Horses Connect has a responsibility to ensure to make provision for children, young people and vulnerable adults and must ensure that
- The welfare of the child, young person or vulnerable adult is paramount
- All children and vulnerable adults, whatever their age, culture, disability, gender, language, racial origin religious beliefs and/or sexual identity have the right to protection from abuse.
- The rights wishes and feelings of children, young people and vulnerable adults, and their families are respected and listened to.
- All suspicions and allegations of abuse and poor practice will be taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately.
The Horses Connect Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy aims to ensure that the actions of any person in the context of the work carried out by HORSES CONNECT are transparent and safeguard and promote the welfare of all children and vulnerable adults associated with the organisation. The Policy provides guidance on appropriate standards, including reducing any opportunities for abuse, harm or bullying, staff and volunteer recruitment and training, behaviour towards children and vulnerable adults, professional boundaries, ethical behaviour, acceptable and unacceptable relationships, how to avoid or better manage difficult situations and how to report suspicions, allegations or incidents.
- This code (Horses Connect Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy Version Horses Connect .2019.1) is a revised version of our earlier policy (Horses Connect version 2015.2) following further formal training and recommendations based on international best practice made to the company.
- All staff and volunteers working with young people must be trained in, and follow, the Horses Connect Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy.
- The Policy is publicly available on the website www.horsesconnect.com and provided to all applicants for our services and all volunteers.
Framework for Communication
- All Horses Connect staff and volunteers have a duty to report any suspicions, allegations or incidents of abuse. Staff and volunteers are not trained to deal with situations of abuse or to decide if abuse has occurred and should record the details as accurately as possible and immediately refer any suspicions, allegations or incidents to the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer in the first instance, who will consider the information and decide upon the next steps.
Horses Connect has a duty of care to safeguard all children and vulnerable adults involved in activities at Horses Connect from harm. All children and people have a right to protection, and the needs of disabled children and others who may be particularly vulnerable must be taken into account. Horses Connect will ensure the safety and protection of all children and vulnerable adults involved in Horses Connect through adherence to the Horses Connect Child and Vulnerable Adults Protection guidelines adopted by Horses Connect and described below.
Horses Connect maintains a zero-tolerance policy for the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults by Horses Connect staff, volunteers, contractors, subcontractors and participants in their care. Anyone found guilty of such an offence will be subject to immediate dismissal and prosecution within the law of the relevant jurisdiction.
A child is defined as a person under the age of 18 (The Children Act 1989).
A vulnerable adult is defined as a person who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness, and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation.
- The aim of the Horses Connect Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy is to promote good practice:
- Providing children and vulnerable adults with appropriate safety and protection whilst in the care of Horses Connect
- Allow and helping all staff and volunteers to make informed and confident responses to specific child and vulnerable adults protection issues.
Promoting Good Practice
Abuse, particularly sexual abuse, can arouse strong emotions in those facing such a situation. It is important to understand these feelings and not allow them to interfere with your judgement about the appropriate action to take.
Abuse can occur within many situations including the home, school, sporting and volunteer environment. Some individuals will actively seek employment or voluntary work with children and vulnerable adults in order to harm them. A staff member or volunteer may have regular contact with children and vulnerable adults and be an important link in identifying cases where they need protection. All suspicious cases of poor practice should be reported following the guidelines in this document.
When a child or vulnerable adult enters a Horses Connect activity having been subjected to abuse outside the Horses Connect environment, the activities can play a crucial role in improving the person’s self-esteem. In such instances, if past abuse is reported, Horses Connect must work with the appropriate local agencies to ensure the required local support is received.
Good Practice Guidelines
All personnel should be encouraged to demonstrate exemplary behaviour in order to promote welfare and reduce the possibility of harm and abuse. The following are common sense examples of how to create a positive culture and climate.
Good Practice Means
- All staff and volunteers must work in an open environment and remain visible when working with children and vulnerable adults, e.g. avoid private or unobserved situations, whenever practical and possible, and ensure that another adult is present when working in the proximity of children and vulnerable adults.
- Encourage open communication with no secrets.
- Treating all children and vulnerable adults equally, and with respect and dignity.
- Always putting welfare first, before winning or achieving goals.
- Building balanced relationships based on mutual trust which empowers children and vulnerable adults to share in the decision-making process.
- Making Horses Connect activities fun, enjoyable and promoting fairness
- All lesson and seminar areas must be smoke and alcohol free.
- Being an excellent role model – this includes following all local laws, not smoking and drinking alcohol inappropriately in the company of children and vulnerable adults.
- Removing inappropriate piercings and covering tattoos, whenever possible, when in the company of children.
- Giving enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism.
