral evidence from a wide variety of organisations, groups and bodies, including the Department, its Arm’s-Length Bodies (ALBs), the NSPCC and the CPSU, Volunteer Now, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the SBNI, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and a range of stakeholder groups from across the remit. At the outset of the Committee’s investigation, the Department indicated that it would be a willing partner in the process and would give detailed consideration to the Committee’s findings.

The Committee is aware that the Department’s Arm’s-Length Bodies have policies and procedures in place, as do those they fund as part of the process of applying for funding. It is also clear that the sports sector has worked particularly hard and effectively to produce policies, procedures and systems to ensure that it protects and safeguards vulnerable groups. However, Members are also aware that there are many private tutors and small groups operating across the CAL remit, who are unregulated and unaffiliated. These individuals and groups are often unsure about protection and safeguarding issues and the Committee would like to reach out to them. Additionally, many organisations that are part of the ‘system’ and have policies and procedures are still unsure as to how they should be implemented or applied, or would benefit from advice or guidance tailored to their sector. Again, the Committee wants to find ways to reach out to them. Members are also concerned about the challenges presented to vulnerable groups, parents and teachers by the internet and social media, and would like to identify ways in which these challenges can be mitigated.

The Committee understands the Department itself has limited direct contact with children and young people; however, Members commend the Department’s acceptance that it must reach out to the organisations, individuals and partners within its sphere to establish common standards that can be rolled out as far as possible across the CAL remit. After the NSPCC’s briefing to the Committee in November 2012, the Department met the NSPCC to discuss its report. At that meeting suggestions were made by the NSPCC including developing links with the SBNI; something which the Department has indicated it is willing to do. The Department also decided to reinstate its Child Protection Working Group which will include representatives of the ALBs and key partners. Members commend this action on the Department’s part and are gratified that the Committee’s briefing from the NSPCC and interest in this issue should have prompted this response from the Department.

OFMDFM is undertaking a ‘gapping and mapping’ exercise across all the Executive Departments with respect to their internet policies which will examine any issues that arise. The Committee has heard a great deal through this investigation about the challenges and benefits presented by the internet and social media. Members are very keen that collective action is taken by the Executive in a number of areas with reference to this, particularly in light of the tragic results of abuse and cyber bullying. The Committee has recommended a number of measures to be taken forward in the CAL remit, including an e-Strategy and an acceptable usage policy/code of conduct when using social media. Members believe that these have the potential to be rolled out across other sectors following successful pilots.

The SBNI has pledged to seek to co-ordinate an effective Member Agency approach to help children at risk of: becoming criminalised through on-line activity; bullying though cyber activity; and sexual abuse (through ‘sexting’ and on-line exploitation). The Committee commends the Board’s stance on these issues and is supportive of the work that it is taking forward. The dangers of the internet and social media are continually evident in the media, with tragedies such as young people’s suicides an all too regular occurrence. There is a role for the Executive to play in combating these issues; however, there is also a significant role for educating parents, carers, teachers, ‘at risk’ groups and young people in the safe use of the internet and social media. Measures to support this have been announced by the UK government around opting in or opting out of particular areas of internet provision; however, the Committee believes that this must be underpinned by better information and guidance around the use of the internet and social media.

Additionally, the Committee believes that ideas like the IFA’s ‘Clubmark NI’ and Ulster GAA’s ‘Club Maith’ are good and should be used more widely. To that end, the Committee has recommended that a chartermark standard for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups should be developed as a pilot for the CAL sector, initially. This could be awarded to organisations which meet recognised standards and best practice. It could act as a ‘seal of approval’, allowing parents and volunteers to know that an organisation has considered these issues and is managing them to a specific standard. Members have further recommended various forms of awareness raising around protection and safeguarding to publicise the sources of information and help available. Ultimately, it is the Committee’s aim that, following a successful pilot, a CAL chartermark standard would become a necessity for those working with vulnerable groups in the CAL sector and raise awareness of those working with these groups outside the system. The Committee believes that such a chartermark standard, or variations of it, could have applications across others sectors and should be considered in conjunction with existing policies and frameworks. The Committee is conscious that it will be important to avoid wasteful duplication with any such scheme.

Another key issue that the Committee has considered during this investigation and which has been emphasised by a number of contributors is that of protecting the volunteers and others who undertake work with children and other vulnerable adults. Members believe that it is extremely important to ensure that these people understand how to protect themselves so that organisations which work with vulnerable groups can still attract staff and volunteers.

The NSPCC has suggested that a body like the CPSU should be developed for the arts and culture sectors and the Committee has recommended that the Department examines this in conjunction with the relevant ALBs as part of its wider review of the child protection and safeguarding arrangements that it has in place. The Department is also undertaking a review of its safeguarding policies and has engaged with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s (DHSSPS) Office of Social Services and Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups unit and asked them to look at the Department’s safeguarding guidelines. The Department has undertaken to feed any recommendations back to the Committee and, again, Members welcome this positive response to the Committee’s interest in this area. As highlighted previously, engagement with other departments, particularly Health, is important to avoid duplication or nugatory work.

The Committee is very aware of the special issues that surround vulnerable groups with respect to protection and safeguarding. While the Committee makes specific reference to children and young people in the objective and terms of reference for this investigation, Members are clear that this issue extends to a much wider group of people. The Committee is clear that protection and safeguarding policies and procedures should be cognisant of, and specifically clarify, the range of groups to which protection and safeguarding should apply. ‘Vulnerable groups’ is a phrase that the Committee heard a number of times during evidence sessions and Members believe it is important that safeguarding policies and procedures ensure there is clarity that this generic phrase includes all children and young people, adults with disabilities, special needs or other vulnerabilities and those with greater exposure to risk of harm.

Paul Stephenson of the CPSU highlighted:

“There is a need to motivate organisations that want to do things, teach people, give them skills, and so on. They need to up their game...It is about professional support mechanisms whereby they can download forms, information and guidance and access training that is specific to their sector. It is about supporting the voluntary sector. It is not about saying: ‘You have to go and do this, but we do not have any answers for you’”.

The Committee, and the majority of contributors to this investigation, regard the CPSU as an example of best practice. It represents a ‘one-stop shop’ of advice and guidance with respect to the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups in the sports sector and Members believe that it is a model worth replicating for other CAL sectors. Considering the sheer number of organisations, individuals and volunteers interfacing with vulnerable groups on a daily basis, it is important that we provide beacons, such as the CPSU, to which organisations can go to receive appropriate, up-to-date and contextualised advice. The Committee is also aware the recent changes to the vetting and barring legislation will have an impact on the CAL sector. One only has to look at the scale of the vetting that is currently undertaken to see that during 2012 Access NI received 131,896 applications for disclosure, of which 105,540 were for enhanced checks.

Members came to this investigation conscious of the backdrop of abuse by celebrities of vulnerable groups across a period of decades and how and why this went unreported. In its paper to the Committee the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) talked about how the Savile case illustrates again how difficult it is for vulnerable groups to seek help when they have been abused and, despite a system of assurances and good governance, it may be very difficult to come forward. The Committee believes there are ways to achieve this and explores these in this report. A key platform where vulnerable groups can be heard and have their needs addressed was established with the launch of the SBNI in September 2012. As the Board’s written submission to the Committee highlights:

“The Assembly decided to create the SBNI because it believed that more could, and should, be done by organisations and professionals to protect vulnerable children...The SBNI was established within Northern Ireland in 2012, in recognition of the fact that children are more likely to be protected when agencies work in a comprehensive, co-ordinated and consistent fashion”.

The Committee supports this view that the best way to close gaps in the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups is to work together as a network with clear structures for information sharing. Members are keen that this networking should involve the Churches and Faith Groups, which work closely with vulnerable groups themselves, or provide spaces and facilities for others who do this. The SBNI commented:

“Whilst there is some variation, it is clear that the Church Organisations have taken steps to check the “bona fides” of anyone seeking to hire or lease their premises and in so doing to ensure that checks of the Organisation’s Child Protection Policy and credentials are established”.

The Committee believes that this investigation has been extremely worthwhile and that the following recommendations will help to close some of the gaps in the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups that Members have helped to identify.

Summary of Recommendations

N.B. ‘Vulnerable groups’ is a generic phrase which should be taken to include all children and young people, including those with disabilities, special needs or other vulnerabilities; and including adults with disabilities, special needs or other vulnerabilities and those with greater exposure to risk of harm.

Working with the Executive and Local Government

Chartermark Standard (Branding)

The Committee recommends that the Minister engages with relevant Executive colleagues to seek their practical advice for the development of a chartermark standard, or a range of standards, as appropriate. This would initially be piloted in the CAL sector. The Committee understands the need for a clear ‘brand’ for protection and safeguarding and the intention is that this standard could become the recognised brand for best practice in organisations working with vulnerable groups. A successful pilot within the CAL remit might allow a chartermark standard to be extended to other sectors, including local government and the community and voluntary sectors. It would provide assurance that organisations have appropriate protections and safeguards with respect to vulnerable groups and are operating within recognised best practice guidelines. Ultimately the Committee would like to see self-employed persons being able to access this standard of recognition. It will be particularly important for the Minister to liaise with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on how the development of a CAL chartermark standard pilot might be taken forward in conjunction with existing policies and frameworks.

Awareness Campaign

The Committee recommends that the Minister considers launching a CAL chartermark standard pilot as part of a wider awareness-raising campaign around protection and safeguarding. The Minister should seek advice from Executive colleagues as to how they might be able to inform such a campaign. A campaign would be useful to reassure the public initially that measures are being taken within the CAL remit.

Self-Employed Persons

The Committee recommends that the Minister engages with Executive colleagues to examine what work is underway around the regulation of ‘self-employed persons’ who work with vulnerable groups. Members believe that it is key that these individuals, generally working with vulnerable groups outside the regulated system, be addressed using an awareness campaign. The Committee believes that the initial roll out of a pilot chartermark standard within the CAL remit could test the effectiveness of this method at reaching out to ‘self-employed persons’.

The role that Local Government can play

While acknowledging that it has no remit with respect to local government, the Committee recommends that local councils work together and with reference to current policies and frameworks, as well as to the Safeguarding Board NI, to establish:

  • Common standards for policies and procedures with respect to the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups;
  • Common standards and protocols for the use of their facilities and premises by third parties; and
  • Common standards, accreditation and intervals for the protection and safeguarding training that their staff and volunteers receive.

The Committee considers that it would be useful for this to be agreed and mandated across the councils. A significant aid to better understanding and practical use of policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups is that they are standardised. Local government could and should play a key role in the operation of a chartermark standard beyond a successful initial CAL pilot.

E-strategy

It is clear to the Committee that the development of an overarching e-strategy is the responsibility of the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister. However, the Committee recommends that the Minister takes the lessons learned from the CAL remit and contributes fully to the development of the e-strategy with her Executive colleagues, particularly ensuring that the needs of vulnerable groups and parents are addressed. Additionally, the Committee recommends that the Executive’s e-strategy should form the basis for the development of a specific Departmental e-strategy in conjunction with the Arm’s-Length Bodies and expert stakeholders, and with reference to advice on existing policies and frameworks. Again, the Committee sees a Departmental e-strategy being linked to the CAL sector chartermark standard.

Link to a Child Protection and Safeguarding Portal

The Committee recommends that the Minister works with Executive colleagues and the SBNI to develop a link, similar to that developed by CEOP, which can be applied to websites where individuals or groups might go to seek information on protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups. This link could initially be piloted within the CAL remit and would lead to a portal that provides up-to-date advice and information on this issue, including current statutory requirements. Adoption of the link could also be part of a chartermark standard and its effectiveness could be assessed through a CAL pilot. Discussion is also required to ascertain how this link might operate for the cross-border bodies.

Smartphone Application

The Committee recommends that the Minister engages with the Irish Football Association with regard to its development of a safeguarding smartphone application and, in conjunction with the Arm’s-Length Bodies and expert stakeholders, examines the possibility of such an application being piloted for staff and volunteers working with vulnerable groups within the CAL sector. A successful pilot could then be shared/discussed with Executive colleagues with a view to a wider roll out. Such an application would also provide a useful vehicle to publicise a chartermark standard, following a successful CAL pilot of a standard.

Education

The role of educating children and young people, teachers and parents in the positive use of the internet and social media largely falls to other departments. However, the Committee recommends that the Minister engages with relevant Executive colleagues to seek best practice in this area to share with the CAL family. These departments are then likely to be the first points of contact regarding the wider roll out of a chartermark standard, following a successful CAL pilot. It is important to raise parents’ awareness of sources of information regarding the protection and safeguarding of their children.

The Department, its Arm’s-Length Bodies and other partners

The Committee recommends that safeguarding and protection of vulnerable groups is a permanent agenda item for the Department’s accountability meetings with its Arm’s-Length Bodies. Additionally, the Committee recommends that the Department holds records centrally of any concerns regarding protection and safeguarding that have been raised with the ALBs and any subsequent action that is taken. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that this information is used to assist the development and evolution of the policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups adopted by the Department and its ALBs.

The Committee recommends that the Department engages with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), and the culture bodies, Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster Scots Agency/Ulster Scots Community Network, to establish a model for an audit of organisations within the arts and culture sectors respectively. This would examine the policies and procedures that bodies in the sectors have in place to protect and safeguard vulnerable groups. These audits should be taken forward as soon as is practicable. The Committee would expect that the Department and relevant bodies would complete the development of terms of reference and a methodology within six months, along with an action plan to deal with the audits’ outputs. The Committee would expect that the audits’ outputs would be shared with relevant parties. The audits should also extend to other ALBs, as appropriate. Consideration must be given to how audits would be handled in the case of the cross-border bodies.

The Committee recommends that the Department, in conjunction with the relevant departmental ALBs and partners, seeks to establish an equivalent of the Child Protection in Sport Unit for the arts and culture sectors. The Committee looks forward to receiving proposals from the Department suggesting how such a body might be advanced, how it might be constituted and the key roles and functions that it would have. The Committee believes that departmental core funding of the body represents the greatest likelihood of securing its long-term continuation. Again, consideration must be given as to how this might work with respect to the cross-border bodies.

The Committee recommends that the Department and its Arm’s-Length Bodies use the Departmental Child Protection Working Group to ensure that their protection and safeguarding policies highlight the different ‘vulnerable groups’ and how particular and specific protection and safeguarding issues apply to each. Specific work must be done with respect to developing and disseminating best practice in protecting and safeguarding those with disabilities and those with special needs with reference to existing policies and frameworks. The ALBs will then roll out this standardised approach to those organisations that they fund/have influence over as an example of best practice.

The Committee recommends that the Minister and the Arm’s-Length Bodies liaise with the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) to establish a Young Person Reference Group. This would give young people a voice in key policies and strategies, including the development of policies and procedures for protection and safeguarding. The Committee would suggest that this Group might work effectively on a virtual basis and could, again, be part of a chartermark standard pilot within the CAL sector. It is important that this Group takes cognisance of existing frameworks for advice and co-operation and to avoid the duplication of work.

The Committee recommends that the Department engages with its Arm’s-Length Bodies to ensure that, in addition to regular reviews of their policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups, they undertake a regular strategic audit of these as part of their Internal Audit Plan. These audits should take place on a biennial cycle to ensure that up-to-date best practice is applied. Additionally, the Committee recommends to the CAL Arm’s-Length Bodies that they ensure their fundees and partners do the same.

The Committee recommends that the Minister undertakes, in conjunction with the CAL Arm’s-Length Bodies and relevant expert stakeholders, to develop and introduce a CAL ‘Acceptable Users’ policy and a code of conduct for communication with young people through any form of social media with guidelines about when and how young people should be communicated with. Again, consideration should be given to the inclusion of such a policy and code in a CAL sector chartermark standard pilot.

The Committee recommends that, to facilitate greater co-operation in the field of protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups, the Department establishes a formal link with the SBNI; either through a Memorandum of Understanding or, if more appropriate, through membership of one or more of the SBNI’s committees.

The Committee recommends that the Safeguarding Board NI continues to engage with the Churches and Faith groups to support them in establishing the “bona fides” of individuals/organisations using their premises to undertake activities involving vulnerable groups. The Committee supports the SBNI drawing the Culture, Arts and Leisure Arm’s-Length Bodies into this engagement, primarily for the purpose of information sharing. This engagement could also facilitate the working of a CAL chartermark standard pilot.

The Committee recommends that the Department works with the SBNI to ensure that the key contact details needed by its ALBs and their partners, as part of their protection and safeguarding documents for staff and volunteers, are kept constantly up-to-date and appropriately disseminated.

The Committee recommends that the Department engages with relevant networks/stakeholders and with existing frameworks to promote and disseminate specific guidance for volunteers working with vulnerable groups; thus allowing them to be sufficiently knowledgeable and secure to undertake volunteering and providing an environment of information which will encourage new volunteers.

The Committee recommends that Sport NI continues to engage with the NSPCC and other expert providers to consider any further suggestions that it might have for embedding the safeguarding message into all sports and all aspects of sport. The Department should also support the extension of this facility to all its ALBs.

Training and Knowledge Exchange

The Committee is acutely aware that issues around the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups are very fluid and are constantly changing, particularly in the areas of the internet and social media. As a result, the Committee recommends that training and retraining for those working with vulnerable groups within the CAL remit should be set within specific timeframes, probably every two years, to ensure relevance. This is particularly important for those working with those with disabilities and those with special needs. Best practice with respect to this can then be fed back into existing networks and frameworks to create greater standardisation.

The Committee recommends that the Department considers organising a biennial conference for the CAL family around best practice in the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. Such a conference will focus the minds of organisations within the CAL remit and will ensure that this issue is high on organisations’ agenda. This kind of forum will provide an excellent opportunity to exchange information and learning and feed best practice into existing networks and frameworks.

Introduction

Background

The Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure (‘the Committee’) began considering the topic of child protection and safeguarding in sport after hearing a briefing from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in November 2012 which reflected on the work of its Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU). The Committee acknowledged the excellent work undertaken by the unit and the standards and best practice which had been established in sport. Members felt it was an important part of their scrutiny role to consider the child protection and safeguarding situation in other areas of the Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) remit and therefore undertook to make an investigation into where there are gaps in child protection and safeguarding and how these might be remedied.

At its meeting on 13th December 2012, the Committee agreed to conduct an investigation into gaps in child protection and safeguarding across the Culture, Arts and Leisure remit. The Committee agreed to proceed with an investigation rather than a full inquiry so that the evidence-gathering process could be undertaken over a more condensed period and would be specifically focused.

