I assure the Deputy that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, deals immediately with emergency cases, including for instance if a child has been abandoned or is in immediate physical danger or at immediate risk of sexual abuse. Social work duty teams keep high-priority cases under review by regularly checking to ascertain risk to the child and where necessary will reprioritise the case.
Tusla holds the statutory responsibility for child welfare and protection and is the appropriate body to receive reports of concerns relating to children at risk. Each referral received by the agency is assessed and dealt with on an individual basis by the relevant social work team. Every report of concern for the safety and well-being of a child is assessed and required action is identified.
I am committed to commencing the Children First Act 2015, which is due to be commenced by the end of the year. As the Deputy will be aware, the Children First Act 2015 will see mandatory reporting by key professionals, mandated assisting, comprehensive risk assessment and preparation of child safeguarding statements by services for children, and the establishment of the Children First interdepartmental implementation group on a statutory basis. Tusla is developing online training for mandatory reporters. Children First guidelines will continue in parallel with the Act. This sets out the roles and responsibilities for all citizens to report child welfare and protection issues to Tusla and, where criminal matters are involved, the Garda.
I believe we have made significant progress in our structures and practices for child protection. The Children First Act 2015 is of particular significance but I see it as part of a suite of child protection legislation that includes the Acts relating to the National Vetting Bureau and the withholding of information on offences against children and vulnerable persons.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
There is no room for complacency about our safeguarding measures and we will constantly review them to ensure they are effective.
Tusla works closely with other care providers, including the HSE, in respect of access to primary care services, child and adolescent mental health services, disability and other services. Tusla and the HSE monitor their interagency relationship to ensure they are working effectively in the best interests of children and families.