Preparation for the Children First Act 2015

Information for all pharmacists and pharmacies about obligations under the Children First Act which came into effect in December 2017.

The Children First Act 2015 (the Act) was signed into law on 19 November 2015, and will come into full effect from 11 December 2017. The Act will put key elements of the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, 2011 (the Children First Guidance) on a statutory basis. The overall purpose of the Act is to make further and better provision for the care, welfare and protection of children in Ireland.

How it affects Pharmacists and Pharmacy Owners

The Act puts in place obligations for certain categories of organisations and people who have regular contact with, or access to, children. Specifically, the Act makes reference to “relevant services”, and services provided by many pharmacies fall within this remit. This is described as “any work or activity which consists of treatment (including assessment which may lead to treatment), therapy or counselling provided to a child” (Schedule 1 of the Act). A child, for the purposes of the Act, is a person under the age of 18 years other than a person who is, or has been married.

Once the Act comes into force on 11 December 2017, “relevant services”, such as pharmacies, will have three months (deadline of 11 March 2018) in which to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of any potential for harm which could occur to a child while availing of relevant services at the pharmacy. A written statement must then be prepared, known as the child safeguarding statement. The child safeguarding statement must include a written assessment of the risk(s) and must specify the procedures to be observed by the pharmacy to ensure, as far as practicable, that a child availing of the relevant services is free from potential harm.

The statement must be prepared with due regard to the Children First Guidance and to guidance issued by TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency, on Developing a Child Safeguarding Statement. The child safeguarding statement must be reviewed every two years. It must also be provided to pharmacy staff, and on request provided to parents or guardians of children availing of the relevant services at the pharmacy, members of the public and TUSLA.

A failure to prepare a child safeguarding statement may lead to a non-compliance notice being issued by TUSLA. All non-compliance notices are placed on a register which can be made available for inspection by members of the public at TUSLA’s offices.

You will find further explanatory information and detailed support materials available on the TUSLA website.

Please note that the PSI does not regulate the provisions under the Children First Act. This notice is provided for information purposes and to assist with raising awareness among all PSI registrants about these new child protection obligations.