From January through to May 2013, the Committee received written submissions and heard oral evidence from a wide variety of organisations, groups and bodies, including the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (‘the Department’), its Arm’s-Length Bodies (ALBs), the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and a range of stakeholder groups from across the remit.

At the outset of the Committee’s investigation, the Department indicated that it would be a willing partner in the process and would give detailed consideration to the Committee’s findings.

Objective and Terms of Reference

The objective of this investigation is:

“To seek gaps in Child Protection and Safeguarding across the Culture, Arts and Leisure remit, to identify examples of best practice in this area and, by comparing these, make recommendations to the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure with respect to highlighting any gaps and suggesting how they might be mitigated”.

In meeting this objective, the Committee set out the following terms of reference for the Investigation:

  • The Committee will seek to map the existing structures for Child Protection and Safeguarding across the sectors in the CAL remit;
  • Members will analyse the elements of the systems in place in the sports sector to assess transferability to other sectors within the CAL remit;
  • The Committee will identify exemplars and benchmarks against which the sectors in the CAL remit can base their Child Protection and Safeguarding guidance and practices;
  • Members will examine the issues around ‘cyber-bullying’ and social media, including education on safe and effective use of the internet for children and young people and their parents; and
  • The Committee will use its findings to present the Department with recommendations for managing and closing gaps in Child Protection and Safeguarding across its remit and, additionally, the Committee will disseminate these recommendations to other Statutory Committees.

The Committee hopes that its conclusions and recommendations will help to support and develop the superb work in child protection and safeguarding that Members have heard and read about during the investigation.

The Committee’s Approach

The Committee launched its investigation after agreeing terms of reference on 10th January 2013. The Committee communicated with the Department and its ALBs, asking for them to send written submissions on the issue to the Committee and prepare to brief the Committee. The Committee also sought the views of two key players in the child protection and safeguarding arena, the NSPCC and Volunteer Now. Both organisations submitted papers and briefed the Committee orally. Additionally, the Committee sought the views of targeted organisations across the CAL remit and, as awareness of the Committee’s investigation spread, a number of other organisations asked to submit written evidence and/or brief Members orally. The Committee sought to accommodate as many oral briefings as it could while reflecting on the fact that the investigation was specifically constructed to allow it to be undertaken and concluded on a more focused and timely basis than a full Committee inquiry.

As the investigation progressed, Members decided that the issues around the internet and social media were sufficiently important to seek to engage directly with young people, their parents and their teachers. A stakeholder event was held at Grosvenor Grammar School on 2nd May 2013 to allow Members to discuss these issues. The session was facilitated by Wayne Denner (Beatthecyberbully) and comprised Members, and students, parents and teachers from Grosvenor Grammar School, Our Lady and St. Patrick’s School, Ashfield Girls’ High School and Lagan College. As this session involved young people and was informal, no transcript of the discussions was made. However, the Committee found the experience useful for contextualising issues around the internet and social media with respect to the benefits and challenges they present young people with.

Submissions received, minutes of evidence and research papers commissioned by the Committee can be found in the Appendices to this report.

Acknowledgements

The Committee would like to express and record its appreciation and thanks to all those organisations and individuals who submitted written evidence, gave oral evidence, attended stakeholder events, contributed to the launch of the inquiry, and participated in the Committee’s discussion forum at Grosvenor Grammar School.

Consideration of Evidence

Context

The Committee is aware that the Arm’s-Length Bodies of the Department have policies and procedures in place, as do those they fund as part of the process of applying for funding. It is also clear that the sports sector has worked particularly hard and effectively to produce policies, procedures and systems to ensure that it protects and safeguards vulnerable groups. However, Members are also aware that there are many private tutors and small groups operating across the Culture, Arts and Leisure (‘CAL’) remit, who are non-regulated and unaffiliated. These individuals and groups are often unsure about protection and safeguarding issues and the Committee would like to reach out to them. Additionally, many organisations that are part of the ‘system’ and have policies and procedures are still unsure as to how they should be implemented or applied, or would benefit from advice or guidance tailored to their sector. Again, the Committee would like to find ways to reach out to them. Members are also concerned about the challenges presented to vulnerable groups, parents and teachers by the internet and social media and would like to identify ways in which these challenges can be mitigated.

The Department’s role

During their evidence session at the end of January 2013 (Appendix 2), Departmental officials commented:

“The Department rarely provides services directly to children. However, most of our partners’ activities involve contact with children and young people. The aim of the work with our partners is to establish agreement and consistency in safeguarding standards, and we want to maximise and extend our influence to individuals or organisations funded or commissioned to provide any services for children and young people in the culture, arts and leisure sector, to ensure that they effectively address the safeguarding requirements”.

The Committee understands the Department’s position whereby it has limited direct contact with children and young people; however, Members commend the Department’s acceptance that it must reach out to the organisations, individuals and partners within its sphere to establish common standards that can be rolled out as far as possible across the CAL remit.

In 2006 the Department commissioned the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) to look at the child protection arrangements of a sample of organisations in the CAL remit. Officials indicated to the Committee that the resulting report was generally good; however, there were gaps and inconsistencies in policies and practice that were flagged up. The Report identified the need to provide more formal guidance to sponsored organisations on matters relating to child protection; to deliver a child protection workshop with external input and providing examples of best practice; and to examine how the Department, given its ALB management arrangements, can develop a more robust system of monitoring the child protection arrangements across its sponsored bodies. This is exactly the approach that the Committee is endorsing in this investigation report. Members see the need for the Department to lead the way on consistency of standards and ensure that they are rolled out as widely as possible.

As result of this process a Departmental Guide to Safeguarding was issued to its ALBs in June 2009. Two training events were also held in February 2008 and May 2010. The Department also introduced a system of monitoring and reporting child protection arrangements across the ALBs. It also established a Departmental Child Protection Working Group to act as a co-ordinating unit to raise awareness of the implementation of the safeguarding policies and legislative developments that were affecting the Department and its sponsored bodies at that time. The Working Group comprised a representative from each business area and a policy officer from the NSPCC.

The Department indicated that its regular governance and accountability meetings with its sponsored bodies also ensure that child protection policies and nominated protection officers are in place in all of the ALBs. The Department highlighted that safeguarding is an agenda item at all of the ALB accountability meetings; and the ALBs have to complete an annual checklist which assesses the organisation’s performance against those generic standards. Indeed, the Department went on to highlight that safeguarding also forms part of the risk management process, which is reported at the end of the year as part of the statement of internal control in the annual accounts. Again, the Committee was pleased to hear that these mechanisms should be in place. However, Members are aware that the Working Group has ceased meeting. The ETI did a follow up review in 2009/10, which found the ALBs’ safeguarding arrangements were satisfactory.

After NSPCC’s briefing to the Committee in November 2012, the Department met the NSPCC to discuss its report. At that meeting, suggestions were made by the NSPCC including developing links with the SBNI, something which the Department has indicated it is willing to do. The Department also decided to reinstate its Child Protection Working Group which will include representatives of the ALBs. Members commend this action on the Department’s part and are gratified that the Committee’s briefing from the NSPCC and interest in this issue should have prompted this response from the Department.

OFMDFM is undertaking a ‘gapping and mapping’ exercise across all the Executive Departments with respect to their internet policies which will examine any issues that are thrown up (Appendix 5). The Department is represented on the OFMDFM inter-departmental group. The NSPCC has suggested that a body like the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) should be developed for the arts and the Department has agreed to look at this as part of its wider review of the child protection and safeguarding arrangements that it has in place. The Committee is also interested in this idea and it features later in this report. The Department is also undertaking a review of its safeguarding policies and has engaged with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s (DHSSPS) Office of Social Services and Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups unit and asked them to look at the Department’s safeguarding guidelines. This is particularly relevant in view of developments in September 2012 around vetting and barring. This review will consider whether the guidelines are up-to-date and fit-for-purpose. The Department has undertaken to feed any recommendations back to the Committee and, again, Members welcome this positive response to the Committee’s interest in this area. Further, the Department has undertaken to disseminate anything that the DHSSPS review shows up to its ALBs and the wider CAL family through the reconstituted Working Group.

In their briefing to the Committee, Departmental officials confirmed that protection and safeguarding incidents are recorded centrally:

“In 2012, we had six incidents in the museums sector, eight incidents in the library sector and two incidents in the arts sector. In each case we were satisfied that they were dealt with appropriately”.

Again, the Committee is pleased to hear that such issues are relayed to the Department which can then analyse issues and trends and feed back to the ALBs. However, during their briefing officials also stressed to the Committee:

“There is a role for the involvement of local government. Much culture, arts and leisure activity takes place in local government facilities, which is where the gap is. We need to ask local authorities what they demand of someone who comes to hire a hall or venue in the local leisure centre”.

This is an issue of which Members are very conscious and it is examined more fully below. Officials also raised the issue of the wide variety of child protection and safeguarding courses that are available which are often not overarching and not of a consistent quality. Again, this is something that is of concern to Members and is considered below. The officials also stressed the need to avoid duplication or confused messages in the information that is disseminated and the courses/training that are run. Overall, the Committee believes that the Department has responded very positively to its investigation into this issue and Members look forward to making progress through this report.

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

It was the NSPCC’s briefing to the Committee in November 2012 which crystallised Members’ view that child protection and safeguarding is an important and contemporary issue on which there is some work that needs to be done. That brief focused on safeguarding in sport; however, it was clear that the issues were very relevant to the other areas of the CAL remit. In its original submission to the Committee, the NSPCC said:

“Sport can play an important part in the promotion of good health and exercise promotes general well-being. As such, sport and participation in sport play an important role in the Choose Life Suicide Prevention Strategy. We have been promoting the importance of raising awareness of self-harm and suicide through numerous different sports forums and coach education programmes”.

Members wholeheartedly agree with this statement and believe that encouraging and facilitating young people to participate in sport is extremely important for their general wellbeing. As the statement also suggests, sport can also be used as a medium to highlight a variety of issues to young people and that is a theme that recurs throughout this report. In the submission the NSPCC also highlighted that deaf and disabled children may be especially vulnerable to abuse for a number of reasons:

  • Increased likelihood of social isolation;
  • Fewer outside contacts than children without a disability;
  • Dependency on others for practical assistance in daily living (including intimate care);
  • Impaired capacity to resist, avoid, or understand abuse;
  • Speech and language communication needs may make it difficult to tell others what is happening;
  • Limited access to someone to disclose to; and
  • Particular vulnerability to bullying.

In the submission the NSPCC goes on to suggest that:

“....it is therefore essential that those working with such a particularly vulnerable group understand these risks and put measures in place to reduce harm”.

The Committee is very aware of the special issues that surround particularly vulnerable groups with respect to protection and safeguarding. While the Committee makes specific reference to child and young people in the objective and terms of reference for this investigation, Members are clear that this issue extends to a much wider group of people. The Committee is clear that protection and safeguarding policies and procedures should be cognisant of and specifically clarify the range of groups that protection and safeguarding should apply to.

‘Vulnerable groups’ is a phrase that the Committee heard a number of times during evidence sessions and Members believe it is important that safeguarding policies and procedures ensure there is clarity that this generic phrase includes all children and young people, including those with disabilities, special needs or other vulnerabilities; and including adults with disabilities, special needs or other vulnerabilities and those with greater exposure to risk of harm. The Committee would like organisations within the CAL family to ensure that their protection and safeguarding policies and procedures highlight this. The Committee was made aware during the NSPCC’s briefing on the investigation that Sport NI has already started to look at this issue.

In 2010 Volunteer Now advised that the Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults – A Shared Responsibility, Standards and Guidance for Good Practice in Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults was launched, stressing the need to take vulnerable adults into account when designing protection and safeguarding policies. Volunteer Now (Appendix 3) and other contributors to the investigation have indicated that it would be a positive development to have a best safeguarding practice standard for community and voluntary groups working with vulnerable groups.

It is apparent that there is a strong need for a clear standard to be applied for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups and that this should become a symbol of good practice and recognition of the appropriate procedures and protocols in place. If such a standard was publicised using a TV and radio campaign, for example, it would not only allow the public to know which organisations meet these standards but would have the additional advantage of offering a tangible symbol of recognition for self-employed persons working with vulnerable groups to aim for.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department and its Arm’s-Length Bodies use the Departmental Child Protection Working Group to ensure that their protection and safeguarding policies highlight the different ‘vulnerable groups’ and how particular and specific protection and safeguarding issues apply to each. Specific work must be done with respect to developing and disseminating best practice in protecting and safeguarding those with disabilities and those with special needs with reference to existing policies and frameworks. The ALBs will then roll out this standardised approach to those organisations that they fund/have influence over as an example of best practice.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Minister engages with relevant Executive colleagues to seek their practical advice for the development of a chartermark standard, or a range of standards, as appropriate. This would initially be piloted in the CAL sector. The Committee understands the need for a clear ‘brand’ for protection and safeguarding and the intention is that this standard could become the recognised brand for best practice in organisations working with vulnerable groups. A successful pilot within the CAL remit might allow a chartermark standard to be extended to other sectors, including local government and the community and voluntary sectors. It would provide assurance that organisations have appropriate protections and safeguards with respect to vulnerable groups and are operating within recognised best practice guidelines. Ultimately the Committee would like to see self-employed persons being able to access this standard of recognition. It will be particularly important for the Minister to liaise with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on how the development of a CAL chartermark standard pilot might be taken forward in conjunction with existing policies and frameworks.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Minister considers launching a CAL chartermark standard pilot as part of a wider awareness-raising campaign around protection and safeguarding. The Minister should seek advice from Executive colleagues as to how they might be able to inform such a campaign. A campaign would be useful to reassure the public initially that measures are being taken within the CAL remit.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Minister engages with Executive colleagues to examine what work is underway around the regulation of ‘self-employed persons’ who work with vulnerable groups. Members believe that it is key that these individuals, generally working with vulnerable groups outside the regulated system, be addressed using an awareness campaign. The Committee believes that the initial roll out of a pilot chartermark standard within the CAL remit could test the effectiveness of this method at reaching out to ‘self-employed persons’.

In its paper to the Committee for this investigation (Appendix 3), the NSPCC makes specific reference to the timeliness of the investigation in the wake of the revelations about Jimmy Savile and a host of other celebrities and the subsequent Operation Yew Tree. The Committee was obviously aware of the context within which it decided to undertake this investigation; however, considering issues around the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups is something that the Committee would have done irrespective of the situation with respect to the allegations made against celebrities. The Committee’s investigation was in response to Members awareness that there are many groups and individuals across the CAL remit with regular and prolonged access to vulnerable groups who do not know about how to protect and safeguard children and themselves, or who may wish harm to vulnerable groups and are not operating in a regulated context. The NSPCC shares the Committee’s concerns around dance, drama and music teachers who are not affiliated to wider organisations and its submission goes on to highlight one of the key drivers for the Committee deciding to undertake this investigation:

“...DCAL and its ALBs have more direct contact with children than any other sectors apart from education and health...Through its various bodies DCAL has a substantial opportunity going forward to ensure good standards of practice in the care and supervision of children while involved in any activity supported by its ALBs”.

The Committee is conscious of the number of children, young people and other vulnerable groups who undertake activities within the CAL remit and this is a key reason why Members wish to ensure that any gaps in the protection and safeguarding of these groups are identified and eliminated. To give the Committee some context with respect to its activities, the NSPCC highlighted that it provides Childline and a range of guidance on safeguarding issues, policies, procedures and case issues. Part of its function is the provision of the CPSU, which is now recognised as a “world leader” by the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee. The CAL Minister stated in the Assembly in November 2012:

“The Child Protection in Sport Unit....is recognised and accepted as the source of expert safeguarding advice and support by the sports sector”.

The Committee’s awareness of the excellent work undertaken by the CPSU was another key driver in the establishment of this investigation. Members wished to see whether the CPSU was replicated in any form elsewhere within the CAL remit and how transferable it might be to other areas of the sector. The Committee has seen considerable evidence that sport in Northern Ireland has worked hard over the last number of years, with the help of the CPSU, to ensure that its protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups is robust and constantly evolving in response to change. This investigation will look specifically at the structures for protection and safeguarding that have been set up in sport and the CPSU below.

During its oral briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), the NSPCC made a number of important points. Individuals or smaller groups who work with vulnerable groups, but are not affiliated to larger organisations which can either support and inform them about protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups, require good guidance. The NSPCC stressed the particular importance of structures and guidance for dance groups because they deal so often with changing clothes and costumes etc. The Committee had these individuals and groups in the forefront of its mind when it started this investigation as they tend to work in the context of private funding and are therefore not within the orbit of the regulated CAL bodies, the ALBs, or governing bodies such as those in sport. They need guidance on what they can and cannot do. Paul Stephenson of the CPSU highlighted:

“There is a need to motivate organisations that want to do things, teach people, give them skills, and so on. They need to up their game...It is about professional support mechanisms whereby they can download forms, information and guidance and access training that is specific to their sector. It is about supporting the voluntary sector. It is not about saying, ‘You have to go and do this, but we do not have any answers for you’. That is the difference with Sport NI. It has accessible training and information on its website, and sample pro formas are available”.

The Committee would like these individuals and groups to be able to share in the wealth of information, guidance and support that already exists across the CAL remit. Irene McCready (NSPCC) went on to say:

“One thing that I am finding with the smaller groups is that many of them have never seen or heard of the Area Child Protection Committee regional child protection policies and procedures, nor, it seems, their own child protection policies and procedures from their governing body”.

However, as well as ensuring that vulnerable groups are protected when dealing with these groups and individuals, the Committee is also keen that the individuals and groups working with the vulnerable groups are themselves protected. Members believe that to encourage people to volunteer or to continue to provide private tuition to vulnerable groups it is important that they understand how to protect themselves and remain within activities that are appropriate.