- Recognising the developmental needs and capacity and avoiding excessive training or competition and not pushing them against their will.
- Maintaining a safe and appropriate distance (e.g. it is not appropriate for staff or volunteers to have an intimate relationship with a child or a vulnerable adult or to share a room with them).
- Horses Connect staff and volunteers should not enter a child or vulnerable adult’s room or invite them into their rooms unless accompanied.
- Ensuring that if any form of manual / physical support is required, it should be provided openly.
- Involving local partner staff and parents wherever possible. For example, encouraging them to take responsibility in for bringing the client to the toilet.
- Keeping a written record of any injury that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given.
Practices To Be Avoided
The following should be avoided except in emergencies. If cases arise where these situations are unavoidable it should be with the full knowledge and consent of someone of the local partners, the Horses Connect manager or the child’s parents or next of kin. For example, a child or vulnerable adult sustains an injury and needs to go to hospital, or a parent / carer fails to arrive to pick a child up at the end of a session
- Strongly avoid spending time alone with children or vulnerable adults away from others.
- Strongly avoid taking or dropping off a child or vulnerable adult to an event or activity.
Practices Never To Be Sanctioned
The following should never be sanctioned. You should never:
- Cause direct physical, including purposely hitting, hurting, or physically assaulting a child or vulnerable adult.
- Cause direct emotional harm, including acting in in ways intended to shame, humiliate, belittle or degrade children or vulnerable adults, or otherwise perpetrate any form of emotional harm.
- Use language that could be abusive, offensive or inappropriate.
- Engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay.
- Share a room with a child or vulnerable adult.
- Allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching.
- Allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged.
- Make sexually suggestive comments to a child, even in fun.
- Reduce a child or vulnerable adult to tears as a form of control.
- Condone or participate in behaviour which is illegal, unsafe or abusive.
- Discriminate against, show differential treatment or favour to the exclusion of others.
- Fail to act upon and record any allegations made by a child or vulnerable adult
- Do things of a personal nature for children or vulnerable adults, that they can do for themselves
- Spend anytime outside specified programme hours with a child or vulnerable we work with;
- Invite or allow children or vulnerable adult to stay with you at your home unsupervised
- Sexually exploit any child, vulnerable adult or any person
- Non-consensual sexual contact
This list is not exclusive therefore our staff and volunteers should avoid any other activities that may be considered to constitute poor practice.
N.B. It may sometimes be necessary for staff or volunteers to do things of a personal nature for children and vulnerable adults, particularly if they are young or are disabled. These tasks should only be carried out with the full understanding and consent of parents, care workers and local partner staff, Horses Connect manager and staff and any other relevant parties and should be avoided wherever practical. There is a need to be responsive to a person’s reactions. If a person is fully dependent on you, talk with him/her about what you are doing and give choices where possible. This is particularly so if you are involved in any dressing or undressing of outer clothing, or where there is physical contact, lifting or assisting a child or vulnerable adult to carry out particular activities. Avoid taking on the responsibility for tasks for which you are not appropriately trained and wherever possible, ask local partner staff or parents to complete the task and work to ensure the task is not required of Horses Connect staff and volunteers in the future
Incidents That Must Be Reported/Recorded
If any of the following occur you should report this immediately to the appropriate officer and record the incident. You should also ensure the local partner staff and parents are informed:
- If you accidentally hurt a child or vulnerable adult
- If he/she seems distressed in any manner
- If a child, vulnerable adult or any other person appears to be sexually aroused by your actions
- If a child, vulnerable adult or any other person misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done.
Use of Photographic/Filming Equipment
There is evidence that some people have used volunteering as an opportunity to take inappropriate photographs or film footage of children and vulnerable adults in vulnerable positions. All staff and volunteers should be vigilant and any concerns should to be reported to the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer.
There is no intention to prevent staff or volunteers from taking photos of volunteer activities, however, local partner organisation staff should be made aware of the reasons for the photographs, the intended use of the photos, and their consent obtained. There should be project guidelines for volunteers and staff regarding photography of people on the project, which should be managed and enforced by Horses Connect staff. All Horses Connect photos should be stored and used appropriately.
Recruitment and Training of Staff and Volunteers
Horses Connect recognises that anyone may have the potential to abuse in some way and that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure potential offenders are prevented from working with children and vulnerable adults.
- Through all stages of recruitment, for all staff and volunteers, including promotion, application, interview, acceptance and booking and pre-departure, Horses Connect’s Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy should be referred to, including reference to identity and background checks as appropriate, and Horses Connect ’s Child Protection Officers, as barriers to application from potential offenders.
