Protecting children from online abuse, bullying and grooming requires a whole-of-Government approach. The devastating effects are becoming increasingly obvious in our homes, schools and communities.
While my Department does not have the lead responsibility in this area, it plays an important role in a wider range of actions across a number of Departments.
Last week, I met the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, to discuss the cross-Government collaboration that is needed. Much work is being done by individual Departments. However, we need to develop an action plan involving all relevant Departments to ensure that our actions are co-ordinated, complementary and robust. It is our intention to include the Minister for Health and the Minister for Education and Skills in the development of the action plan.
I will commence all remaining provisions of the Children First Act 2015 on 11 December next. The ongoing role of the statutory Children First interdepartmental implementation group, which is chaired by my Department, is to ensure consistent implementation of the provisions of the Children First Act and guidance across Departments, the HSE, the Garda and Tusla. Issues relating to Internet safety, which have a child protection dimension and which require cross-Government collaboration or support, can be raised in that group.
The national youth health programme is a partnership between the HSE, the National Youth Council of Ireland and my Department. It aims to provide a broad-based, flexible health promotion-education support and training service to youth organisations and to all those working with young people in out-of-school settings. The Web Safety in Youth Work resource, available on the National Youth Council of Ireland’s website, provides valuable advice to young people on reporting online behaviour and passing on concerns about the protection and welfare of a child or young person.