I am in the process of providing observations on the domestic violence Bill, which was recently circulated to Departments by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality for comment. I welcome the expansion of the existing provisions of domestic violence legislation. The Bill will have legal, operational and potential resource implications for Tusla, which is committed to all measures which protect children from abuse.
As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I am acutely aware of the prevalence of domestic violence and its impact on children and young people. The need for updated legislation in the area of domestic violence was highlighted most recently in the Barnardos report entitled, What’s the Harm? - A child centred response to domestic violence, published this month. The report notes that children are often the unseen but common victims of domestic violence.
It is crucial that we take all necessary measures to ensure that we have appropriate safeguards in place to protect our children from such abuse. A prevention and early intervention approach, rather than a crisis intervention approach, to child protection is at the core of our efforts.
Also, the Children First Act 2015 represents an important addition to the child welfare and protection system, as it will help to ensure that child protection concerns are brought to the attention of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, without delay.
The Act, when fully commenced at the end of 2017, will impose a statutory obligation on mandated persons to report concerns of harm over a defined threshold to Tusla without delay, and in a specified format.
The Act also places obligations on providers of relevant services to children, including domestic violence shelters, to keep children safe from harm while availing of their services. It will also oblige them to carry out risk assessments and prepare publicly-available child safeguarding statements, which set out the policies and procedures which the organisation has in place to mitigate the risks identified.
Tusla has statutory responsibility for the provision of care and protection for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013. I have provided Tusla with additional resources to fulfil this.