Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs

Governance and Child Safeguarding Issues in Scouting Ireland: Tusla and Scouting Ireland

10:00 am

Dr. John Lawlor:

On the issue of practice and the progress we look forward to making with Tusla tomorrow and in the weeks ahead, it is important to understand we are not coming from a standing start with, for instance, safeguarding training. The leaders in Scouting Ireland - we call them scouters - make an enormous commitment to training. Before any adult commences working with young people, he or she is obliged to attend a residential course of training involving 24 hours, which has a full four-hour module of safeguarding training. The requirement in the sector is for an online course, but Scouting Ireland for great length has been beyond that. We are building on something that is already there.

If I take the issue of vetting, for instance, Scouting Ireland has implemented a policy of re-vetting every three years. It is not a requirement in the sector. It is now a requirement in Scouting Ireland. We are building on what has been there and we are also with Tusla to see how. I want to give the sense that we are not coming from a standing start here.

On reporting, Scouting Ireland has a rock solid record of recording, going back to the foundation of Scouting Ireland. That is to the statutory agencies, An Garda Síochána, Tusla, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Gateway, as required. All those records are there and can be accessed by the statutory agencies. That has been done and has been maintained. We want to continue to improve that. Since Mr. Elliot has arrived, we have improved how our files are, we have improved our recording, and we have benefited from his professional supervision and oversight. He often complains, when he gives out to me about stuff, that I talked him into a job in the Europa Hotel in the summer of 2017 that was supposed to be a handy six weeks' piece of work, but went far beyond that. When he joined us, he got steadily more involved in guiding us in how our teams worked, how we should amend our policies and how we should implement best practice.

The requirements of Children First, as our colleagues in Tusla have laid out, are an enormous challenge for the sector. That was obvious from the Tusla presentation. In this sector, certainly Scouting Ireland has provided best practice up to now. I know it might be hard to credit that given the recent controversies. For instance, our code of conduct document for leaders has been used as a template by many organisations. We now know that needs to be updated for Children First and it will be. I believe it will go on to be a template for other organisations in the future.

I am trying to give the sense that we are building on a solid tradition of working with statutory agencies to ensure best practice safeguarding. Tomorrow will represent another step in that process. We look forward to working with Tusla in doing that.

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