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

Mr. Ian Elliott:

May I add to my previous remarks on the helpline? It is a simple issue but nonetheless important. If the concern is about Scouting Ireland staff being compromised in answering, that is a structural issue in terms of the organisation of the helpline. It was present on day one. The helpline was in operation from 22 November. If there were concerns about it, one would have expected them to have been voiced in November or December. It was not February. That is a simple point. A number of meetings have taken place in the time and nothing has ever been said. It is important to point that out. It is also important that we be precise in what we are agreeing and committing to. It is, of course, a matter of practice for us to evaluate regularly everything we do. That is how we operate. If we are involved in a practice, we evaluate what happens in terms of safeguarding and the provision of effective supervision. All members of the safeguarding team are subject to this. We used this as a basis for improving our practice. That is exactly what we are talking about in relation to the helpline. The helpline is not something we normally provide in Scouting Ireland; it is exceptional. It has proved from our side to be extremely effective and successful. It is important, therefore, that we learn and understand as much as we possibly can from the experience so we can apply it to any of our future developments.

There are ethical issues that are very much present in any evaluation of the process. From my perspective, I feel it has to be focused on the experience and performance of the staff and the written record. Every single call we receive is recorded. A record is available and used as a basis for ongoing transmission to An Garda Síochána, Tusla or whichever statutory agency is concerned. That is the basis on which we work. There are ethical issues with regard to any attempt to engage the service user in what has happened. I do not know the detail of the complaint that Tusla received and I have not been able to match up that complaint with anything we have on record from the helpline. That is an issue and a concern.