Volunteer Now

The other key organisation to which many of the respondents to the Committee’s investigation referred was Volunteer Now. In its written submission to the investigation the organisation highlighted that it has been funded by the DHSSPS since 1996 to promote and develop principles of good practice for the protection of children and young people in the community and voluntary sector. These are most specifically outlined in the ‘Our Duty to Care’ guidelines and the ‘Getting It Right’ minimum standards. These documents have played a key role in the development of many organisations’ policies and procedures around the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. Organisations are also supported and trained by Volunteer Now to meet the standards set out in the documents; indeed, the CPSU has developed and disseminated policy based on the ‘Our Duty to Care’ guidelines. Importantly, these guidelines are constantly updated to include topical issues, such as social media. The guidance and standards produced by Volunteer Now address:

  • Development of a written policy promoting the organisation’s commitment to safeguard the general welfare, health and full development of children and protect them from harm of all kinds;
  • Consistent application of a thorough and clearly defined method for recruiting staff and volunteers in line with legislative requirements and best practice;
  • Implementing procedures for the effective management, support, supervision and training of staff and volunteers;
  • Developing and implementing clearly defined procedures for raising awareness of, responding to, recording and reporting concerns about actual or suspected abuse;
  • Developing written guidelines outlining the behaviour expected of all involved within the organisation through a clear Code of Behaviour;
  • Ensuring relevant information is shared appropriately with parents, children, staff, volunteers and other agencies; and
  • Promoting the general safety and effective management of activities through written guidelines.

Throughout this investigation the Committee considered organisations’ policies and procedures for protection and safeguarding that reflected these guidelines. It is clear to the Committee that Volunteer Now has and continues to play a vital role in the development and updating of guidance and practice with respect to these issues and the provision of training, either directly or through cascading. It is vital that this pivotal role is protected. As Volunteer Now indicated in its paper:

“The policy framework within which the Our Duty to Care project operates has always placed emphasis on the welfare and wellbeing of children and young people, and more recently, vulnerable adults...High profile abuse cases across all sectors have resulted in increased awareness of the need for robust safeguarding practices to be applied when working with all vulnerable groups and the recognition of a need to respond”.

The Committee is extremely conscious of the fact that the current environment of revelations about abuse of vulnerable groups by celebrities means that embedding of good guidance and practice around protection and safeguarding is as relevant now as it has ever been. Volunteer Now reflected in its paper on the importance of its research and the guidance it has produced:

“The Our Duty to Care project has become recognised as the market leader in the voluntary and community sectors in relation to the development of training and standards around safeguarding children and young people and is an important source of support for those involved with children and young people”.

Volunteer Now highlighted that there are 4,836 organisations in the community and voluntary sector and 14% work with children and families (State of the Sector, 2012); and in a sample of 142 church and faith based groups 78% indicated that they offer volunteer opportunities to work with children and 77% with young people. This reflects the considerable need for the work that Volunteer Now does. However, as Volunteer Now could not keep up with the demand for safeguarding training it formed a Trust-based partnership model with local statutory organisations (Health Trusts, Education and councils) and voluntary organisations to develop a cascade training strategy. This means Volunteer Now trains a number of trainers from across the organisations and sectors represented and they go out and cascade this training. Trainers are subject to tight quality assurance mechanisms and are regularly updated on policy and legislation changes so as information going out to the sector remains consistent and of a high quality. The Committee believes that this sort of approach is exactly what the CAL sector requires to ensure that there is consistent and high quality training available to whoever requires it and that information about it is widely disseminated as information and guidance on the Volunteer Now website and can be used by organisations to inform their own safeguarding policies.

Between 2006 and 2009 Volunteer Now was commissioned by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) to carry out a comprehensive training, support and policy development project with all groups funded through ACNI. This was made available to a wide range of groups and is still disseminated on the ACNI website. With the changes taking place currently in this area Volunteer Now expressed concerns to the Committee that the training and overall support package need updated. The Committee is also of the view that this area is one where constant review and updating is essential. Volunteer Now indicated in their submission that:

“There is some disparity however in terms of what some sectors consider as the minimum learning required for the different roles involved in working with children and/or vulnerable adults. Agreement about this would ensure there is consistency of practice across all sectors and agreement on ‘portability’ of training across sectors”.

Volunteer Now is working with the SBNI to establish minimum standards for training. It is important that other expert groups are consulted on those minimum standards. For example, it is vital that there is consideration made of the particular training needed for those working with those with disabilities or special needs. Groups with a clear understanding of the relevant issues need to be involved in these discussions.

Recommendation: The Committee is acutely aware that issues around the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups are very fluid and are constantly changing, particularly in the areas of the internet and social media. As a result, the Committee recommends that training and retraining for those working with vulnerable groups within the CAL remit should be set within specific timeframes, probably every two years, to ensure relevance. This is particularly important for those working with those with disabilities and those with special needs. Best practice with respect to this can then to should then be fed back into existing networks and frameworks to create greater standardisation.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department considers organising a biennial conference for the CAL family around best practice in the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. Such a conference will focus the minds of organisations within the CAL remit and will ensure that this issue is high on organisations’ agenda. This kind of forum will provide an excellent opportunity to exchange information and learning and feed best practice into existing networks and frameworks.

There are a number of pieces of legislation that operate in the area of the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. These were highlighted to the Committee through research undertaken by RaISe (Appendix 4). The Protection of Freedoms Act (2012) makes provision for a new disclosure and barring service. The Act will affect all individuals who have contact with children and adults at risk, including those in sport and recreation organisations. The Sport and Recreation Alliance has highlighted the three most significant changes coming out of the legislation. These are:

  • ‘Regulated activity’ and the individuals who must be checked legally;
  • Single disclosures being sent to individuals only; and
  • Continuous updating and portability arrangements – criminal records status check – allowing the individual to hold one disclosure for multiple roles. Each organisation can log on to a portal and check that the disclosure they are being shown is current by using the individual’s unique identification number.

‘Regulated activity’ is defined as being where the following requirements are met: teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children OR providing guidance/advice on well-being OR driving a vehicle only for children AND happens frequently (once a week or more often) OR happens intensively (on four or more days in a 30 day period or overnight) AND the individual carrying out the activity of teaching, training or instructing is unsupervised. The Crime and Courts Bill (2012-13) contains a proposal to create a National Crime Agency to replace the work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The Munro Review of Child Protection was launched in June 2010 when the Secretary of State for Education commissioned Professor Eileen Munro of the London School of Economic and Political Science to carry out an Independent Review of the child protection system in England. She highlighted that the system has become over-bureaucratised, gave undue importance to performance indicators, targets and recording and had too much emphasis on process rather than quality and effectiveness. She recommended that the system could be reformed and improved:

  • Statutory guidance should be revised to cut out unnecessary or unhelpful prescription and should focus on essential rules and principles for good practice;
  • Take a preventative approach through early intervention with children and families as this does more to reduce abuse and neglect than reactive services; and
  • Social workers should be enabled to exercise more professional judgement, but effort must be made to improve their expertise during their initial training and through Continuous Professional Development.

The Safeguarding Board (NI) Act (2011) established a Regional Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI), sited within the Public Health Agency. It also created Safeguarding Panels in each Health and Social Care Trust area to support the work of the SBNI.

The Irish government’s Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill of 2012 has implications for child protection policy and practice in the RoI. The Bill repeals Article 42.5 of the Constitution and inserts a new Article 42A. The reforms would allow the courts to make decisions on the child’s best interests and recognise the child’s right to be heard. This is seen as a key development towards the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). A Children’s Rights Referendum on the reforms was held on 10th November 2012. The yes vote received 58%, with a turnout of 33.5%. Enactment has been delayed by a legal challenge. Children’s right have been recognised across Europe with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UNCRC.

The ECHR (1950) was incorporated into UK law in 1998, coming into force in 2000; although not child-specific, it allows individuals to protect their rights through the domestic courts and, failing this, through the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The European Court has recognised the importance of the UNCRC, although this is not a specifically European instrument, and it has been ratified by every country in the world except the USA and Somalia. It establishes the best interests of the child as a guiding principle which should inform all policy and practice in relation to children, including child protection. The child’s right to be protected is enshrined in the UNCRC. Article 34 commits states to ‘...protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse…’ and to take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to that end. The UNCRC was ratified by the UK in 1991; however, full incorporation into domestic law has not yet taken place.

Access NI

During this investigation many organisations made references to Access NI in their briefings and written submissions. The Committee sought a written briefing from Access NI outlining its role and remit to provide a level of clarity. The paper submitted (Appendix 3) outlines that the body is an integral part of the Department of Justice and is responsible to the Minister. Access NI operates under Part V of the Police Act 1997, with its role being to: “...provide criminal history and other information to employers to ensure that safe and appropriate recruitment decisions are taken”. There are three levels of check:

  • ‘Basic’ – includes information on criminal convictions, except those regarded as spent;
  • ‘Standard’ – includes information on all criminal convictions, including those regarded as spent; and
  • ‘Enhanced’ – as Standard, plus any non-conviction information that might be relevant and ought to be disclosed.

For enhanced checks the subject will be working in regulated activity as defined under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007 (as amended) and the information will include a check of lists held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) of those individuals not permitted to work with children or vulnerable adults. The DBS is a Non Departmental Public Body within the remit of the Home Office that makes decisions on whether individuals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be prevented, or “barred” from working with children or adults. It also provides the disclosure function for England and Wales that Access NI provides for Northern Ireland. The work of Access NI is mostly with the statutory, voluntary and private sector organisations which work with children and vulnerable adults. Once a check is processed a certificate goes to the individual and another to the registered body. Registered Bodies often act for other organisations requiring checks which are not registered bodies. Prior to April 2013 there were 2,000 registered bodies and this has now fallen to 700 following a review of the criteria for existing and new registered bodies. Registered bodies apply the Access NI Code of Practice and are subject to monitoring by Access NI.

During 2012 Access NI received 131,896 applications for disclosure, of which 105,540 were for enhanced checks. For example, the GAA’s Ulster Council sought nearly 900 checks between April and November 2012, while the Irish Football Association sought over 650. It is important to note that Access NI has no statutory powers to determine whether and when applicants must or should apply for enhanced checks. Legislative requirements with respect to this are laid down by other departments. However, Access NI can determine whether an individual application is eligible for the level of disclosure applied for. A fee is charged for processing applications; with enhanced checks costing £30 – those falling within Access NI’s definition of a volunteer receive checks free of charge.

A key issue that was highlighted to the Committee by a number of organisations who provided evidence to this investigation is that legislation is forthcoming which will make checks portable, or transferrable, between jobs and positions. Currently the information provided on checks is only valid on the day it is issued and each new post requires a fresh application. The new legislation will allow employers to conduct an online check to see whether the information presented to them is the most up-to-date available. The legislation is expected to come into force in early 2014. Access NI stressed in its paper that it is not responsible for any aspect of child protection policy.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)

The Committee was also very interested in hearing from the PSNI on the work it does with respect to the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. To that end Members asked the PSNI to brief the Committee and this briefing was transcribed (Appendix 2). The PSNI has established eight Public Protection Units (PPUs), one in each of the policing districts. A PPU is made up of four elements: the child abuse investigation unit; missing and vulnerable persons officers; domestic abuse officers; and management of offenders officers. The PPUs deal with the vast majority of child protection related issues. The PSNI also highlighted in its briefing session that it is working with partners to open a world-leading Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). The PSNI is also represented on the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland and works very closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

The officers highlighted that children are more vulnerable to abuse, which is something that the Committee heard from the majority of contributors, reinforcing the importance of this investigation. There is a dedicated full-time public protection team comprising PSNI officers, Probation Board officials, and trust social workers. This team protects children and other vulnerable people by managing the highest risk offenders living in the community.

Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW)

The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) welcomed the Committee’s investigation and highlighted that:

“...everyone has a responsibility to ensure that children are safe and protected and all public bodies have a responsibility to ensure that...they have systems and procedures in place to safeguard children; and that the systems are fit for purpose...The Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure has a responsibility for a large number of volunteer groups and museums where there would be substantial contact with children and as such it is essential to ensure that the proper governance arrangements are in place to protect children”.

Like so many of the other respondees to the Committee’s investigation, the NIASW recognises the Child Protection in Sport Unit as a model of best practice. Again, like many other organisations, it suggests that the Department could explore the CPSU model to inform what systems and procedures it should put in place across the whole CAL remit. This is a suggestion that is explored more fully below. The NIASW also highlights the challenges presented by the fact that organisations across the CAL spectrum are loosely structured and not necessarily fully engaged in networks. Members realise that this is one of the greatest issues in replicating the work of the CPSU in the culture and arts sectors. The NIASW suggested that it would support improved resources for safeguarding being made available for the arts and leisure sectors and this is also explored below.

In its paper the NIASW talked about how the Savile case illustrates again how difficult it is for vulnerable groups to seek help when they have been abused and, despite a system of assurances and good governance, it may be very difficult to come forward. The NIASW suggested that the Committee recommends that the Department should develop a strategy around inclusion, empowerment and enablement through Arm’s-Length Bodies. In particular, steps should be taken to actively facilitate young people’s empowerment and finding ways to ensure that young people have access to independent sources of help such as Childline. The NSPCC also put forward a similar suggestion in its original submission to the Committee (Appendix 3).

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Minister and the Arm’s-Length Bodies liaise with the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) to establish a Young Person Reference Group. This would give young people a voice in key policies and strategies, including the development of policies and procedures for protection and safeguarding. The Committee would suggest that this Group might work effectively on a virtual basis and could, again, be part of a chartermark standard pilot within the CAL sector. It is important that this Group takes cognisance of existing frameworks for advice and co-operation and to avoid the duplication of work.

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY)

The NICCY also welcomed the Committee’s investigation. In her submission to the investigation (Appendix 3), the Commissioner acknowledges there have been a number of positive developments in safeguarding across the Department’s remit, including the circulation of Guidance on Safeguarding Children (2009) and the integration of child protection standards into funding and sponsoring arrangements. The Committee’s investigation has shown how these work in practical terms and Members would agree with the Commissioner that they are of considerable value. The integration of child protection standards into funding and sponsoring arrangements is explored below.

The Commissioner, like many of the contributors to the investigation, pays tribute to the valuable contribution made by organisations such as the CPSU and Volunteer Now, with its Our Duty to Care project. The key issues raised by the Commissioner include:

  • Safe Recruitment – in common with a number of other respondees, the Commissioner believes changes in vetting and barring arrangements must be carefully considered and the restricted definition of Regulated Activity means that thought must to given to ensuring that appropriate levels of protection are place;
  • Vulnerable Groups – the Commissioner, like other contributors, stresses the need to ensure that thought is given to particularly vulnerable groups such as disabled children and those involved in intensive training or elite athlete programmes; emphasising that 16 and 17 year olds are also vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and, as noted by the NSPCC, this is not reflected in the protections of the Sexual Offences Order (2008) in regard to sports and other activities across the CAL remit;
  • Safeguarding Culture – the Commissioner suggests that the Department should have an active safeguarding group and identify: “...where the role of ALBs and governing and umbrella bodies in monitoring and auditing child protection standards as well as supporting improvements in association, club and group safeguarding can be strengthened”;
  • Children’s Rights – again, like the many other respondents, the Commissioner believes these should be embedded throughout the CAL remit: “A child rights ethos should be central to all policies, procedures and practices within groups and organisations”. The Commissioner highlighted that the Department is a signatory to NICCY’s Participation Policy Statement of Intent. She would like to see how good participation and child rights practice can be incorporated into funding and sponsorship arrangements; and
  • Joined-up Government – the Commissioner states that policies and procedures must be consistent across the bodies and organisations within the CAL remit and there should also be close liaison with the OFMDFM in relation to their work on online safety and cyber bullying.

In relation to safeguarding culture, the Department has already reconstituted its Child Protection Working Group and this will go some way towards the Commissioner’s desire that the Department and its ALBs should work more closely regarding protection and safeguarding issues and should see best practice rolled out more widely to the wider CAL family. The Commissioner welcomed this development and that of DHSSPS being asked to undertake a review of the Department’s safeguarding policies. With respect to the Commissioner’s comments on Vulnerable Groups, the Committee has already made a recommendation regarding the issue above and is aware of the ongoing work of the NSPCC with the Department of Justice regarding 16 and 17 year olds’ inclusion in the Sexual Offences Order (2008). With respect to the other issues raised by the Commissioner, these are dealt with by the Committee below.

The Commissioner also raised the issue of the application of protection and safeguarding best practice to activities, including those private homes, that are not subject to the requirements of government funding arrangements or governing body regulation and do not take place in local government venues. These are issues that the Committee heard a great deal about and are dealt with at various points in this report.

Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI)

The SBNI was launched by the Ministers of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Education and Justice in September 2012. As the Board’s written submission (Appendix 3) to the Committee highlights:

“The Assembly decided to create the SBNI because it believed that more could, and should be done by organisations and professionals to protect vulnerable children...The SBNI was established within Northern Ireland in 2012, in recognition of the fact that children are more likely to be protected when agencies work in a comprehensive, co-ordinated and consistent fashion”.

The Committee wholeheartedly agrees with this view that co-ordination and consistency are essential to afford vulnerable groups the highest level of protection.

Volunteer Now, the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) all welcomed the establishment of the SBNI in their submissions to this investigation (all Appendix 3). The NIASW stated in its submission:

“The new Safeguarding Board NI arrangements will see improvements made to the operation of local interagency arrangements for the protection of children and a more wider safeguarding agenda...[the] NIASW would suggest the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and Safeguarding Board NI to take forward strategic developments in this area”.

NICCY (Appendix 3) also suggested that the Department should develop a formal relationship with the SBNI, which would allow the experiences of Departments such as Education and Health in monitoring safeguarding practice across wide ranging sectors such as childcare and youth and community work to be drawn on. Other contributors to the investigation made similar suggestions in recognition of the need for joined-up work in this area. The Committee agrees that the SBNI provides a pivotal role in bringing together expertise in the area of the protection and safeguarding of children and other vulnerable groups.

The Chair of the SBNI is directly accountable to the Health Minister and is subject to the scrutiny of the Health Committee. The membership of the SBNI is largely drawn from the remits of the Departments of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Education and Justice aside from the NSPCC National Head of Services, five voluntary sector representatives and the chief executives of two district councils.

In its submission the SBNI stated:

“The objective of the SBNI is to co-ordinate and ensure the effectiveness of what is done by its Members to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in Northern Ireland”.

It is important that the Department is involved in supporting this objective. The functions of the SBNI are to:

  • Take into account children and young people’s views on the effectiveness of arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
  • Take into account the importance of the role of parents and other carers in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children;
  • Develop policies and procedures to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
  • Promote an awareness of the need to safeguard children and protect their welfare; keep under review the effectiveness of what is done by each person or body represented on the Board;
  • Undertake Case Management Reviews (CMRs) in order to learn lessons in cases where children have died or have been seriously injured;
  • Review such information as may be prescribed in relation to the deaths of children in NI (to become operational later this year);
  • Advise the Regional Health and Social Care Board and Local Commissioning Groups in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children; and
  • Promote communication between the SBNI and young people.

