Failure to Report Child Abuse Could Land You in Prison, Says Minister

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Byline: Niamh Lyons Political Correspondent

ANYONE who knowingly fails to report child abuse could be jailed under new laws being drafted by the Children's Minister.

Frances Fitzgerald says strict sanctions will be imposed on those who fail to co-operate with the mandatory reporting of the exploitation or neglect of children.

The Children First guidelines, a 160-page document outlining child protection measures, were first published in 1999 but have never been made obligatory.

But the minister has plans to put the document on a statutory footing and said a range of tough punishments will be imposed on those who fail to comply.

She said: 'I will be expecting and demanding that all organisations working with children will accept fully and without question their fundamental responsibilities with respect to child protection.

'There will be no exceptions, no exemptions'.

Fianna Fail TD Charlie McConalogue warned the minister to ensure the Government does not go down the road of the so-called nanny state.

'If we go down that route of mandatory reporting we will certainly have to ensure that proper resources are in place. I would think the Government would certainly have to have plans to increase the number of social workers that would be required to deal with the increased caseload,' he said.

The minister also told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health, Children and Youth Affairs yesterday that services such as child protection and welfare, youth work, early childcare and education will come under her auspices.

In addition, Minister Fitzgerald is in the process of transferring all powers relating to child protection from the HSE to her office.

She confirmed that new guidelines for agencies involved with the care of children, known as National Guidance 2011, will be issued within weeks. …