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

Ms Linda Creamer:

Two Children First information officers were allocated to work with Scouting Ireland late last year. This was in response to another part of our organisation working on the retrospective cases. In addition, we had concerns about the independent review. We were supporting the organisation in that regard. All of the Children First information officers support agencies to develop their policies and practices.

That happened last year. We had a meeting on 8 January this year to discuss how we were going to move forward. Scouting Ireland had an implementation plan but there were holes in the plan and we asked it to fill them. In fairness, the organisation was waiting on the safeguarding person to come into post. However, many things can be done without having that person in place. A subgroup made up of members from around the country was to be established to discuss Children First and what the policies and procedures are, for example, ratios of adults to children and who will supervise where children are sleeping overnight in fields of tents at a jamboree. We need the detail behind that and that was the kind of detailed information we wanted at the meeting of 8 January. At that meeting, there were certain things the Children First information officers and Scouting Ireland were to do. These included talking to the board about the roles and responsibilities. Under Children First, there are designated liaison persons who are nominated and should be in all the dens, as I am sure they are. We need to be sure, however, that a designated liaison person is in each den and everybody in the den knows who that person is and what his or her role is under Children First. Should something happen, people could then go and talk to that person.

At the meeting of 8 January last, we also asked Scouting Ireland to look at its code of practice, which does not meet the needs of Children First. We wanted it to get together this subgroup together, with young people, and have young people contribute towards developing that code of practice. There would then be ownership by young people. We want Scouting Ireland to talk to young people about how to behave and not to behave and to tell them that if something bad happens in a tent, they should not be afraid and should talk to the designated person. There are suggestions that some children are intimidated by other children. We wanted these documents to include a great deal of practical material, including den-related matters, as well as the broader picture and bigger issues.

The meeting was held on 8 January and we communicated with Scouting Ireland several times in January to elicit a response on some of these pieces of work. We had still not received a response by 14 February when Scouting Ireland came back and said it was working on the various issues. We wanted to meet it again given the concerns clearly outlined in the 2018 review around confidentiality, trust in the different layers of the organisation, and the way in which information filters down from senior management to ground level. There were serious concerns in this regard and we put Scouting Ireland under pressure to move faster because it could not wait for the safeguarding person to come in and noting that there was other expertise in the organisation that could help do it. We needed to get to a place very quickly were the dens and volunteers all knew what was expected. It has comprehensive induction but even with that, we needed improvement. All of the policies and procedures in place in Scouting Ireland were out of date and we needed it to bring them into line with the Children First Act.