The SBNI submission goes on to say:

“The unique role of the SBNI is its capacity to tackle issues on a strategic, co-ordinated and multi-agency basis, to create a culture across organisations, which will lead to continuous improvement in terms of safeguarding and protecting children...The SBNI can facilitate, co-ordinate, challenge and provide leadership but it is not operationally accountable for the work of Member Agencies...The task of the SBNI is to ensure that the issues of safeguarding and child protection continue to receive a high profile matched by an on-going commitment from the Member Agencies to continuous improvement...The key to the success of the SBNI lies in engaging and securing the commitment of the Member Agencies to: collaborate; share information and resources; develop new ways of working or new approaches; and deliver on the strategic commitments they make when signing up to the SBNI’s strategic and annual business plans”.

The SBNI also acknowledges that the Culture, Arts and Leisure sectors come into contact with a vast number of children and young people. Like so many of the other contributors to this investigation, the SBNI praises the work of the CPSU and the ‘Clubmark’ scheme. In its submission the SBNI goes on to suggest that gaps/weaknesses in the system need to be identified and that it is necessary to ensure that there are building blocks in place in relation to policy and procedures. SBNI stresses that it is vital that attention is given to the establishment of a governance framework and that assistance is given to organisations which are isolated by making available a support and training framework similar to that provided by the CPSU which will also help to establish links with similar bodies both within and outside the sector, including the SBNI.

The Committee believes that the SBNI must be properly resourced to be as effective as it can be and Members would wish to ensure that the body’s level of resourcing allows it to work with the CAL sector sooner than its business plan suggests. This investigation has made clear that the CAL sector deals with numerous vulnerable individuals and this makes the sector a priority for the Safeguarding Board’s attention.

Judging by the comments above from the NIASW, NICCY, the SBNI and the Committee’s own view that the CAL remit has a significant interface with vulnerable groups, Members believe that there should be a formal link between the SBNI and the Department. This would allow the Department to be able to contribute the experiences of its ALBs and stakeholders to the knowledge acquired by the SBNI and for the entire CAL family to benefit from the work undertaken by the SBNI.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that, to facilitate greater co-operation in the field of protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups, the Department establishes a formal link with the SBNI; either through a Memorandum of Understanding or, if more appropriate, through membership of one or more of the SBNI’s committees.

Another issue that the Committee has considered during this investigation, and which has been emphasised by a number of contributors, is that of protecting the volunteers and others who undertake work with children and other vulnerable groups. Members believe that it is extremely important to ensure that these people understand how to protect themselves so that organisations which work with vulnerable groups can still attract staff and volunteers. On this issue the SBNI submission states:

“Whilst the SBNI’s focus is on the safeguarding of children, we recognise that there is a balance to be struck between having a robust system that protects children and a system which is so bureaucratic and overly regulated that volunteers become disenchanted or that the opportunities for children to grow and develop are stifled in a web of regulations...The development of clear and unambiguous guidelines and policy and procedures relating to the following are needed: recruitment and selection; effective management of staff/volunteers; reporting of concerns; code of behaviour; sharing of information; general safety and management of activities...For large organisations like Sport NI, it is important that through policy “building blocks”, these individual tasks are brought together to form a governance framework so that the issue of safeguarding is periodically and systematically reviewed. Obviously, this is a lot more difficult to achieve in the context where there is no overarching sponsor or governing body”.

The Committee agrees that it is very important that these policy “building blocks” are essential for organisations so that their staff and volunteers feel as protected as the vulnerable groups that they work with. In the next section of the investigation report, which deals with the existing structures in place in the ALBs and other organisations, it is clear that these foundations are visible and they are reinforced in key organisations such as the NSPCC and Volunteer Now. The Committee believes that it is vital that these key elements are present in all policy and procedure documents across the CAL sector and that they are dealt with consistently. As indicated, Members have seen considerable evidence of them in the submission and briefings they have received from a range of organisations. However, it is important that the Committee highlights their importance and the need for them to be clear.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department engages with relevant networks/stakeholders and with existing frameworks to promote and disseminate specific guidance for volunteers working with vulnerable groups; thus allowing them to be sufficiently knowledgeable and secure to undertake volunteering and providing an environment of information which will encourage new volunteers.

A key reason for the Committee to undertake this investigation was Members concern about those who undertake work with vulnerable groups as individuals or small organisations which are not affiliated to governing bodies and are not within the ‘funded’ or ‘regulated’ environment. In a subsequent submission to the Committee (Appendix 5) the SBNI clarified that home tutors are subject to vetting and barring arrangements. However, Access NI doesn’t issue Enhanced Disclosure Certificates or Barred List checks for those such as home tutors who are self-employed – this is due to the absence of a ‘Regulated Activity Provider’ (RAP), i.e. the employer, who can say if the applicant will be engaged in regulated activity. Parents who pay tutors are not considered to be RAPs. It is expected that a ‘duty to check’ those in regulated activity within the next 12 months will be introduced, but this won’t apply to self-employed persons. Access NI has indicated that once portable disclosure checks become available in NI (2014) it is intended that home tutors will be able to apply for a portable Enhanced Disclosure certificate with a Barred List Check through an umbrella body. They can then provide details to parents. The Committee believes that there is a lack of awareness amongst these private tutors, small unaffiliated groups and parents about what protection and safeguarding is, how it should be done and when. To that end, Members believe that there must be better information for these groups.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Minister works with Executive colleagues and the SBNI to develop a link, similar to that developed by CEOP, which can be applied to websites where individuals or groups might go to seek information on protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups. This link could initially be piloted within the CAL remit and would lead to a portal that provides up-to-date advice and information on this issue, including current statutory requirements. Adoption of the link could also be part of a chartermark standard and its effectiveness could be assessed through a CAL pilot. Discussion is also required to ascertain how this link might operate for the cross-border bodies.

The Committee is aware that the Irish Football Association is developing a smart phone application that will also provide a similar function.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Minister engages with the Irish Football Association with regard to its development of a safeguarding smartphone application and, in conjunction with the Arm’s-Length Bodies and expert stakeholders, examines the possibility of such an application being piloted for staff and volunteers working with vulnerable groups within the CAL sector. A successful pilot could then be shared/discussed with Executive colleagues with a view to a wider roll out. Such an application would also provide a useful vehicle to publicise a chartermark standard, following a successful CAL pilot of a standard.

Additionally, many of these individuals or small, unaffiliated groups which provide tuition often use the premises of councils or the Churches/Faith groups to undertake their work. The Committee believes that these organisations have a role to play in ensuring that they protect vulnerable groups who might be participating in these activities. The SBNI also highlighted this in its submission:

“...some activities are organised for children and young people by individuals or a group of individuals who have no links with any organisation but use the facilities owned by district councils, education or faith groups. The SBNI believe that a more consistent approach by the councils, education and faith groups to checking the credentials of such individuals would afford an extra level of protection”.

The SBNI indicates that while it has no legislative remit within the CAL sector it is building relationships within the sector and is keen to establish more, including with faith groups. Given that the Education Department and district councils are Legislative Member Agencies of the SBNI it can ensure through its quality assurance programme that their child protection/safeguarding processes are in place.

The Churches and Faith Groups

Dealing with the Churches/Faith groups first, the SBNI provided the Committee with supplementary information on what these organisations do with respect to the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups when they are on their premises but are engaging in activities organised by another individual or group. The SBNI communicated with the Churches/Faith groups to ascertain how they administer the use of their premises by outside organisations or individuals to ensure that appropriate checks are in place with respect to the safeguarding of young people.

The Child Evangelism Fellowship of Ireland requests to see organisations’ safeguarding policy and then agreement is reached to decide whose policy will be worked under. A check is also required with respect to organisations’ public liability insurance and an outline of the health and safety guidelines is either given in writing or verbally to the groups using the premises. The Salvation Army in its activities and in the use of its properties follows safeguarding policies and procedures laid down by its Head Office in London. If another organisation uses its premises they must sign a standardised licence. If under 18s are involved then the organisation is required to produce their child protection policy for checking. This licence is forwarded to the Area Office in Belfast to be approved by the Board.

The Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and The Methodist Church in Ireland have their own child protection guidelines; however, they have also developed a Common Protocol for Independent Organisations working with children and young people. This is called ‘Taking Care’ and sets out minimum standards of good practice when dealing with children and young people based on ‘Getting it Right’ and ‘Our Duty to Care’. This is signed annually by the organisation using the premises. The Protocol seeks to clarify the expectations and responsibilities of both the Churches and the Independent Organisations, focusing on the areas of: child protection policy; the appointment of leaders; information sharing; reporting of concerns; evidence of appropriate insurance cover; and the expectation that activities will be carried out safely and any safety concerns will be reported to the Church.

The Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor has indicated that each parish has its own Parish Safeguarding Committee (PSC) which ensures that key checks are in place and carried through with respect to independent groups or individuals who are leasing or hiring their premises. In order to deliver an activity involving children and/or vulnerable adults the group/individual must sign a form confirming that they have: a child/vulnerable adult safeguarding policy, their staff and volunteers are appropriately vetted, their staff and volunteers have attended child/vulnerable adult safeguarding training, appropriate insurance is in place to cover their activity (a copy must be provided to the PSC). The form must be signed by the leader in charge and a copy retained by the PSC. The guidelines state that it is the duty of the organisation to ensure that the premises are suitable and appropriate for planned activities; and that these activities are carried out safely. Any health and safety concerns regarding the premises are notified by the organisation leader to the appropriate person within the Parish as soon as possible. The organisation must confirm to the Parish PSC that it has adopted and consistently implements a child protection policy, it has names and contact details for the leader and volunteers involved and that these have had an Access NI check and have received appropriate child protection training and are aware of the organisation’s reporting procedures, and have written confirmation from their insurer that adequate cover is in place for the organisation’s activities.

The independent organisation provides this information in a Club Audit Checklist Form which must be signed by the person in charge to confirm that they have met all of the criteria. A copy of their insurance must be provided to the PSC Chair. In addition, a contract of usage should be drawn up between the Parish and the organisation, outlining expectations and responsibilities agreed between the two parties. It is the Parish’s responsibility to establish this contract. If an individual wishing to lease or hire Parish premises cannot fulfil these it is possible for them to work to the Diocesan Child Protection Policy and Procedures and attend the training, fulfil the requirements expected of other Parish staff, consent to a vetting check and work to the Diocesan Code of Conduct. The decision to do this rests with the individual Parish.

Individuals who seek the lease or hire of Parish premises for one-off events such as a child’s birthday party are not going to be able to meet the above criteria; however, all Parishes are insured to cover one-off private events such as these. They are not required to complete the Club Audit Checklist and the PSC does not need to be involved. However, it is good practice with respect to these events to draw up an agreement with the potential hirer to highlight terms and conditions of the use of the hall, the responsibilities of both parties, how accidents should be reported and health and safety etc. Parish Hall Committees or Parish Priests would benefit from developing such pro formas for all such requests.

The SBNI commented:

“Whilst there is some variation, it is clear that the Church Organisations have taken steps to check the “bona fides” of anyone seeking to hire or lease their premises and in so doing to ensure that checks of the Organisation’s Child Protection Policy and credentials are established”.

The Committee would agree that the evidence that has been provided suggestions that the Churches and Faith groups are working hard to ensure that their premises are used safely by third parties working with vulnerable groups. Members believe that this work needs to be supported to ensure consistency and information sharing.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Safeguarding Board NI continues to engage with the Churches and Faith groups to support them in establishing the “bona fides” of individuals/organisations using their premises to undertake activities involving vulnerable groups. The Committee supports the SBNI drawing the Culture, Arts and Leisure Arm’s-Length Bodies into this engagement, primarily for the purpose of information sharing. This engagement could also facilitate the working of a CAL chartermark standard pilot.

Existing Structures for Child Protection and Safeguarding across the sectors in the CAL remit

The Committee was keen during this investigation to receive information from all of the Department’s Arm’s-Length Bodies on their structures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. In this section there is evidence from all of the ALBs and a number of other important organisations within the CAL remit. The sport sector is dealt with in a separate section of this report.

The Armagh Planetarium

In some cases, the Committee visited premises of the ALBs. One such visit was to the Armagh Planetarium, which is the Department’s smallest ALB. The Planetarium provided the Committee with its policy and procedures for protection and safeguarding (Appendix 5). The title of the Armagh Planetarium’s policy includes the phrase “Vulnerable Adults”, which is important as there are the same issues around protecting and safeguarding them as there are around children. This has already been highlighted above and a recommendation made. The policy that the Planetarium operates includes ensuring that staff are aware of the Safeguarding policy and procedures and the provision of a staff code of conduct. Additionally, there is a step-by-step guide as to how staff deal with an allegation. Training will be provided to staff within three months of beginning their employment and will be updated every two years. The policy also includes appropriate recruitment, selection and vetting procedures. Also the policy indicates that the document can be provided to those leading group visits to the Planetarium. The Redress and Complaints Policy is available on the website and the Safeguarding policy and procedures will be reviewed every two years, or more frequently if required.

The policy and procedures document goes on to define abuse and bullying and outline reporting procedures (including the use of an incident book with relevant contact details for the appropriate statutory authorities and an outline of the information that should be recorded for incidents) and initial actions that should be taken in the event of suspicions or allegations being raised. The document also contains a procedure to be followed in the event of a direct disclosure by a child, details of the designated officers and the importance of confidentiality. A code of behaviour is also included in the document, which sets out the principles that staff should follow when dealing with children; and also appropriateness of relationships with and attitudes towards children, as well as guidance for time spent alone with children.

Guidance is also given for dealing with young people at the Planetarium on work experience or other educational programmes. The process for selection training and supervision of staff is set out, and is the responsibility of the Director. There is also guidance on how to deal with lost and found children/vulnerable adults, as well as general health and safety advice – including how this applies to the arrival, supervision and general activities of young people etc. while they are at the Planetarium. The safeguarding policy and procedures are to be placed on the Planetarium website and also in the incident pack in the Administrator’s Office for inspection. Appendix 1 to the document deals with recognition of abuse and poor practice; dealing with those with a disability and young people who display sexually harmful behaviour. Appendix 2 deals with a flow chart outlining the actions to be taken upon a report of child abuse. Appendix 3 details the safeguarding reporting procedures. Appendix 4 outlines useful/important contacts.

In his briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), the Director of the Planetarium indicated that he uses the Church of Ireland as its Registered Body for Access NI checks. One particular issue that the Director mentioned, that the Committee believes can be addressed relatively easily, is the use of volunteers. The Planetarium ceased using volunteers a number of years ago as people who were volunteering were reluctant to involve themselves in the seemingly bureaucratic process of Access NI checks. Some were even offended that they should be asked to do this. However, there is greater understanding now of the importance of these checks and the process is continually being refined. The Committee believes that working with an organisation such as Volunteer Now would be of tremendous use to the Planetarium.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI)

In the paper the Committee received from The ACNI (Appendix 3), the organisation indicated that it distributes Exchequer money and National Lottery Funds to organisations and individuals who develop and deliver arts programmes. The paper also sets out the importance that the Arts Council attaches to child protection and safeguarding:

“The Arts Council aims to safeguard the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults participating in the arts”.

Again, the Committee is pleased that vulnerable adults are mentioned and this can be built on through the Committee’s recommendation on this issue. The ACNI achieves this aim by ensuring that client and partner organisations are committed to good practice in this field. The paper goes on to set out principles around protection and safeguarding and the context of their interest – i.e. where their own staff are involved, an artist or facilitator is employed by a third party, or they fund an arts organisation for a programme of work. Designated officers and deputies are in place to deal with any issues or allegations that arise within the Arts Council’s sphere of interest. These officers also liaise with the appropriate authorities around any issues.

The Arts Council’s policy for child protection has been developed with the support of Volunteer Now. Organisations funded by the Arts Council must apply these guidelines and adapt them to their specific needs. Organisations receiving funding from the Arts Council which intend to work with child and young people must have a Child Protection Policy. The paper goes on to outline the principles that should be contained in such a policy, including reporting procedures, training for staff dissemination of information etc. Draw down of Arts Council funding is dependent on the organisation having submitted a copy of their Child Protection Policy. The organisation must also complete and return a Safeguarding Checklist. The paper acknowledges the primacy of the welfare of the child. The Arts Council reviews its policy and guidelines at least every three years. The Council also ensures that others in the arts sectors review and update their policies as appropriate.

The ACNI agrees that, while the internet provides a host of opportunities, there are also possible dangers necessitating safeguards be put in place. The ACNI, with the support of Volunteer Now and others in the sector, will develop a set of guidelines and actions for those in the sector to enable them to increase awareness and actions they can take to create child internet safety. The Committee welcomes this commitment and discusses this issue further below. The ACNI also provides briefings to client organisations on Safeguarding and associated legislation. Additionally, it circulates information to client organisations relevant to Safeguarding Training provided by external organisations. The paper also provides a list of evidence of good practice on the part of the Arts Council. Annex 1 of the paper sets out the Arts Council’s safeguarding policy and procedures. There is a note that the term “Vulnerable Adult” is used in the document is inclusive of older people. The policy opens with a statement of intent which outlines the role of the Arts Council and the principles it applies to child protection and safeguarding. The policy uses the phrase “children, young people and vulnerable adults” to encapsulate to whom the policy applies. It also sets out the responsibilities of recipients of Arts Council funding with respect to these issues.

The policy goes on to set out the procedure by which staff should report concerns, disclosures and allegations. This includes definitions and dos and don’ts that staff and volunteers should be aware of. It goes on to outline how to deal with concerns or allegations involving a member of staff or a volunteer. As with other policies, it is stressed that pursuance of concerns or allegations should be undertaken by the designated officers or their deputies. The policy also highlights that the Arts Council will not pursue an internal investigation if a referral is made to the PSNI as this could prejudice a criminal investigation. The policy also sets out reporting procedures. Appendix 1 of the policy provides information on the Arts Council Designated Officers, while Appendix 2 outlines other useful contacts. Appendix 3 is a flow chart of the concern reporting procedure and Appendix 4 is a flow chart of the procedure for reporting allegations or suspicions of abuse. The third part of the policy comprises the code of behaviour for Arts Council staff and volunteers, as well as client organisations. This is a useful series of dos and don’ts. There is a section specifically on physical contact which outlines when it is appropriate and when it is not. The paper also provides a Safeguarding checklist at Annex 2 which also has a child protection policy statement which must be signed and dated by client organisations, indicating when the policy was adopted, to draw down funding.