- All staff and volunteers should be referred to the Policy
- Safer recruitment practices during the selection process for all Horses Connect staff and volunteers, including Garda Vetting for all Horses Connect staff and volunteers, and additional enhanced criminal record bureau checks or equivalent, wherever possible, for all staff and volunteers working on community development projects must be applied.
- Avoid use of promotional materials including text, photos and videos that suggest opportunities for offenders
- All staff must supply contacts for two confidential references. These referees must be approached directly by Horses Connect and asked direct questions to the applicant’s suitability to work with children and vulnerable adults.
- For staff working on specifically upon community development programmes, the references should include, wherever possible, at least one regarding previous work with children or vulnerable adults.
- If given the opportunity to call for further information, the referee must be phoned directly as sometimes people may be more willing to expand on information over the phone or give more direct information or suspicions over the phone.
- All staff must supply evidence of their identity (passport).
- A check should be made that the application form has been completed in full (including sections on criminal records and self-disclosures).
- They need to agree to Horses Connect ’s Terms and Conditions, which includes agreeing to follow our safety procedures, Risk Assessments and Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy.
In addition to pre-selection checks, the safeguarding process includes training after recruitment to help staff and volunteers to:
- Understand their requirements and responsibilities
- Understand Horses Connect ’s Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and identify areas where further explanation or training are required.
- Analyse their own practice against established good practice, and to ensure their practice is not likely to result in allegations being made.
- Recognise their responsibilities and report any concerns about suspected poor practice or possible abuse.
- Respond to concerns expressed by a child or vulnerable adult. Work safely effectively with children and vulnerable adults
Responding to Allegations or Suspicions
It is not the responsibility of anyone working in Horses Connect , in a paid or unpaid capacity to decide whether or not abuse has taken place. However there is a responsibility to act on any concerns by reporting these to a Horses Connect Child Protection Officer who will decide the next steps.
Horses Connect will assure all staff/volunteers that it will fully support and protect anyone, who in good faith reports his or her concern that a colleague is, or may be, abusing a child or vulnerable adult.
Where there is a complaint against a member of staff or volunteer, there may be three types of investigation:
- A criminal investigation.
- A child protection investigation.
- A disciplinary or misconduct investigation.
The results of the police and child protection investigation may well influence and inform the disciplinary investigation, but all available information will be used to reach a decision.
Reporting Concerns About Poor Practice
The Designated Person to deal with Child Protection concerns in this organisation is Eileen Bennett 0894332922
- Should this person to absent, for whatever reason the deputy Designated Person is Mary Mitchell 0972023590
- Should a child or vulnerable adults make a disclosure to a staff member or volunteer we have clear guidelines as to how that staff member or volunteer would respond.
- Any member of staff or volunteer who has a Child Protection concern will discuss their concerns with the Designated Person
- The Designated Person is responsible for the recording of any such concerns
- The Designated Person may consult with the HSE regarding a possible referral as well as making a referral
- In the case of emergency or an out-of-hours situation the Garda should be contacted and those numbers are easily available to all staff and volunteers.
- It is our policy to inform parents/carers about any Child Protection concerns, unless doing so would put the child at further risk
- The appropriate verbal/written communication regarding Child Protection concerns will be made to the HSE without delay.
Staff/VolunteerAllegations Policy & Procedures
If an allegation is made against a member of staff or volunteer, we will implement two separate procedures in line with those outlined in the document
If the allegation is about poor practice by the The Designated Person to deal with Child Protection concerns in this organisation is Eileen Bennett – 0894332922
Should this person to absent, for whatever reason the deputy Designated Person is Mary Mitchell – 0872023590
Should a child or vulnerable adults make a disclosure to a staff member or volunteer we have clear guidelines as to how that staff member or volunteer would respond.
Any member of staff or volunteer who has a Child Protection concern will discuss their concerns with the Designated Person
The Designated Person is responsible for the recording of any such concerns
The Designated Person may consult with the HSE regarding a possible referral as well as making a referral.
In the case of emergency or an out-of-hours situation the Garda should be contacted and those numbers are easily available to all staff and volunteers.
It is our policy to inform parents/carers about any Child Protection concerns, unless doing so would put the child at further risk
The appropriate verbal/written communication regarding Child Protection concerns will be made to the HSE without delay.
Staff Allegations Policy & Procedures
If an allegation is made against a member of staff or volunteer, we will implement two separate procedures in line with those outlined in the document
Reporting Concerns About Suspected Abuse
Any suspicion that a child or vulnerable adult has been abused by either a member of staff or a volunteer should be reported to the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer, or if the matter has been handled inadequately and concerns remain, it should be reported to the Horses Connect Director who will decide how to deal with the allegation and whether or not to initiate disciplinary proceedings.
The Horses Connect Child Protection Officer will take such steps as considered necessary to ensure the safety of the child or vulnerable adult in question and any other person who may be at risk.
