Handling of a Disclosure and how to report

Step by step guidance on what action to take if there are concerns about a child, these include how to handle a disclosure and how to report.

This guidance is consistent with the ‘Safeguarding Guidance for Children & Young People in Sport’ document issued by Sport Ireland and ‘Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children’ published by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs – these documents may be referred to for more detailed or additional information.

1) Raising a concern about a child

If a person has a concern about a child, this concern should be discussed with the club’s Designated Liaison Person (DLP) or Deputy Designated Liaison Person (DDLP) if the DLP is not available as soon as possible.

This initial contact may be in-person, by phone or by email; however, is it likely the DLP would look to speak to the person who has the concern.

The DLP will ask for the names of those involved, the nature of the concern and the evidence observed.

The DLP may ask for the concern to be given to them in writing.

2) Reasonable grounds for concern

The DLP, in consultation with the person who raised the issue, will decide if ‘reasonable grounds for concern’ exist.  Reference may be made to the ‘Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children’ document.

Tusla, or the Gardai in certain circumstances, may be contacted by the DLP for advice.

If it is decided that there are no ‘reasonable grounds for concern’, the DLP will contact the person raising the concern and reply to them in writing to explain such.

If it is decided that there are ‘reasonable grounds for concern’, a report will be filed with Tusla.

3) Reporting a concern

If the person reporting a concern is a non-mandated person, then the DLP will file the report.

If the person with the concern is a ‘mandated person’, there will be a further discussion as to whether the concern reaches the ‘threshold of harm’.  If so, a joint report will be submitted to Tusla.

It should be noted that in the situation that the DLP does not file a report, the person with the concern reserves the right to contact TUSLA as an individual.

The DLP will advise on whether the parents should be contacted, by whom and how. 

4) Records

All physical records of the concern or report must be given to the DLP for safe storage in the club office.

5) Specific cases

If the concerns relate to the abuse of a child by a child and there are ‘grounds for concern’, a report is filed for each child.

If the concerns deal with an adult disclosing historic child abuse, a retrospective abuse report is submitted. 

If there is an immediate risk to the child, the Gardaí should be contacted.

If the concern relates to a coach/volunteer/adult member the club has a dual responsibility in respect of both the child and the adult. There are two separate procedures to be followed:

1) The reporting procedure to Tusla in respect of the child and the alleged abuser;

2) The internal personnel procedure for dealing with a coach/volunteer/adult member.

Concerns must be communicated to the DLP in the normal manner.  That a concern has been made relating to an adult in the club is reported to the Chair of the club by the DLP and procedures relating to such reports are followed. 

How to handle a disclosure

Often concerns are raised by way of disclosure from a child.  It is important that the person to whom the disclosure is being made handles this appropriately.

  • The person should remain calm and natural – they should not react emotionally, but listen patiently in a detached manner.
  • Leading questions should not be asked; simply repeat what the child has said and let them continue talking.
  • Never promise confidentiality or to keep a secret.
  • Offer reassurance to the child that discussing the matter was the correct thing to do.
  • Let the child know what the next steps will be.
  • As soon as possible after the disclosure, write down what the child said.
  • The DLP should be contacted as soon as possible.

The safety of the child making the allegation and any others who are/may be at risk should be ensured and this should take precedence over any other consideration.