The Committee believes that the policy and procedures document that the ACNI uses is well laid out and thorough. It follows the “building blocks” highlighted by the SBNI above and by Volunteers Now and the NSPCC. Members believe that it is important that this policy and information should be disseminated as widely as possible throughout the arts and culture sector. The Committee is aware that the ACNI can stand behind the protection and safeguarding policies and procedures of those it funds directly; however, the Committee believes that it is important that the organisations further down the funding chain are also operating and implementing sufficiently robust protection and safeguarding policies and procedures. In his oral evidence to the Committee (Appendix 2), the ACNI’s Director of Strategic Development said:

“We recognise that safeguarding is a collective responsibility...our policy as a funder aims to ensure that the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults is paramount in all relevant areas of our work...a cycle of meetings happens every quarter with funded organisations...I think that a general principle might emanate from the Inquiry about setting a new benchmark in safeguarding standards that we might expect in Northern Ireland”.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department engages with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), and the culture bodies, Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster Scots Agency/Ulster Scots Community Network, to establish a model for an audit of organisations within the arts and culture sectors respectively. This would examine the policies and procedures that bodies in the sectors have in place to protect and safeguard vulnerable groups. These audits should be taken forward as soon as is practicable and the Committee would expect that the Department and relevant bodies would complete the development of terms of reference and a methodology within six months, along with an action plan to deal with the audits’ outputs. The Committee would expect that the audits’ outputs would be shared with relevant parties. The audits should also extend to other ALBs, as appropriate. Consideration must be given to how audits would be handled in the case of the cross-border bodies.

Foras na Gaeilge (Foras)

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), Foras indicated that its officers have no direct or regular contact with young people. Foras provides grant aid to organisations to work with young people and it has what it describes as a “comprehensive” child protection policy and code of practice which was undertaken in conjunction with the Ulster Scots Agency and prepared by the NSPCC. A working group between Foras and the Ulster Scots Agency has been set up to review the policy twice a year. The last revision to the policy was in May 2012.

The bodies receive regular updates about changes in legislation from the NSPCC and the National Youth Council of Ireland. Foras has a Designated Officer and a Deputy Designated Officer with respect to child protection and safeguarding issues. Foras believes its policies to be based on the highest standards of best practice and in line with current legislation. The submission highlighted Foras’ relationship with the NSPCC and National Youth Council of Ireland to allow them to stay abreast of changes in legislation and practice. The Committee commends this engagement with expert organisations. The policies are reviewed on a biannual basis and staff with child protection responsibilities are trained to “…the highest expected standard”. In-house training is also delivered to staff on protection and safeguarding. Awareness training has been completed by a majority of current staff. Training will be rolled out again before the end of the year to accommodate new staff. Three members of staff have been trained to deliver these programmes.

Within its policy, Foras has a specific Appendix dealing with ‘Keeping young people safe online’ which gives clear dos and don’ts of internet use with young people and outlines procedures and reporting breaches of rules. This is an important area of consideration for the Committee in this investigation and it is dealt with in more detail below.

Foras seeks advice from NSPCC and Volunteer Now on which staff need to be vetted. Staff who visit summer schemes do so infrequently and irregularly; however, Foras requires all new staff to be vetted by the appropriate authority depending on the jurisdiction in which the post will be based. Foras has a reporting and recording mechanism for child welfare and protection within its policy. Concerns can be reported to the Designated Officer or their deputy. Again, the Committee found Foras na Gaeilge’s policy and procedures to follow the foundations outlined by the key expert organisations.

Libraries Northern Ireland

Libraries NI’s written submission to the investigation (Appendix 3) indicated that there are 109,022 children and groups of children under the age of 16 and 8,163 teenagers aged 16 and 17 who are active members of the public library service. This makes up 40% of library users and gives our libraries a huge interface with children and young people. The paper goes on to state:

“Libraries NI is committed to providing a safe environment for all its customers and is particularly conscious of the need to ensure that children can access services safely whether in a library, in their own home or in another environment”.

Libraries NI has a number of policies and procedures relevant to child protection, of which the overarching one is the Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy. Again, the Committee is glad that Libraries NI acknowledges that policies and procedures should apply to all vulnerable groups. The policy’s aim is to protect these groups by providing guidance on the detection and management of situations where abuse or neglect is evident or suspected. The policy is under constant review, with a comprehensive review at least every three years. The policy was inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) in 2010 and was found to be operating satisfactorily. The Policy and associated training for staff have been quality assured by Volunteer Now. Libraries NI’s internal audit checks compliance with the policy when auditing branches and a strategic audit of Safeguarding arrangements is included in the Internal Audit Plan for 2013/14. The Committee believes that it is important that policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups are not only reviewed on a regular basis, but that they are subject to strategic audits.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department engages with its Arm’s-Length Bodies to ensure that, in addition to regular reviews of their policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups, they undertake a regular strategic audit of these as part of their Internal Audit Plan. These audits should take place on a biennial cycle to ensure that up-to-date best practice is applied. Additionally, the Committee recommends to the CAL Arm’s-Length Bodies that they ensure their fundees and partners do the same.

The general principles contained in the Libraries NI document are paraphrased below:

  • Commitment to practice which promotes the welfare of the child and protects them from harm;
  • Recognition that children and young people have the fundamental right to be safe from harm and have their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing promoted by those looking after them;
  • Children and young people’s welfare must be paramount over all other considerations;
  • Children and their families have a right to services to meet their needs regardless of which of the Section 75 categories they occupy;
  • Children and young people have the right to be heard, listened to and taken seriously;
  • Concerns will be reported to statutory agencies and children and parents will be involved appropriately;
  • An appropriate balance will be struck between protecting children and respecting the rights of other library users, but where there is a conflict the protection of the child comes first; and
  • Actions taken to protect the child or young person should not cause unnecessary distress or further harm.

The policy also sets out general principles which guide Libraries NI’s approach to working with vulnerable adults, which are paraphrased below:

  • Will actively work with other agencies to safeguard vulnerable adults;
  • Actively promote the empowerment and wellbeing of vulnerable adults through the services provided;
  • Support the rights of individuals to lead an independent life based on self-determination and personal choice;
  • Recognise people who are unable to take their own decisions and/or protect themselves, their assets and bodily integrity;
  • Ensure the safety of vulnerable adults by integrating strategies, policies and services; and
  • Ensure the law and statutory requirements are known and used appropriately.

The safeguarding policy is supplemented by detailed procedures and information and guidance for staff:

  • What to do if a child or vulnerable adult discloses abuse (recognising abuse);
  • Dealing with unsupervised children;
  • Dealing with allegations against a member of staff (single staffing);
  • A code of conduct for staff when dealing with children and vulnerable adults;
  • Contact details for Designated Officers and Social Services Gateway Teams;
  • Inappropriate use of the internet;
  • Filming or photography in the library;
  • Dealing with inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour;
  • Supporting vulnerable adults in the library environment; and
  • Visiting vulnerable adults in their homes or a care situation.

Again, the Committee believes that this policy and the accompanying general principles follows the good practice set out by the expert organisations. Members were impressed by what they heard from Libraries NI and commend the Chief Executive for her leadership.

Since it was established in 2009, Libraries NI has had Registered Body status with Access NI. All new employees are vetted in accordance with Access NI checking procedures prior to appointment. Enhanced checks are carried out on all frontline staff, including caretaking and cleaning staff. Temporary and volunteer staff are subject to the same procedures. Child protection is part of the staff induction and refresher training is provided on an ongoing basis to ensure awareness of the policy and procedures and staff responsibilities. There are 19 staff at middle management level who are Designated Officers. They receive more detailed training on safeguarding issues. They provide advice and support to frontline staff and can make referrals to statutory agencies.

The Lead Designated Officer sits on the Child Protection Co-ordinating Group in one of the Education and Library Boards which is chaired by a Chief Education Welfare Officer. This ensures that Libraries NI is plugged into wider sources of safeguarding information and practice. The Committee commends this important focus on co-operation and co-ordination. Designated Officers maintain records of all concerns and follow-up and quarterly reports are compiled by the Lead Designated Officer and provided to the Chief Executive and these are provided to the Department. Again, the Committee sees this as good practice. Safeguarding is a standing item on the agenda of the Chief Executive’s Accountability meetings with DCAL. This is something highlighted at during the Department’s briefing to the Committee and is something that Members believe to be very important.

While providing free internet access, Libraries NI has a policy on conditions of use by adults and children and guidelines for all staff. Children under 8 are not permitted to use the internet unless they are accompanied by an adult. Children between 9 and 16 must have the permission of a parent or guardian. All access to the internet is filtered to block illegal sites and pornography, with additional filtering applied to under 16’s use of known social media sites. Additional blocking of sites can be applied by the Designated Officers as appropriate. The new e2 project computer system for 2013 will include improved internet access and pervasive wireless access in all libraries. As part of this Libraries NI is looking at enhanced filtering and monitoring and is reviewing policies on computer use.

In addition, Libraries NI offers support for use of the internet to adults through its Got IT? And Go ON programmes and advice is given on the use of social media. A programme of class visits is offered to all Year 4 and 6 pupils. The programme has been quality assured by the ETI and complements the curriculum. It consists of three visits to the library; with visit three entitled ‘Computers and the Internet’. This provides information on safe use of the internet and an introduction to some quality assured sites. Libraries NI wishes to strike a balance between protecting children from the danger of the internet while empowering them to make responsible and informed decisions around using this important tool. Again, the Committee regards this as a key area for protection and safeguarding and it is considered further below.

The Northern Ireland Museums Council (NIMC)

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), the NIMC described itself as the advocate and service provider for all non-national museums, especially the 38 local museums in Northern Ireland which meet the UK Museum Accreditation Scheme. It distributes grant aid for the care and preservation of collections, for enhancing public access to museum collections, and enables museums to acquire artefacts. In its submission the NIMC highlighted:

“The Northern Ireland Museums Council is committed to the principle that children and vulnerable adults who access museums should be safe and protected from harm, believing that their welfare is paramount, that they have the right to protection from harm irrespective of their age, culture, disability, gender, language, racial origin, religious beliefs and/or sexual identity”.

The NIMC believes all museum staff should be aware of their responsibilities regarding safeguarding. The submission goes on to state:

“All museums which are recognised under the Museum Accreditation Scheme... are required to have a Safeguarding Policy in place and associated procedures in operation. The NIMC requires grant applicants to declare that they have adopted such a policy, to supply the Council with a copy of the version currently in operation. The Council strongly advises museums to regularly review and update policies and procedures in light of developments in practice and the legislation relating to protection issues”.

The NIMC supports local museums by providing advice, guidance and training. It has a policy guidance document which it sends to all museums: ‘Guidance to Museums on Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults’. The document contains recommendations for what a Safeguarding Policy should include: the paramount nature of the welfare of children and vulnerable adults; clear commitments to staff/volunteer training; a commitment to disseminate the policy to interested parties; safe recruitment, selection and vetting; references to relevant legislation; arrangements for reviewing the policy; and pointers to all associated policies and procedures in place in the organisation to promote safeguarding. The document makes suggestions for a staff code of conduct and procedures for safeguarding, including designated officers and contact details for relevant internal and external personnel. Advice on the safe use of ICT, risk management in activity planning, unaccompanied or lost children, photography and filming of children, surveying and consulting children and outreach visits is also included. There is further advice on responding to a disclosure of abuse and whistleblowing. Appendices to the document include: relevant legislation and guidance; the roles and responsibilities of a Designated Officer; recognition of abuse; protecting young people with disabilities; guidance on vetting system; and useful contact details. Again, the Committee sees this document as following the “building blocks” referred to earlier.

National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI)

In its briefing to the Committee with the NIMC (Appendix 2), NMNI stated:

“This year, we closed the books on 904,000 visitors, so again they were very busy sites... Our child protection policy dates back to 1996, and our latest version was published in 2011, after consultation and advice from organisations such as the NSPCC and the ETI. It follows the best practice format as set out by the DCAL” .

Clearly NMNI deal with a large number of children and young people and vulnerable groups generally. Of particular interest to the Committee is the Safeguarding Forum that the NMNI has set up. There had previously been a network of people involved in safeguarding, but the forum came out of a best practice recommendation by the Education and Training Inspectorate. The Committee sees this is a good idea for organisations in the CAL remit which are either large, or have multiple locations. Information gained through such a Forum can and should be fed back to the Department through its Child Protection Working Group. NMNI highlighted that:

“The biggest challenge for us, as an organisation, is unaccompanied kids...Online safety and security is also an issue...We face a practical issue in maintaining up-to-date details. Given the number of visitors who go through our sites, we do not have a huge amount of contact with police and social services, but when we do, sometimes contacts have changed and people have moved on. There is an ongoing issue in trying to keep that information up to date. If there were some way of creating a resource for that it would be helpful. We welcome the development of interests in safeguarding”.

The Committee has already recommended that the Department establishes formal links with the Safeguarding Board NI. The SBNI’s Members cover the organisations which provide the contacts for most organisations with respect to the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. It is therefore logical that the SBNI acts as a co-ordinating unit for the up-to-date provision of these contacts to the Department which can then disseminate them to its ALBs through its Working Group. The ALBs can then disseminate these to their partners in a cascade fashion.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department works with the SBNI to ensure that the key contact details needed by its ALBs and their partners, as part of their protection and safeguarding documents for staff and volunteers, are kept constantly up-to-date and appropriately disseminated.

During the briefing the NMNI highlighted that the Department’s Learning Forum is very successful. It was suggested that the model could be used for a Safeguarding Forum; however, the Department has already indicated that it is reconstituting its Child Protection Working Group. The NMNI stated:

“Safeguarding is a fairly fast-moving territory, and what is good practice one day will possibly not be good practice another day. That sharing of information and knowledge would be very valuable”.

The Committee agrees with this view and it is to be hoped that the Department’s Child Protection Working Group will enhance this sharing of information and good practice around safeguarding.

The Ulster-Scots Agency

In its submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), the Agency highlighted that it is committed to the delivery of a quality service that also promotes good practice and which protects children and young people from harm. As has already been highlighted, the Agency has a joint child protection and safeguarding sub-committee with Foras na Gaeilge. Following a procurement exercise, the NSPCC was appointed by the sub-committee to develop a safeguarding policy along with a Community Code of Practice. Information on this has already been outlined above. All the Agency’s staff have attended a programme of training designed to raise awareness of safeguarding and child protection as well as specific training on the Agency’s safeguarding policy and procedures. The Designated Officer and Deputy Designated Officer have attended specific NSPCC training. Relevant staff and service providers are subject to appropriate vetting procedures, including ‘enhanced disclosure’ for those who have regular contact with children and vulnerable adults. Groups applying for funding from the Agency must also provide evidence that they have appropriate child protection and safeguarding policies in place. Failure to do so will mean that funding will not be forthcoming. The current policies and procedures include guidance on cyber bullying and social media; however, upcoming changes in the UK and the Republic of Ireland mean the joint sub-committee has agreed to review the current policy and procedures to ensure continued compliance and best practice.

As with many of the other contributors to this investigation, the Agency admits that its current policy reflects in a large part the current practice for safeguarding that is applied in the sports sector. In setting the terms of reference for this investigation the Committee acknowledged that the sports sector in Northern Ireland has led the way in safeguarding, largely driven by the CPSU. The Agency intends to continue its relationship with the NSPCC with respect to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. The Committee believes that it is sensible for ALBs to engage regularly with the NSPCC and other experts to ensure that their protection and safeguarding policies reflect best practice and are up-to-date and compliant with current legislation.

In its oral briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), the Ulster-Scots Agency highlighted that it has delegated functions to the Ulster-Scots Community Network with respect to vetting staff and working with Access NI.

The Ulster-Scots Community Network

In its submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), the Ulster-Scots Community Network described itself as an umbrella organisation with over 500 member groups. Generally the Network signposts groups to the NSPCC and Volunteer Now for child protection and safeguarding training. As outlined above, it is a Registered Body for Access NI purposes. In its submission the Network highlighted that:

“There appears to be a lack of uniformity between the requirements of various funders on child protection issues...Modest investment in creating clear, scenario defined examples for the cultural sector would allow voluntary and community groups to better relate to potential risks and solutions to issues”.

The Committee expects that the establishment by the Department of a more formal relationship with the Safeguarding Board NI will allow it to tap into more widely agreed standard requirements for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups which it can then disseminate across the CAL family. Additionally, the Committee’s recommendation that the Arts Council NI should audit the arts and culture sectors’ policies and procedures should also facilitate the development of more culture/arts appropriate scenarios for groups. This in turn will make for better risk management across these sectors.

The Network highlights that Access NI certificates provide only a “snapshot” of an individual’s criminal history at that time and the system makes no provision for “real time” reporting of potential issues after the initial check. The Committee is very aware of this and this is why vetting must be combined with robust policies and procedures to ensure the best protection for vulnerable groups. There is no substitute for good systems being in place. The Network also seeks greater clarity around how often repeat checks should be carried out. It is to be hoped that the necessary clarification will emerge with the roll out of “portable” certificates in the near future.

Generally, the Committee has heard about good practice around the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups from the Department’s Arm’s-Length Bodies. Sport NI has evolved at a faster rate with respect to these as the nature of its sector has forced it to. Sport NI’s contribution to the investigation is dealt with below. While the Department and many of the ALBs have highlighted that safeguarding and protection are consistently dealt with at the regular accountability meetings that the Department has with the ALBs, there has been some suggestion that this is not always the case. To avoid any doubt the Committee believes that it should be formally established that this is the case and that all concerns and subsequent action regarding safeguarding and protection are reported to the Department which will hold this data centrally to inform the development of policies and procedures.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that safeguarding and protection of vulnerable groups is a permanent agenda item for the Department’s accountability meetings with its Arm’s-Length Bodies. Additionally, the Committee recommends that the Department holds records centrally of any concerns regarding protection and safeguarding that have been raised with the ALBs and any subsequent action that is taken. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that this information is used to assist the development and evolution of the policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups adopted by the Department and its ALBs.

In this section looking at existing structures for protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups in the CAL sectors the Committee also took evidence from organisations that are not Departmental ALBs or delegated bodies of the ALBs.

