Recognising the Signs
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Sport Ireland

When can statutory agencies intervene in a child’s life?

Threshold for statutory intervention in the Republic of Ireland

The Children First Act defines harm as assault, ill-treatment, neglect or sexual abuse, and covers single and multiple instances: “harm” means, in relation to a child,-

  • assault, ill-treatment or neglect of the child in a manner that seriously affects or is likely to seriously affect the child’s health, development or welfare, or
  • sexual abuse of the child,

Whether caused by a single act, omission or circumstances or a series or combination of acts, omission or circumstances, or otherwise”.

Threshold for statutory intervention in Northern Ireland

The Children (NI) Order 1995 uses the term ‘significant harm’ rather than ‘child abuse.’ The term ‘significant harm’ is the ‘threshold’ or benchmark that justifies the state to intervene in family life.

There is an understanding that many children will experience harm through their life and going into adulthood but the question needs to be asked is that harm significant to impact on the child’s safety or development. This may include:

  • Ill treatment
  • The impairment of health
  • The impairment of development (physical, intellectual, emotional, social, behavioural)

Cooperating to Safeguard Children and Young People through the extension of the definition of emotional abuse recognised the particular impact of bullying on young people.