Children First

What is Children First?

Children First is National Guidance that promotes the protection of children from abuse and neglect. It states what organisations need to do to keep children safe, and what different bodies and the general public should do if they are concerned about a child’s safety and welfare.

The Guidance sets out definitions of abuse and signs for its recognition.  It explains how reports should be made by the general public and by professionals.

The Guidance sets out specific protocols for Social Workers in the Child and Family Agency, Gardaí and other front line staff dealing with suspected abuse and neglect. The scope of Children First extends beyond reporting to statutory bodies. It emphasises the importance of multi-disciplinary, interagency working in the management of concerns about children’s safety and welfare. Key to this is the sharing of information between agencies and disciplines in the best interests of children and the need for full co-operation to ensure better outcomes

 Who is Children First for?

The Children First document can be read by anyone. It sets out the roles and responsibilities of different agencies including schools, hospitals, mental health providers and addiction service.  It clearly describes the responsibilities of Social Workers in the Child and Family Agency, Gardaí and designated Children First staff working directly with children in different settings across schools.

Children First provides direction and guidance to the two organisations with statutory responsibilities:

1. Social Workers in the Child and Family Agency and other professionals involved in the assessment and management of cases of alleged abuse or neglect, and
2. the Gardaí in undertaking investigations

What responsibility do organisations have?

All organisations including Government Departments, schools, health services, religious bodies, public sector agencies, clubs and leisure sector, funded organisations, private and voluntary bodies that are in contact with or providing services to children have an overall corporate duty and responsibility to safeguard children by:

1. promoting the general welfare, health, development and safety of children;
2. adopting and consistently applying a safe and clearly defined method of recruiting and selecting staff and volunteers;
3. developing tailored guidance and procedures, in accordance with Children First: National Guidance, for staff and volunteers who may have reasonable grounds for concern about the safety and welfare of children involved with the organisation;
4. identifying a designated liaison person to act as a liaison with outside agencies and a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child protection and welfare concerns. The designated liaison person is responsible for reporting allegations or concerns of child abuse to the Child and Family Agency or to An Garda Síochána;
5. ensuring that the organisation has clear written procedures on the action to be taken if allegations of abuse against employees/volunteers are made;
6. raising awareness within the organisation about potential risks to children’s safety and welfare;
7. developing effective procedures for responding to accidents and complaints.

Organisations should contact the Child and Family Agency where they are concerned about a child’s welfare and co-operate with the statutory bodies in the ongoing assessment and management of the case.

Why do we need a new or revised set of Guidance?

Children First was first published in 1999. The principle and substance of the document (2011) is unchanged. The Guidance has been updated to reflect new policy, legislation and organisations (Child and Family Agency, HIQA, DCYA). It incorporates lessons from investigations, reviews and inspections over the past decade.

The document reflects the growing awareness of the impact of ongoing neglect on children; it also includes bullying as a feature of abuse. The Guidance has been edited to ensure there is no confusion within agencies regarding individual roles or steps to be taken in the identification and management of concerns.




How will this Guidance make children safer?

A review undertaken of the original Children First concluded that the Guidelines were fit for purpose. However some deficits were identified in terms of consistent implementation of the guidelines and cooperation of staff across relevant organisations in the recognition and reporting of concerns and with the ongoing management of cases.
The Minister intends putting Children First on a legislative basis to ensure, as far as possible, compliance by all organisations working with children, including statutory, private, community and voluntary organisations. The legislation means that all organisations will:

1. have a duty to comply with Children First;
2. have a duty to share relevant information in the best interests of the child;
3. have a duty to cooperate with other relevant services in the best interest of the child.

In addition, the HSE has published a Child Protection and Welfare Handbook which provides a practical guide to assist social workers and other relevant practitioners in dealing with child protection and welfare cases

How will we know if everyone is working within the Guidance?