The Northern Ireland Theatre Association (NITA)

The NITA written submission to the investigation (Appendix 3) describes itself as promoting Northern Irish theatre on a local, national and international scale on behalf of its members. It delivers tailored training; collects and disseminates sector-specific information; supports and facilitates networking amongst performing arts professionals; and facilitates informed lobbying and advocacy. Members include: independent theatre companies; regional venues; Northern Irish theatre festivals; and individuals. The paper indicates the varying levels of exposure to vulnerable groups that NITA members have. It goes on to highlight the sources of information, advice, and training in relation to implementing legal requirements that members use: the Arts Council; DHSSPS; Access NI; NICVA; Volunteer Now; and the Charity Commission of Northern Ireland (doesn’t administer child protection legislation, but it asks organisations about their policies etc. and Access NI disclosures, as well as signposting to guidance on child protection). The paper also highlights what organisations require on this issue to receive funding.

Again, the Committee is glad that NITA, as an umbrella organisation, is signposting its members to expert organisations and is disseminating good practice. This reflects what the Committee had already thought, that affiliated groups and those associated with umbrella organisations and those used to drawing down public funding have the information and support to develop good policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. This throws a harsher light on those non-regulated and non-affiliated individuals and groups which the Committee would like to identify and reach. The Committee would encourage NITA and other umbrella groups to keep reaching out and signposting, and commends the organisations for its efforts in this area. Again, it is to be hoped that the audit that the Committee has recommended that the Arts Council carry out will support bodies like NITA to remain up-to-date and connected to sources of information on these issues which they can then disseminate to the wider arts and culture family.

Music Theatre 4 Youth (Ireland)

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), Music Theatre 4 Youth (Ireland) highlighted that it follows the principles of the Children (NI) Order 1995 to inform its child protection policies and procedures. These can be paraphrased as: paramountcy – child’s welfare comes first; partnership; prevention; protection; and parental responsibility. The policy document contains: a code of behaviour; consent and sharing information; recruitment and vetting procedures; staff induction and training; definitions of child abuse; the role of the designated children’s officer; disclosures; reporting and recording child protection concerns; reporting an allegation against staff members; safety and first aid; communication and a series of appendices. Again, these have been identified as the key “building blocks” which such a policy must have.

In addition, Music Theatre 4 Youth promotes safeguarding by ensuring staff and volunteers are carefully selected and monitored and have been subject to the appropriate vetting procedures. Training, advice and support is provided to all staff with respect to child protection and safeguarding. Risk assessments are carried out for the range of contexts and situations in which the organisation operates. Information is provided to young people and their parents about the policies and procedures and these are reviewed annually. The organisation has a Designated Officer and a Deputy Designated Officer. The organisation also has a set of principles for working with disabled children and makes useful suggestions for including disabled children successfully in programmes. The Committee has already highlighted its interest in this issue above.

The staff code of behaviour includes sections on personal conduct, the conduct of rehearsals, physical contact, and the use of social media, including not accepting ‘friend requests’ from those under 18 and not asking for or giving your mobile number to those under 18. Additionally, the policy also sets out a code of behaviour for young people and the role of chaperones. Importantly there is also a section on the use of photography and filming which outlines the consents and information required and how to report concerns. Interestingly, like the Ulster-Scots Community Network, Music Theatre 4 Youth flag up in its submission that, as most child abusers have not been convicted, Access NI cannot be a conclusive and definitive tool, but it is useful as a part of a range of protections.

All core staff, freelance staff and chaperones are trained regarding child protection and core staff are also trained externally by Youth Action or Volunteer Now. The policy is thorough and includes easy to use flowcharts for reporting issues etc. It follows the layout of other policies from bigger organisations and includes all the useful external contact details. It also includes a disclosure to be signed by staff to say that they have read and understood the child protection and safeguarding policy and give consent to an Access NI check. It goes on to provide report forms for allegations or suspicions and an explanation of Access NI and Regulated Activity at Appendix 4. At Appendix 5 there is a participation and consent form for the young people indicating the responsibilities they have and those of Music Theatre 4 Youth, including the provision of pastoral care and Access NI cleared staff and chaperones. Parents and participants have to sign that they have read and understood the child protection policy and there is a filming and photography consent form. Appendix 9 details its complaints procedure.

The policies and procedures appear very thorough and, as stated previously, reflect the key elements advised by the expert organisations which have also been involved in their development. They have also been well adapted for the context in which Music Theatre 4 Youth operates; something that has also been highlighted as important by a number of contributors to this investigation. The Committee urges Music Theatre 4 Youth to engage with similar organisations where possible to share its policies and procedures and to develop information sharing relationships. Again, the Committee hopes that good practice such as this will be highlighted by the audit exercise that Members have recommended that the Arts Council undertakes.

Local Government

A number of references were made throughout the investigation process about the important role that local government can play in the development and dissemination of best practice with respect to the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. Contributors’ opinions vary with regard to the consistency and efficacy of the role that local councils play in protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups. However, it is clear that they can play a considerable role as their facilities and premises not only welcome thousands of vulnerable children, adults and groups to council-organised activities, they also lease these out to individuals and organisations that run activities involving vulnerable groups. Therefore, it is quite apparent that local councils must ensure that they not only operate and implement good practice in protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups but that they disseminate this as widely as possible and adopt policies and procedures that ensure that their facilities and premises are safe for everyone irrespective of whether the activities are being run by the council or others.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA)

In a letter to the Committee (Appendix 3), NILGA states that all councils in NI have “contemporary and robust” policies in respect of child protection and safeguarding, related to both the service delivery aspect of their multi-faceted roles, and the corporate policies and compliances of the local authorities. The Committee also received a briefing from NILGA (Appendix 2), during which it was highlighted that local councils are represented on the Safeguarding Board NI through the presence of two council chief executives. These representatives in turn are members of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE). This should ensure that local government is plugged into best practice at the highest level. During the briefing it was stated that: “...local government takes its commitment to safeguarding extremely seriously”.

The Committee also heard that some local councils check the child protection policy of groups hiring its facilities and check if coaches are Access NI checked. Members were told about the Leisurewatch Scheme operated by councils which is detailed below in the section. However, some local councils have not yet joined Leisurewatch because of the cost. The Committee believes that the Review of Public Administration (RPA) presents local councils with a tremendous opportunity to develop and implement best practice in a range of policy areas, including the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. Indeed, during the presentation NILGA agreed that:

“The emergence of 11 councils and a performance framework, which may or may not be in the Reorganisation Bill...gives us an opportunity to encourage consistency and core performance”.

The Committee believes that local councils must work together in this and other areas to produce policies and procedures that are consistent and consistently applied. The Committee also believes that local councils can work together to produce a more consistent level of training for those working with vulnerable groups. Additionally, councils can work to produce common protocols around the use of their facilities and premises by other organisations and individuals, as some of the Churches have done. NILGA has offered to meet with the Committee to discuss other areas of work and Members can see the value in co-operating in the area of protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups.

Recommendation: While acknowledging that it has no remit with respect to local government, the Committee recommends that local councils work together and with reference to current policies and frameworks, as well as to the Safeguarding Board NI, to establish:

  • Common standards for policies and procedures with respect to the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups;
  • Common standards and protocols for the use of their facilities and premises by third parties; and
  • Common standards, accreditation and intervals for the protection and safeguarding training that their staff and volunteers receive.

The Committee considers that it would be useful for this to be agreed and mandated across the councils. A significant aid to better understanding and practical use of policies and procedures for the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups is that they are standardised. Local government could and should play a key role in the operation of a chartermark standard beyond a successful initial CAL pilot.

Leisurewatch

In the sections above there are a number of exemplars and benchmarks against which organisations can base their policies and procedures. The sport sector generally provides fertile ground for such examples. Indeed, the CPSU is probably the most significant of these. However, below is an explanation of the Leisurewatch scheme.

In its briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), the PSNI talked about the Leisurewatch scheme. The scheme is also detailed further at Appendix 5. Leisurewatch is run under the auspices of The Derwent Initiative (TDI), which is a national charity founded in 1993 to improve public protection by finding practical and creative solutions to the problem of sexual offending. The TDI states its goals as: “Safer individuals, safer public spaces, safer communities”. The Leisurewatch scheme itself has been in operation since 2005 and empowers responsible groups in the community, in particular the leisure industry, to contribute towards public protection and help to prevent anyone, particularly children and vulnerable adults, from becoming a victim of sexual offending. In Northern Ireland specifically, it covers 102 sites across 21 councils. It has three parts:

An audit is carried out of sites and settings to assess the vulnerability to misuse by sex offenders, and comments and recommendations are reported back;

Then there is training – at least 80% of staff who have contact with the public, and particularly with children and vulnerable adults, receive a three hour standard training course to increase their understanding of sexual offending and give them the skills to assess and manage risk, and managers receive a one hour additional session as they are the main contact point between the site and the police and are key to the success of the scheme; and

Finally, safe and effective information-sharing arrangements are put in place with the local police PPU for the reporting of relevant information and any concerning behaviour observed.

One of the most useful aspects of the scheme would seem to be the additional training for site managers to co-ordinate contact with the Police and to manage the risk presented by sex offenders and create safer working environments. Additionally, the scheme provides on-site signage and other branding materials to demonstrate that the site is a member of the scheme, helping to deter potential offenders and re-assure the public. There are also regular mystery visits with follow up advice and support to check implementation of the scheme and ensure that Leisurewatch protection is effective. The scheme will also provide newsletters and regular briefings from TDI on key issues and changes in legislation of which staff should be aware.

The Leisurewatch scheme claims to offer a unique level of public protection from risk presented by sex offenders. Key benefits include:

  • Visitors to the site can be assured that staff have undertaken training which equips them to identify risky sexual behaviour and to have procedures in place for responding to the risk presented;
  • Staff have the confidence to spot and report incidents (even when a crime hasn't been committed) and know their concerns will be taken seriously;
  • There is a direct link to a designated Police Officer who will record all incidents and act appropriately on the information supplied;
  • Enhanced observation skills amongst staff will help to reduce other troublesome or offending behaviour, including shop-lifting, vandalism, and bullying;
  • Staff learn to identify and help protect those children and adults most vulnerable to harm;
  • Organisations joining Leisurewatch become part of a scheme which is recognised and valued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Ministry of Justice, and the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management; and
  • Managers will become aware of any "danger spots" on the premises that require extra vigilance or security.

TDI’s material also states:

“Whilst many sites may already have child protection policies and training in place, no other scheme focuses specifically on dealing with the risks posed by sex offenders. Leisurewatch directly addresses the potential problems of voyeurism, abduction, indecent exposure, indecent photography and sexual assault. No other scheme provides a direct link to your local police force, where concerns will be recorded and taken seriously even if no offence has been committed”.

The cost of implementing the Leisurewatch scheme is dependent on how many staff require training, how many training sessions are required and the number and size of the sites. Prices start from £1,500 per location to implement the scheme and maintain it for one year. Membership in subsequent years is charged at £500 - £2,000 per site.

During NILGA’s briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), an undertaking was made to collate the views of local councils regarding the Leisurewatch scheme. The results can be found below and at Appendix 5. Questionnaires were initially sent out to the 26 local councils on 3rd April 2013 with a further request circulated on 16th May 2013. In total 18 responses in total were received, with 14 councils indicating that their leisure facilities were members of the Leisurewatch scheme. All of those who belong to the scheme commented favourably on it. Positive comments included the following:

  • Training excellent and is specifically in the context of leisure facilities and therefore easier for staff to relate to;
  • Training requirement for 80% of staff;
  • Externally validated;
  • Scheme enhances awareness of staff;
  • PSNI pro-active on referrals;
  • Posters / notices help deter potential offenders and provide positive message to and raise awareness amongst customers;
  • Mystery visits useful; and
  • Improves networking with other councils.

A few negative comments were received, including:

  • Some duplication with internal reporting arrangements; and
  • One council reported a lack of feedback from referrals (it should be noted this could be due to a breakdown in internal communication processes within the council rather than the scheme).
  • Of the four councils who indicated that they were not members of the scheme, all had their own internal child protection policies and procedures in operation. Two of these councils provided specific reasons for not joining the scheme:
  • After consideration, the Leisurewatch scheme cost (including multiplier for the number of facilities) was not felt to provide justifiable added value beyond the council's own policies and training arrangements; and
  • It was felt that Leisurewatch did not offer anything beyond their current internal arrangements.

None of the councils which responded reported being members of any other external child protection scheme. NILGA forwarded further information to the Committee regarding the Scheme and contact with the SBNI which can be found in Appendix 5.

Structures within the Sports Sector and their transferability to other sectors within the CAL remit

Throughout this investigation report there are references to the work of the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit. The Unit has been referenced by many of the contributors to the investigation, both in their briefings to the Committee and in their written submissions. The Unit has been universally praised and it provides an excellent example of a body that can effect considerable change without huge cost. The Unit has played a significant role in making participation in sport much safer for vulnerable groups and has taken this sector ahead of other areas of the CAL remit. The Unit has engaged with the governing bodies within sport and has helped them to drive standards up. The briefing that the Committee received from the NSPCC about the CPSU in November 2012 showed what can be done to create protection and safeguarding systems that are robust and effective. The Committee’s decision to pursue this investigation reflects Members understanding that there are gaps in protection and safeguarding and that ways need to be identified to address them.

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU)

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), the NSPCC highlighted that the CPSU’s Mission is:

“To build the capacity of sport to safeguard children and young people in and through sport; to enable sport to lead the way in keeping children safe from harm”.

The CPSU’s Mission will be achieved through:

  • Standards for safeguarding;
  • Supporting governing bodies to maintain standards and further embed safeguarding practice to grassroots level where children participate;
  • Provision of safeguarding education, training and resources for those with key safeguarding roles in sport;
  • Provision of information services through its website; and
  • Provision of specialist child protection case advice and support.
  • The NSPCC paper outlined key achievements of the CPSU:
  • Development of comprehensive standards for safeguarding children in sport by working with Sport NI to link attainment of these standards to funding requirements for governing bodies;
  • Development of effective systems and structures for reporting and responding to concerns about children’s welfare and protection, as well as systems for preventing unsuitable people from working with children, together with improving working relationships between sports organisations and the statutory sector;
  • Establishing a network of trained designated safeguarding officers at governing body level and facilitating all Ireland quarterly meetings;
  • Ensuring the role sport has to play in safeguarding children is recognised in government and other consultation processes, for example, in the development of Access NI, Regional Area Child Protection Committee guidelines, Our Duty to Care, Getting IT Right and the Vetting and Barring Scheme Consultative Group;
  • Influencing local council leisure services departments to implement safeguarding practices;
  • Ongoing implementation of the Club Framework for Safeguarding Standards in Sport, in consultation with a wide range of sports organisations, which will ensure that core safeguarding requirements and practice is further embedded to grassroots level;
  • Establishment of a range of consultation/support/information sharing for sports organisations which aim to ensure that the needs, issues and challenges for the sector are understood and communicated; and
  • Ensuring that a focus on children’s rights is embedded in the sector’s approach to safeguarding as reflected in its revised vision statement. NSPCC recommends these to the Committee as examples of good practice which are, in many cases, transferable to other CAL sectors.

Sport Northern Ireland

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), Sport NI highlighted:

“The CPSU regularly presents to Sport NI on general progress or difficulties with safeguarding measures across all sports. Sport NI holds individual meetings between the CPSU and each sport providing feedback on further embedding good practice for which they are responsible. CPSU expertise is fully integrated into Sport NI’s 100 day review meetings with all funded sports”

This provides an excellent insight into how sport, with the assistance of a specialist unit like the CPSU, can ensure that the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups is embedded in all aspects of its activities. It also means that there is an expert Unit that can be called on to offer up-to-date advice and direction and can provide useful trouble-shooting.

In its submission, Sport NI confirmed that all of the governing bodies that it funds must have effective child protection and safeguarding policies and procedures in place and be able to demonstrate appropriate vetting within procedures for the recruitment and selection of staff and volunteers; as well as having training in place for those working with children in child protection and safeguarding and designated officers at governing body level. A network of 14 tutors has been established to deliver safeguarding training tailored to sports coaches and volunteers. Sport NI offers two workshops which directly impact upon safeguarding practices in the sports sector. These are targeted at all types of coaches, officials and volunteers.

The development of Sport NI’s ‘Clubmark NI’ accreditation programme, which includes safeguarding, has raised standards within sports clubs. This scheme is considered in the next section. To gain accreditation the club must demonstrate that a safeguarding policy is in place, trained designated officers are in place, all coaches and volunteers in contact with children and young people attend the awareness workshop and are subject to safe recruitment procedures including Access NI checks. Sport NI has made an undertaking to the Committee in its submission that it will encourage sports governing bodies to take a children’s rights approach to sport participation and deliver the ‘Coaching the Whole Child’ workshop which builds on the emotional and social needs of the child and promotes a positive sporting and coaching ethos. Sport NI has also undertaken to examine what other areas of its funding could be linked to safeguarding standards and extend the linking of safeguarding standards to non-funded governing bodies in an appropriate way. Sport NI has also indicated to the Committee that it will ensure that the two sporting bodies that support vulnerable adults and people with disabilities (Special Olympics and Disability Sports NI) are involved in the safeguarding auditing process and are required to provide evidence of their procedures.

Sport NI has highlighted to the Committee in its submission that it will also pursue four Priority for Action (PfA) areas (paraphrased below):

  • PfA1 – ensure that all funded sports introduce an Acceptable Users policy which will be a code for communication by young people and adults through any form of media with guidelines about when and how to communicate appropriately with young people;
  • PfA2 – using the opportunities that sport provides, will use ‘sport’ to raise awareness of two issues facing children and young people and adults – self harm and suicide;
  • PfA3 – will work to ensure that governing bodies of sport recognise the importance of safeguarding high performance athletes; and
  • PfA4 – will continue to support governing bodies of sport to maintain and embed safeguarding practice.

Sport NI confirmed the Committee’s view of the CPSU in its submission, saying:

“The provision of a dedicated sports specific service through the CPSU that works exclusively in sport has enabled the sports sector to have trust in the expert advice on not only child protection concerns but on training, safe recruitment decisions, legislation changes and most importantly how best to create a culture of change in the hearts and minds of those involved in sport”.

In Sport NI and the NSPCC’s (CPSU) joint briefing to the Committee, Sport NI’s Interim Chief Executive indicted that:

“Around 70% of funded governing bodies of sport have attained a satisfactory level of assurance following their safeguarding audits. There are six standards for each sport, and each standard has three levels....The first level shows that organisations have the correct policies and procedures in place. The second level assesses whether the organisation has the processes to regularly communicate those practices to its coaches, young people and parents. Thirdly, it assesses whether the organisations have processes for checking whether their clubs are implementing the policies, procedures and advice properly”.