All suspicions, allegations and incidents should be recorded.
If after consideration, the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer is concerned, they will refer the allegation to the local social services department.
If theHorses Connect Child Protection Officer is the subject of the suspicion/allegation, the report must be made to the Horses Connect Director.
Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned. Information should be handled and disseminated on a need to know basis only. This includes the following people:
- The Horses Connect Child Protection Officers
- The parents of the person who is alleged to have been abused
- The person making the allegation
- Social services/police
- The Horses Connect Director
The Horses Connect Child Protection Officers should be contacted in the first instance and they will advise as to who needs to know and who should inform them, normally through liaison with local social services.
Social services will decide who should approach the alleged abuser (or parents if the alleged abuser is a child).
Information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws (e.g. that information is accurate, regularly updated, relevant and secure).
Enquiries and Further Action
Internal Enquiries and Possible Suspension
The Horses Connect Child Protection Officer will make a decision about whether any individual accused of abuse should be temporarily suspended pending further police and social services inquiries.
Irrespective of the findings of the social services or police inquiries the Horses Connect Child Protection Officers will assess all individual cases to decide whether a member of staff, volunteer or any person working on behalf of / representing Horses Connect should be re-instated and if so how this can be sensitively handled.
This may be a difficult decision; particularly where there is insufficient evidence to uphold any action by the police. In such cases, the Horses Connect Child Protection Officers must reach a decision based upon the available information which could suggest that on a balance of probability, it is more likely than not that the allegation is true. The welfare of the child or vulnerable adult should remain of paramount importance throughout.
Support to Deal with the Aftermath of Abuse
Consideration should be given to the kind of support that children, parents, volunteers and members of staff may need. Use of helplines, support groups and open meetings will maintain an open culture and help the healing process.
Consideration should be given to what kind of support may be appropriate for the alleged perpetrator.
Allegations of Previous Abuse
Allegations of abuse may be made some time after the event (e.g. by an adult who was abused as a child or by a member of staff or volunteer who is still currently working with children or vulnerable adults within Horses Connect or elsewhere).
Where such an allegation is made, procedures as detailed above should be followed, the matter should be reported to the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer who will decide the next steps and, if relevant, report the matter to the social services or the police. This is because other children or vulnerable adults may be at risk from this person. Anyone who has a previous criminal conviction for offences related to abuse is automatically excluded from working with children. This is reinforced by the details of the Protection of Children Act 1999.
Every child and vulnerable adult has the right to experience a safe environment free from abuse and bullying.
Horses Connect plays an important role in creating a positive ethos that challenges bullying by empowering people to understand the impact of bullying, how best to deal with it and agree standards of behaviour.
Reporting concerns outside the immediate Horses Connect environment(e.g. a parent or carer)
Report your concerns to the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer, who should after consideration, contact social services or the police as soon as possible.
If the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer is not available, the person being told of or discovering the abuse should contact social services (Tusla) or the police immediately.
Tusla and the Horses Connect Child Protection Officer will decide how to involve the parents/carers. Maintain confidentiality on a need to know basis only.
Providing information to Police or Social Services
Information about suspected abuse must be accurate and a detailed record should always be made at the time of the disclosure/concern. It should ideally include the following, where possible:
- The child’s or vulnerable adult’s name, age and date of birth of the child.
- The child’s or vulnerable adult’s home address and telephone number.
- Whether or not the person making the report is expressing their own concerns or those of someone else.
- The nature of the allegation. Include dates, times, any special factors and other relevant information.
- Make a clear distinction between what is fact, opinion or hearsay.
- A description of any visible bruising or other injuries. Also any indirect signs, such as behavioural changes.
- Details of witnesses to the incidents.
- The child’s and vulnerable adult’s account, if it can be given, of what has happened and how any bruising or other injuries occurred.
- Have the parents or next of kin been contacted?
- If so what has been said?
- Has anyone else been consulted? If so record details.
- If the child or vulnerable adult was not the person who reported the incident, has the child or vulnerable adult been spoken to? If so what was said?
- Has anyone been alleged to be the abuser? Record details.
- Where possible referral to the police or social services should be confirmed in writing and the name of the contact who took the referral should be recorded.
It is important to remember that as Horses Connect staff and volunteers our responsibility is to report all suspicions, allegations and incidents to the Horses Connect Child Protection Officers, who have been trained to advise as to the next steps to be taken.
If you have any concerns about a child or vulnerable adult, volunteer, staff member, or local partner staff, contact one of Horses Connect’s Specifically Trained and Qualified Child Protection Officers:
Child Protection Officer 089 4332922
Child Welfare Officer 087 2023590