Call for child protection education


MANY POSTGRADUATE students who may become involved in child protection have “very little knowledge” of the necessary reporting and follow-up procedures, according to a new research project.

The project, by NUI Galway and the Health Service Executive (HSE), found “major inconsistencies” between various disciplines, such as general and mental health nursing, teaching and social work regarding information on child protection issues and their respective roles.

The authors of the report, commissioned by the multidisciplinary Child Protection Education Group West, are Sinead Hahessy and Marcella Kelly, NUIG lecturers in nursing.

“The findings raise concerns as to whether professionals understand the importance of the multidisciplinary roles needed to enact effective child protection and welfare practices,” said Ms Hahessy. “This threatens what is advocated as international best practice.”

The study found that teachers, nurses, social workers and other professionals working with children are often not aware of each others’ professional responsibilities.

Reporting concerns were also identified by postgraduate students as a “convoluted process”.

There was “considerable ambiguity surrounding the identification of a first point of contact for professionals, with evidence of ad hoc approaches to reporting among students.

“Multidisciplinary approaches to child protection are continuously being threatened in service provision across the disciplines,” according to the report.

“Child protection has to become a fundamental building block in training nurses, social workers and educators. The alarming theme emerging from this report is the fact that students are not being comprehensively trained in how to best deal with child protection issues in a multidisciplinary manner,” said Ms Hahessy.

“There needs to be consistency and inter-connections in training to deliver a truly multi-disciplinary skill set and mindset among students which will best serve society’s needs. Multi-disciplinary education is the way forward.”

She said that funding was being sought to develop a specialist training module with the assistance of NUIG’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, which could be conveyed in an “e-learning” format to facilitate access and dissemination. This would also allow for updating of the information, as legislation evolves.

Recent HSE statistics indicate that at least 20 new cases of suspected child abuse are being reported daily across the State. Figures for 2007 were up by 10 per cent on the previous year.