Sport NI’s briefing illustrated to the Committee that it is not enough to ask organisations for paperwork to show that they have safeguarding policies in place and procedures that can be implemented if an incident occurs. This must be accompanied by the sort of ongoing safeguarding audit process. It is also supported by a reporting process that allows Sport NI to hold information about protection and safeguarding incidents and subsequent follow-up action centrally. The CPSU reports to Sport NI quarterly, including reports of incidents so these can be held centrally and collated. The number of queries is also collated. Paul Stephenson (CPSU) describes the CPSU as a “one-stop shop”.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that Sport NI continues to engage with the NSPCC and other expert providers to consider any further suggestions that it might have for embedding the safeguarding message into all sports and all aspects of sport. The Department should also support the extension of this facility to all its ALBs.

Swim Ireland

Swim Ireland is the governing body for swimming in both jurisdictions in Ireland. The organisation provided the Committee with a written submission to this investigation (Appendix 3). The Committee particularly appreciates the input of Swim Ireland as swimming has been identified as posing unique risks for vulnerable groups. Swim Ulster operates as the regional body for aquatics, while Swim Ireland is responsible for all the systems and policies for safeguarding. Swim Ireland welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s Investigation.

Swim Ireland’s membership comprises Club and Associate members. Club members are individuals within a Club and Associate members are individual coaches or teachers with a recognised qualification. Swim Ireland has a full time National Children’s Officer with responsibility across the organisation for safeguarding policy and implementation. Swim Ulster employs a full time Development Officer whose role includes assisting with the implementation of the safeguarding policy and practices and supporting the clubs in Ulster. All other safeguarding roles in the organisation are filled by volunteers. These include a regional representative appointed to the national Child Welfare Committee one of whose functions is to: “...ensure a child centred approach and that children will be kept safe and have fun...under the auspices of Swim Ireland”.

Every Club is mandated to appoint at least one Club Children’s Officer and a Designated Person, with specific and distinct roles: to act as an advocate and support for young people in the clubs, and to liaise and report to the statutory authorities where there is a concern about a child, respectively. Swim Ireland works with the Irish Sports Council through the Participation Unit and with Sport NI through the CPSU to ensure that policy and implementation are in line with recommended best practices. In its submission, Swim Ireland reflected:

“Swim Ireland acknowledges the support and guidance it has received from both Sports Councils and particularly in Ulster, the CPSU...The co-operation between Swim Ireland and CPSU has benefited from sport specific guidance whilst utilising expertise from the NSPCC gained in other areas of child protection”.

Again, the approach of using an expert unit, such as the CPSU, with expertise in dealing with protection and safeguarding issues can be seen to be effective. Swim Ireland’s policies are rooted in more general documents on child protection and safeguarding, but they have been modified to suit the sport. Swim Ireland ensures that the policy is ‘live’, while not subjecting it to constant change which would be confusing. Every club and member has to sign a declaration on the membership application form that includes an awareness of the policy document; for clubs, this documentation also forms part of their club handbook and induction process. Members are required to sign up to the codes of conduct annually. Ensuring this is the job of individual clubs for Club members and Swim Ireland for Associate Members. Swim Ireland has imposed mandatory practices, including safe recruitment practices, child protection training (both basic and advanced courses), supervision and the vetting of individuals.

Every club has access to the support of the National Children’s Officer and Club Development Officer for advice and guidance on practice and procedures. Swim Ireland monitors implementation of the safeguarding policy:

  • Annually clubs must affiliate with notification that the required roles within the club are filled;
  • Each club is responsible for ensuring mandatory requirements for roles are fulfilled – the National Children’s Officer visits 40% of clubs annually unannounced to check this, with clubs being encouraged to sign up to Clubmark;
  • The National Children’s Officer also makes a series on planned visits to clubs where issues or concerns have been raised by the clubs themselves, or through external monitoring – e.g. a drop in or movement of members;
  • Mandatory requirements for Associate Members are also checked annually as part of the affiliation process; and
  • Use of the ‘Club Framework for Safeguarding Standards in Sport’ (CPSU and Sports Councils, 2010) as a formal measuring tool for reporting progress and status to Sport NI and CPSU, whilst the framework forms part of the ongoing audit process.

Swim Ireland must meet the standards required by the sports bodies in both jurisdictions and Swim Ireland has adopted the highest standard and applied this universally. Swim Ireland provides clear advice with respect to the use of social media for adults working with young people. It is more challenging for clubs to convince young people of the possible dangers of social media. The organisation believes there is a need for greater awareness generally as change in this medium is so rapid:

“A benefit of the implementation of safeguarding policy within our sport is that there is a monitoring of issues and concerns that result from different interpretation of policy and standards. This enables sports to respond to gaps or, for example, changes in legislation quickly and effectively for the benefit of the young members”.

Ulster Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)

Ulster GAA is the Provincial Council and Governing Body of the GAA in Ulster. In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), it describes how it oversees the work of the nine County Committees and almost 600 GAA Clubs as well as GAA activity in over 1,500 schools and colleges. Some 250,000 volunteer members are actively involved in Ulster.

The GAA centrally has employed a National Children’s Officer to support and assist volunteers on the ground and Ulster GAA employs a Children’s Officer and a Child Protection Administrator. Each county and club has a voluntary Children’s Officer and Designated Officer who are selected by the county/club rather than being elected. In its submission, Ulster GAA stated:

“All of these officers have a role to play in the Safeguarding of Children and Vulnerable Adults within the GAA and are committed to creating and maintaining the safest possible environment for all Children and Vulnerable Adults who participate or engage in our Games and Cultural Activities”.

Ulster GAA is a Registered Umbrella Body with Access NI which carries out vetting of staff and volunteers for all sports within the GAA family. Ulster GAA also works with the authorities in the Republic of Ireland for clubs and members in Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal. Ulster GAA has produced documents on Child Protection, including Vetting Policies and Procedures. Part of Ulster GAA’s role is to assess if applicants are fit to work with children and vulnerable adults when their Access NI certificates have been issued to Ulster GAA. There is a dedicated team to undertake this role. However, with the changes to the vetting process that are coming, decisions will be made on the ground by volunteers, rather than the dedicated team, and Ulster GAA has grave concerns about this. It expressed concerns that the new system will produce gaps and possible problems. The Committee has heard similar concerns from other contributors and is aware that these are being pursued by some of the expert organisations.

Ulster GAA has a pool of tutors who undertake their ongoing Child Protection and Awareness programmes. The courses are delivered regularly to club officials, players, parents and supporters. The elements that the course covers are paraphrased below:

  • Existing relevant legislative frameworks;
  • Background information on child abuse;
  • Awareness of the risk of self-harm and suicide;
  • Safeguarding children in sport;
  • Importance of the Code of Behaviour, including the dos and don’ts in sport and parent/spectator behaviour;
  • Other policy areas, including photography, transport, physical contact, recruitment and social media;
  • Child abuse – signs, concerns and making judgements;
  • Dealing with allegations of abuse in line with GAA guidelines; and
  • Best practice and contact information for help.

It is a mandatory requirement for coaching awards that all coaches must have received a Child Protection Awareness Certificate as part of the overall award. Ulster GAA works closely with a number of partners in government and the public sector to ensure that its policies and procedures are in line with current guidelines and legislation. Ulster GAA appealed for support and assistance to move forward in response to changes in the NI criminal records regime as per the Sunita Mason Review. Again, these concerns were raised by other contributors and the Committee is aware that they are being taken forward by the expert organisations.

Ulster GAA operates within six best practice standards for Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults and is audited by Sport NI under the following standards:

  • Recruitment good practice;
  • Effective management of volunteers and staff;
  • Reporting;
  • Codes of behaviour;
  • Sharing information; and
  • General safety and management.

Again, these correspond to the “building blocks” that have been discussed earlier and provide an excellent framework to assess protection and safeguarding policies and procedures. Ulster GAA strives to protect children from bullying and abuse through social media. Courses are used to expand the knowledge and understanding of members about the issues involved. The Ulster GAA website also has information. Ulster GAA also operates ‘Club Maith’. This is a Club Development and Volunteer Support Programme which promotes good governance in clubs. It includes a website, a tool kit which is a resource manual that contains relevant information for club officials and covers all aspects of club activity. It also comprises an accreditation scheme which allows clubs to benchmark themselves against best practice. The aim is to encourage excellence across governance, duty of care, community outreach, coaching and games and culture. Accreditation is awarded as a quality mark from bronze through to platinum.

Ulster GAA also provides Club Officer Training Days at the beginning of each year. There is a County Day where specific workshops are delivered for each role within the club, including those of Children’s Officer and Designated Officer. A dedicated workshop provides these members with information in relation to their responsibilities, policies, and best practice in the area of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. The Ulster GAA newsletter and match programmes also highlight issues. The Ulster GAA began its Respect Campaign in 2009 which encourages all members to respect one another in all GAA activities. Ulster GAA launched an anti-bullying campaign earlier in the year. Subsequent to the launch, tutors will be trained to deliver specific anti-bullying courses.

Again, the Committee can see that the governing bodies in sport, such as Ulster GAA, have worked hard to ensure that their approach to protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups is as expansive as possible and is carefully monitored. The input of Sport NI and the CPSU can be seen to be very effective in raising and maintaining standards and pushing forward innovative approaches.

Irish Football Association (IFA)

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), the IFA indicates that its Child and Player Welfare Department (CPWD) employ two full-time members of staff dedicated to child protection and safeguarding. A Child and Player Welfare Manager was appointed in 2005, with a CPWD appointed in 2007. An administrative assistant works two days a week to help manage the CPWD’s workload. Additionally, all staff or volunteers employed by the IFA in regulated activity must complete a satisfactory Access NI enhanced disclosure check and a criminal conviction disclosure form before commencing employment. All staff and volunteers working in regulated activity must also attend the IFA’s Safeguarding and Young People in Football child protection awareness training course within six months of taking up their post. This course lasts three hours. While the IFA delivers its own courses it also uses four external tutors to keep up with the demand. Approximately 61 courses have been delivered over the past year to about 1,200 coaches/volunteers through Level 1 coaching awards and club courses. To date approximately 5,300 coaches/volunteers have been Access NI checked. The IFA acts as an Access NI umbrella organisation facilitating club vetting checks. Any coaches from outside NI will also be subject to Access NI checks.

The CPWD works to the CPSU/Sport NI standards for protection and safeguarding and is currently rated as “satisfactory”. The Child Welfare Officer is currently developing new policies and procedures and these will apply to the IFA and all affiliated clubs. Clubs have previously been given hard copies and CD versions of policies and procedures for them to adapt to their own needs. The IFA’s website also has a protection and safeguarding section which provides guidance to individuals and clubs. Additionally, regular advice is given to coaches, parents and clubs regarding good and poor practice. The CPSU is always available to supplement any advice.

Annually free training and vetting is offered to the staff of the Milk and Foyle Cups and the CPWD attends these events to deal with any incidents that might arise. Considerable planning is undertaken to minimise any possible risks at these and other events. In conjunction with Swim Ireland, Gymnastics Ireland and the Ulster GAA, the IFA supported the NSPCC, CPSU and Sport NI in organising an all-Ireland safeguarding in sport conference which was held in Armagh in September 2012.

The CPWD Manager and Officer attend the quarterly all-Ireland Designated Safeguarding Children Officers’ meetings organised by the CPSU and the Irish Sports Council. These meetings are attended by representatives of up to 36 sports throughout Ireland and they act as an opportunity for discussion and the exchange of good practice regarding protection and safeguarding.

Every four to five months meetings take place between the IFA, English, Scottish, Welsh and Youth Football Associations and the Football Association of Ireland. At these meetings there is an opportunity to discuss and exchange good practice around protection and safeguarding. The most recent of these meetings was held in Belfast in April 2013.

Currently the IFA’s CPWD is working with Jim Gamble (Chief Executive, INEQE) to develop a Safeguarding Application for mobile devices. This represents a unique and innovative approach to the issue which could prove to be revolutionary. Mr Gamble also advises the IFA with respect to the development of new social media policies. The Committee is aware of the development of this ‘App’ and believes that it has tremendous potential to be used to address any gaps in protection and safeguarding knowledge of those who work with vulnerable groups. If widely publicised it could be a valuable tool for educating parents, vulnerable groups and, perhaps most importantly, those who work with vulnerable groups as ‘self-employed persons’ outside the funded/regulated/affiliated environment. A recommendation has been made below regarding the App, in the Internet and Social Media section.

As part of domestic licensing, the 12 Irish Premier League and six Championship Clubs must implement five areas of safeguarding. These are reflective of the “building blocks” that have been discussed above. The IFA wants these standards to be applied by all clubs and has a process for the implementation and assessment of them:

  • Appointment of a child welfare officer;
  • Policy and procedures in place;
  • Training of staff;
  • Vetting of staff; and
  • Mission statement on display in clubs.

The IFA Board has already approved a Safeguarding Strategy for 2013-17. The main development in this is that every regulated activity club must appoint a Child Welfare Officer. An Education in Safeguarding Plan has been put in place and will see 350 officers trained during the 2013-15 period. League and Association Officers will also be put in place. Jonny Evans (Manchester United and Northern Ireland) is an ambassador for the CPWD, as is Ashley Hutton (Northern Ireland Ladies’ Captain). They assist in the promotion of the protection and safeguarding programmes.

The IFA suggested in its paper that the Committee should consider encouraging the Department to ring-fence funding for safeguarding to governing bodies so that it can be used to educate coaches and parents, as well as children and young people.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) – Ulster Branch

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), the Ulster Branch of the IRFU highlighted:

“The fundamental policy of IRFU (Ulster Branch) is to respect the dignity and rights of each individual under age player and will strive to promote, create, and maintain safe environments for under age players”.

The Ulster Branch of the IRFU is a Registered Body for the administration of Access NI vetting and barring for staff, coaches and member clubs. The IRFU Ulster Branch works closely with Sport NI and the CPSU and adheres to the Framework for Safeguarding Standards in Sport. They are currently rated “satisfactory” by the CPSU in meeting the six standards of the Framework (as referred to in the Ulster GAA section above). The main issues for improvement to move to a “substantial” rating are covered in the development and rolling out of the ‘Club Excellence’ award. The submission includes a table outlining in more detail how it plans to move to a “substantial” audit rating.

The comments above from Sport NI and some of the sporting governing bodies around the work of the CPSU and the stimulus provided by a proper audit framework suggest that there are structures and lessons which could be transferred to the culture and arts sectors. The advantage that sport has over these other sectors is that the organisations in sport in receipt of public money tend to be larger and have more members than their equivalents in the arts and culture sectors. The sports sector is also more organised and has a greater level of affiliation than the arts and culture sectors. Additionally, the arts and culture sectors tend to be where a significant proportion of the private tutors and small unaffiliated and non-regulated groups exist. Sport has been forced over the past number of years to put its house in order as incidents in this sector have tended to be more high profile. With these issues in mind the Committee realises that it will not be easy to replicate in the arts and culture sectors the success that the sports sector has enjoyed with respect to established standards and systems to manage the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable groups. However, the Committee believes that it is important to establish a co-ordinated structure for the arts and culture sectors to mirror the work that the CPSU and Sport NI do in the sports sector with respect to protecting and safeguarding vulnerable groups.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department, in conjunction with the relevant departmental ALBs and partners, seeks to establish an equivalent of the Child Protection in Sport Unit for the arts and culture sectors. The Committee looks forward to receiving proposals from the Department suggesting how such a body might be advanced, how it might be constituted and the key roles and functions that it would have. The Committee believes that departmental core funding of the body represents the greatest likelihood of securing its long-term continuation. Again, consideration must be given as to how this might work with respect to the cross-border bodies.

The Internet and Social Media

This area of the investigation proved extremely interesting and Members reflected that the use of the internet and social media can provide tremendous benefits for communicating and learning. However, Members are also very aware that they provide scope for a number of challenges, including grooming for abuse, cyber bullying and inappropriate content.

Beatthecyberbully

School Discussion Forum Event (2nd May 2013)

As part of its Investigation, the Committee held a discussion forum event on 2nd May 2013 with parents, young people and teachers from four schools to discuss the benefits and challenges presented by the internet and social media. The event was hosted by Grosvenor Grammar School and, as well as representatives from Grosvenor, there were parents, teachers and young people from Lagan College, Ashfield Girls’ School and Our Lady and St. Patrick’s. The discussion was facilitated by Wayne Denner of Beatthecyberbully. Again, the Committee would like to thank Grosvenor for hosting the event and Wayne for facilitating and all of those from the other schools who took part.

Members gained a number of insights into the issues that young people, their parents and teachers face. It was agreed by all present that the internet and social media bring positive benefits and provide unparalleled opportunities for being informed and for communication. However, a number of the challenges presented by these media were discussed too.

Members heard how parents struggle to keep up with innovations online and often feel unable to offer advice to their children with respect to their online activity. The young people also talked about how peer pressure can often be brought to bear to cause them to become involved in social media sites. Teachers highlighted how a significant proportion of how the pastoral care issues they deal with now involve social media. Against a backdrop of suicides of young people as a result of cyber bullying it was clear that there is a need for better education for all those involved. Young people, their parents and teachers need to be informed about how to be safe online and, additionally, the authorities need to do what they can to ensure that tools are provided to allow parents and teachers to regulate young people’s online activity.

In its written submission to the Committee (Appendix 3), the Safeguarding Board NI indicated that it believes it is paramount that we educate our young people (and their parents and carers) to ensure that they develop an informed approach to their use of technology and become responsible citizens both offline and online. The Board considers that: “E-safety risks and issues can be roughly classified into three areas: content, contact and commerce”. In its submission the Board continued:

“Child internet safety is therefore a real concern for the SBNI and as such, SBNI has been working closely with the Junior Ministers and their officials within OFMDFM to discuss the on-line risks in greater detail and the need for a Strategic overarching approach to address the issues”.

The Board also pledged to seek to co-ordinate an effective Member Agency approach to help children at risk of: becoming criminalised through on-line activity; bullying though cyber activity; and sexual abuse (through ‘sexting’ and on-line exploitation). The Committee commends the Board’s stance on these issues and is supportive of the work that it is taking forward.

The NSPCC provided a number of statistics in its submission to the Committee (Appendix 3) around social media, including: 29% of UK children have had online contact with someone that they had not met before; 11% of UK children have viewed online sexual images and 12% have received them. The NSPCC agrees with the Committee that the internet and social media can be positive, but challenges for children and young people include:

  • Inappropriate access to, use or sharing of personal details;
  • Unwanted contact with children/young people by adults with poor intent;
  • Text bullying by peers;
  • Being sent or sending offensive inappropriate material (including ‘sexting’);
  • Grooming for sexual abuse; and
  • Direct contact and actual abuse.

Challenges for adults:

  • Lack of understanding and awareness of communication through social media;
  • Misinterpretation of communication; and
  • Potential investigation and disciplinary agencies.

NSPCC recommends that the Department oversees the development of codes of conduct for communication with young people and the development of an Acceptable Users’ Policy. The NSPCC goes on to suggest that the Department may also consider the development of an overarching e-strategy for its remit, which includes access to advice and guidance. With respect to cyber bullying, the NSPCC sees a need for education about online safety issues, guidance on being safe on the internet as well as risk management policies for schools and other organisations. Teachers and parents need to have a better understanding of the online world young people inhabit. The NSPCC Safeguarding in Education Service in NI published research in 2011, demonstrating the importance and need for preventative education programmes. The research also identified teachers’ need for further training to give them greater confidence in dealing with the issues presented by the internet and social media. The research recommended the development of a comprehensive package of training, development and support and evidence-informed resources for the whole school community.

The Assembly’s Research division produced a paper in September 2010 (Appendix 4) looking at internet safety for children and young people. It highlighted a survey published by Ofcom in 2008 which found that 99% of children across the UK have access to the internet, while 86% have access at home. The paper outlined that concerns associated with children using the internet can be summarised as:

  • Accessing inappropriate content;
  • Forming online relationships which may be exploitative;
  • Identity theft; and
  • Cyberbullying.

In other words, many of the same issues that the NSPCC had highlighted in its paper.

In 2009, the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families, published a report on Young People and Parents’ Attitudes around Internet Safety as part of ‘Every Child Matters: Change for Children’ policy programme. A series of interviews were held with 1,433 parents of children aged 0-17 across the UK and 833 children. The survey showed that:

  • Internet safety is not a major concern for parents of 5-17 year olds until they are prompted to think about it;
  • Children aged 12-17 have fewer concerns in relation to internet safety than parents;
  • The level of parental concern about material on the internet is significantly higher than the perceived risks around using the internet;
  • 39% of parents were concerned about their children making some kind of inappropriate contact on the internet;
  • 91% of parents said they would take action in the event of their children experiencing harmful content on the internet;
  • Of the 18% of children who experienced inappropriate or harmful content on the internet, only 55% did ‘something’ about it – 34% avoided or blocked the site themselves, 12% spoke to someone, and 4% reported it to an authority;
  • 75% of parents say they would seek help or advice if their child saw or did something inappropriate online – 74% of parents and 82% of children say their school has taught their own children/them to use the internet safely; and
  • An estimated 25% of parents of children aged 5-11 and 22% of parents of children aged 12-17 would be likely to register for free official internet safety training if offered in their local area.

An Ofcom report of 2010 shows that, across the UK, 40% of adults live in a household that has used social networking sites, with 32% using them on a weekly basis. In NI the 2009 Kids Life and Times Survey found that 48% of the participants aged 10 and 11 said they are on social networking sites. Of those that said they were using the sites, 29% said they use them a lot. A study in 2008 revealed that many young people who maintain cross-community relationships in NI do so through texting and social media websites which allow them to chat freely with friends from other areas. Social networking also holds the potential for a range of learning and personal development opportunities. Childnet International suggests that regular use of networking and blogging sites can encourage young people to become active, vocal and articulate citizens with independent views, also helping them to build skills as writers, content managers and team players. As stated at the beginning of this section, the Committee is well aware of the pros and cons of using the internet and social media. The statistics above indicate the prevalence of their use, so Members realise it is about their safe use rather than turning back the tide of their use.

Media and Internet legislation is conducted on a UK-wide level and is not devolved. In the United States an Internet Protection Act was enacted in 2001 to address concerns about access to computers. Schools and libraries must certify that they have an internet safety policy which addresses:

  • Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the internet;
  • The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
  • Unauthorised access, including so-called hacking and other unlawful activities by minors online;
  • Unauthorised disclosure, use and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
  • Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.

The Act also states that schools and libraries must use ‘technology protection measures’ to block or filter internet inappropriate content. In its evidence to the Committee (above and at Appendix 2), Libraries NI indicated its policies for safe internet usage by minors in libraries which mirror these American provisions closely. The C2K project in schools here also provides these kinds of protections.

In 2008, the UK government commissioned Professor Tanya Byron to review the risks to children from exposure to potentially harmful material on the internet and in video games, and to assess the effectiveness and adequacy of existing measures to help protect children from being exposed to such material. The Byron Review did not recommend legislation as a method of tackling the risks posed to children using the internet, citing the likelihood of discouraging children and parents from taking an informed approach to managing their own risks and lulling them into a false sense of security. The Review instead proposed the creation of:

‘...a shared culture of responsibility with families, industry, government and others in the public and third sectors all playing their part to reduce the availability of potentially harmful material, restrict access to it by children and to increase children’s resilience’.

The Review recommended the creation of a UK Council on Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) which was launched in September 2008, comprising 140 organisations, companies, government departments and agencies (including the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and NI – the NI Health Minister sits on the Council), law enforcement, charities, parenting groups, academic experts and others (including Google, Microsoft and the NSPCC). The Council developed the ‘Click Clever Click Safe: The First UK Child Internet Safety Strategy’ (launched in December 2009), setting out work carried out so far to keep children safe online; commitments to parents, children and young people and the work UKCCIS is planning to do to make them happen; and how the public can monitor their level of success in making children and young people safer.

OFMDFM created a ten year strategy for children and young people in Northern Ireland in 2006. This didn’t contain any specific mentions of internet safety concerns; however, a cross-departmental statement on the protection of children and young people by the NI Executive was published by OFMDFM in June 2009. It refers to the extent to which young people use the internet and highlights the significant role to be played by the CEOP in policing the virtual environment and producing a set of resources guiding children and adults in the safe use of the internet. The Department of Finance and Personnel, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in the Republic of Ireland, launched the ‘MakeITsecure’ campaign with a range of private sector organisations and part-funded by the EU.

DHSSPS leads an Executive group taking forward the Child Internet Safety Strategy with DE, DCAL, DETI, DFP, OFMDFM and key voluntary groups. DE is also active with the Classroom 2000 (C2k) network providing schools with access to the internet. This access is fully monitored and subject to a detailed filtering policy, which categorises websites into groups which are allowed or not allowed. This filtering process is updated several times daily, either as a result of requests from schools, or as new sites appear on the internet. DE regularly issues guidance to schools on best practice and ICT Co-ordinators in the Education and Library Boards (ELBs) have provided training on internet safety and have hosted conferences addressed by CEOP.

The ETI monitors approaches to child protection and in pre-inspection questionnaires parents are asked if they have been made aware of the schools’ Internet Safety Policy. ICT is used throughout the school curriculum and teachers receive support and guidance on integrating internet safety into lessons. The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) runs a voluntary ICT accreditation scheme for schools which includes the area of e-safety in terms of supporting teachers and educating pupils. CEOP also provides Ambassador training to teachers and ELB officers, which they are then able to cascade to pupils and colleagues.

The NSPCC has created some guidance for parents and carers on how to monitor their child’s internet use, including some sites where they will have the opportunity to meet others. The guidance is as follows:

  • Familiarise yourself with the sites your children are using;
  • Your child should understand the importance of protecting their privacy online;
  • Your child should be careful about who they add to their ‘friends list’;
  • Photos and descriptions on their profile should be suitable;
  • They must know to seek your agreement before meeting with a stranger;
  • Talk to your child about online bullying and the importance of acting responsibly; and
  • Report concerns of a sexual nature to CEOP.

In May of this year the House of Commons Library produced a paper ‘Internet: protecting children’ (Appendix 5), which highlighted a number of statistics and issues. In June 2012, Westminster government consultation on three broad options for protecting children:

  • “Default-on” or “Opt-in” – where people’s home internet service provider blocks harmful content automatically before any customer buys it – parents can later choose to adjust or remove the blocks;
  • “Active choice” – customers are always presented with a choice about whether they want filters and blocks installed on their home internet and/or each internet-enabled device they are buying; and
  • “Active choice plus” – where customers are presented with a list of online content that will be blocked automatically unless they choose to unblock them.

The majority of respondents did not favour any of these options. In her Review mentioned above, Professor Tanya Byron highlighted the key role that parents play in managing their children’s access to such material through the use of blocking tools etc. Her Report also recommended the creation of the UKCCIS to provide better regulation, including voluntary codes of practice and better information and education, indicating the key role that government, law enforcement, schools and children’s services will play in this. An independent parliamentary inquiry into online child protection (April 2012), chaired by Claire Perry, noted that:

“…while parents should be responsible for monitoring their children’s internet safety, in practice this is not happening”.

Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union, issued an independent report, ‘Letting Children Be Children’, which argued that parents are best placed to manage their children’s online access. In October 2012, BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, and Sky – the 4 main providers – signed up to a code of practice which gives all new customers an active choice of whether or not to apply controls and filters to block harmful content. Work is also ongoing with laptop and hardware manufacturers to sell new products with an active choice prompts at first switch-on. UKCCIS has also worked with mobile phone manufacturers and public wifi providers to block access to adult material in public places. The government has noted that default filtering can cause a false sense of security of the part of parents as it does not filter all potentially harmful content as this is not possible, and there is a risk of “over-blocking”, preventing access to websites which provide useful information on sexual health or sexual identity. Nor does it deal with bullying, grooming, personal abuse or sexual exploitation. It also does not encourage parents to engage with the issues and learn about keeping their children safe online.

In its briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), the PSNI commented:

“There remains a gap in the knowledge of the victims of online abuse and, as importantly, in the knowledge of the carers of the victims”.

The PSNI confirmed that there were 102 cases reported to the child internet team in the 2012-13 financial year, mainly channelled through CEOP and other UK-wide services. This figure was up 40% on the previous year. The PSNI stated:

“Bullying, including cyber bullying, may be defined as deliberately hurtful behaviour usually repeated over a period of time where it is difficult for those bullied to defend themselves...[and] Education regarding those issues is of paramount importance”.

In its briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), Beatthecyberbully clarified that cyber bullying is using email, Twitter, Facebook and text messaging; it is about content; it is about making malicious comments about other people; and it is making a person feel withdrawn from society. Wayne Denner from the organisation stated:

“Each of us creates content online, and it is that content that we need to be responsible for...we have a duty of care not to become bystanders in the area of cyber bullying”.

Beatthecyberbully stated in its submission to the Committee (Appendix 3):

“Cyber Bullying and the culture of negative and unsafe behaviour online and via mobile devices is increasing and will continue to have a profound effect on our Children and Young People’s lives and our society”.

The organisation praises a number of sources which seek to provide advice and guidance, such as the CEOP website and its ‘Thinkyouknow’ campaign videos; also Childnet International and Childline. Beatthecyberbully believes that there is a gap in how we approach the use of the internet and social media:

“...teaching on social media, positive online use and digital citizenship topics in the formative years and throughout our CYP (Children and Young People’s) education will help avoid cyber bullying, cyber crimes, cyber related mental health issues and cyber related suicides”.

Beatthecyberbully makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • The promotion, awareness and understanding of cyber bullying and positive online use throughout our education system and communities;
  • Training being delivered by government partnerships with digital and youth engagement/communications experts as opposed to ICT professionals;
  • Keynotes and workshops for CYP and educators;
  • Focus groups led by CYP;
  • Relevant modules in teacher training;
  • Community and church leader training;
  • Parent information workshops; and
  • Legislation to ensure schools’ Acceptable Users’ Policies are updated on cyber bullying and general cyber use; and
  • Digital citizenship model to be introduced to the curriculum.

The majority of these are focused on the Education remit and are therefore outside the scope and terms of reference for this investigation; however, this report will be circulated to the Education Committee and its members may wish to highlight these recommendations to the Education Minister.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre

A key player in keeping our children and young people and other vulnerable groups safe online is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, which was established in April 2006 and is affiliated to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). CEOP’s paper to the Committee (Appendix 3) highlights that it has a remit for tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of children in both the online and offline environments. It has three central themes: Prevent; Protect; and Pursue. CEOP works with government departments, law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally, educational establishments, industry partners and children’s charities to bring a holistic approach to tackling child sexual abuse.

In June 2012 CEOP published its most recent ‘Threat Assessment of Child Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse’, highlighting the changing nature of the threats in the online and offline environment. The assessment report identified five key threat areas:

  • The targeting of children online based on their heightened vulnerability;
  • Those who sexually offend against children using the anonymity afforded by the hidden internet;
  • The production, distribution and possession of the indecent images of children;
  • Those who travel overseas to sexually offend against children; and
  • Group and gang associated sexual exploitation of children.

CEOP will transition into the National Crime Agency (NCA) as one of four commands. The NCA is intended to be fully operational by the end of 2013. Multi-agency co-operation to protect and safeguard children is essential and is supported by the Children (NI) Order 1995. ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children (2006)’ was superseded by ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010)’, which gives detailed guidance on inter-agency working. The current definition of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) by the Department for Children, Schools and Families: National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People (NWG, 2008) is:

“Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phone without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability”.

In January 2013 the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO - England, Wales and NI) adopted a comprehensive ‘Action Plan Against Child Sexual Exploitation’, which is now being implemented. CEOP states in its paper:

“There is always scope for more sector-specific joint training but the links are being made”.

CEOP also noted the positive development of the creation of the Safeguarding Board NI in September 2012 and highlighted Sport NI’s positive step of identifying six standards, as mentioned in the Sport section above. CEOP also welcomed the work of the Child Protection in Sport Unit which is a partnership between NSPCC, Sport England, Sport NI, Sport Wales; and in Scotland Children First and Sports Scotland. CEOP commended the CPSU’s development of standards and a useful audit toolkit for those involved in sports to not only create a safe working environment, but also to enable individuals working with children to make better informed decisions, promote good practice and challenge practices that are harmful to children. This self-audited process adopted in the voluntary sector provides a voluntary inspection regime (supported by governing bodies) would complement the statutory published guidelines and ensures that at least in theory, consistency of processes for safeguarding children from harm.

CEOP sees an important part of its work being to:

“...empower children, young people, parents and carers with the awareness they need to protect themselves from online risks...”.

To this end, the ClickCEOP button is available on hundreds of websites popular with young people that can connect them to CEOP or the appropriate authorities if they wish to report something. CEOP’s ‘Thinkuknow’ programme has been viewed over 12million times. This is an outreach programme to reduce the harm caused by those individuals that seek to abuse children and young people through the misuse of technology. CEOP has undertaken considerable awareness training in NI between April 2006 and January 2013: recorded views of Thinkuknow in NI is over 250,000; the number of CEOP Ambassadors in NI is 97; the number of trained Thinkuknow users in NI is 522; and the number of users on the Thinkuknow website from NI is 1,636. CEOP highlights that:

“The education programme is an effective resource that can be easily transferable to cascade messages targeting hard to reach groups in areas such as clubs or youth groups”.

In February 2012, CEOP Ambassadors were deployed in the Disney store in Belfast as part of the Safer Internet Day activities. In November 2012, CEOP education and communications staff undertook a seven day regional tour in NI rolling out the education film ‘First to a million’. This interactive film looks at the risks associated with posting self generated indecent video material online and the help available when things may go wrong. The team worked with schools and the PSNI. The next annual CEOP Ambassador course will be delivered in Belfast on 16/17 October. Since 2006, CEOP has disseminated a number of intelligence packages regarding suspects to forces in Ireland: PSNI – 235; Republic of Ireland Interpol – 732; and the Garda – 33.

In his briefing to the Committee (Appendix 2), Peter Davies, Head of CEOP, commented that:

“Education and working in partnership are key”.

In its paper to the Committee (Appendix 3) the NIASW indicated that the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has developed a social media policy to support members to use social media appropriately and ensure practice is based on the BASW code of ethics. The NIASW believes that:

“Bullying of children is the most preventable source of harm children experience and for children who have been abused there is often found to be an element of bullying and coercion in their experience...the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure could do much through its Arm’s Length Bodies to standardise and develop material for children, young people, parents and coaches on safe internet usage. All Arm’s Length Bodies should have guidance made available to expectations and standards”.

NIASW notes in its paper the development by the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister of an e-strategy, and it encourages the Committee to make recommendations to the OFMDFM that it should deal with cyber bullying and social media sites.

In the section above there are a number of clear messages about the internet and social media. As stated at the outset, they provide tremendous positive benefits around communication and the sharing of knowledge and information. However, it is also clear that to enjoy these benefits and to avoid the challenges presented by the internet and social media, which are set out clearly above, we must educate our children and young people from an early age about the appropriate use of these powerful tools. Additionally, we must educate and inform parents and teachers so that they are fully able to support our children and young people in their use of the internet and social media.

Recommendation: The role of educating children and young people, teachers and parents in the positive use of the internet and social media largely falls to other departments. However, the Committee recommends that the Minister engages with relevant Executive colleagues to seek best practice in this area to share with the CAL family. These departments are then likely to be the first points of contact regarding the wider roll out of a chartermark standard, following a successful CAL pilot. It is important to raise parents’ awareness of sources of information regarding the protection and safeguarding of their children.

Recommendation: It is clear to the Committee that the development of an overarching e-strategy is the responsibility of the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister. However, the Committee recommends that the Minister takes the lessons learned from the CAL remit and contributes fully to the development of the e-strategy with her Executive colleagues, particularly ensuring that the needs of vulnerable groups and parents are addressed. Additionally, the Committee recommends that the Executive’s e-strategy should form the basis for the development of a specific DCAL e-strategy in conjunction with the Arm’s-Length Bodies and expert stakeholders, and with reference to advice on existing policies and frameworks. Again, the Committee sees a DCAL e-strategy being linked to the CAL sector chartermark standard.

Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Minister undertakes, in conjunction with the CAL Arm’s-Length Bodies and relevant expert stakeholders, to develop and introduce a CAL ‘Acceptable Users’ policy and a code of conduct for communication with young people through any form of social media with guidelines about when and how young people should be communicated with. Again, consideration should be given to the inclusion of such a policy and code in a CAL sector chartermark standard pilot.

Download the full report here.

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