Direct responsibility for implementation rests at organisation level.  However the DCYA has set up a Children First Implementation Inter-Departmental Group (CFIDG) to promote the importance of Children First compliance across Government and to provide support to departments and sectors in bringing forward plans for implementation within each sector.

The Group is currently overseeing the preparation of Children First Sectoral Implementation Plans. The Implementation Plans are reasonably high level, essentially setting out a checklist of child welfare and protection requirements, for each Department  and for agencies under its remit that have contact with children and young people. The Plans will set out the systems in place, or to be put in place, to support the continued implementation of Children First Guidance.
HIQA has developed child protection standards. It has started to inspect how the Child and Family Agency undertake its specific statutory function under the Child Care Act 1991.

Where can I get more information?

Hard copies of the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children were provided to each Garda station, General Practitioner, primary school, secondary school and registered preschool in the country at the time of publication. Copies are also available to purchase through the Government Publication Office.

Children First: New National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 is available to  pdf download here (3.85 MB)
Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook - download here
Our Duty to Care' is a helpful tool for organisations providing helpful advice on good recruitment and staff management practices in relation to child protection. It is available to download here.

Children First Child Protection Training for Early Years Settings


Updated - November 2017

As the Early Years Child Protection Programme prepares for full commencement of the Children First Act, 2015 on Dec 11th , South Dublin CCC have been advised to hold off on Child Protection training delivery from November 11th, 2017 – January 11th, 2018. This applies to the Foundation level, the Refresher training and the Child Protection & Welfare Policy Implementation workshops.

Once we have received updated materials and guidance from National Early Years Children First Coordinator we will recommence these training workshops.

In the meantime we would recommend that you read the new guidance and support documents as they are very helpful in understanding the new requirements around mandated persons and safety statements. These are available from the below link to the Tusla website:


Another Helpful document to help you prepare for the New Children First Act 2015 (see below link)

  pdf Early Years Child Protection - 5 Steps to prepare for New Children First Act 2015 - Mandatory Reporting of Child Protection Concerns – Commencing December 11th, 2017 (384 KB)


Introduction to Children First’  E-learning Programme


Tusla has developed a universal e-learning training programme called ‘Introduction to Children First’. The programme has been written to support people of all backgrounds and experience in recognising concerns about children and reporting such concerns if they arise. This Introduction does not replace the certified Children First training.


The programme is based on Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and the Children First Act 2015.


The programme takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete but it can be done in a number of sittings. It covers topics including: 

  • Recognising and reporting child abuse;
  • The role of mandated persons;
  • The responsibilities of organisations working with children to safeguard children;
  • The role of designated liaison persons.

This is an just an introduction. All staff are recommended to attend the full day Foundation  level once it is back up and running.


The first level of training is Always Children First Child Safeguarding Awareness Training for Organisations. This training is a quality assured child protection training course tailored to the needs of the sector. It will be rolled out over 3 years to workers in both services and home-based settings.

The new programme has been developed in partnership with the HSE/Tusla and the roll out is being co-ordinated by the National Early Years Children First Committee, an interagency committee tasked with the implementation of Children First in the Early Years Sector. The Programme has been developed by the National Early Years Children First Committee and funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

This coordinated approach to child protection training aims to provide access to a standardised training module for everyone, at minimum cost and to ensure consistent implementation of child protection policy and procedures across the sector. Early Years workers are in almost daily contact with children and their families and therefore are in a position often to recognise and identify concerns about the safety, welfare or well-being of a child in their care and have a responsibility for safeguarding these children through their policies, procedures and practices.

The one-day accredited training course looks at what constitutes child abuse, the roles and responsibilities in reporting child protection and welfare concerns, child protection policies and safe work practices This is a HSE/Tusla accredited module that has been developed specifically for the Early Years sector.

It will replace all other HSE accredited training and the ‘Keeping Children Safe’ Training. It is aimed at childcare workers who are currently working in a service, childminders and boards of management. Designated Liaison Person training and an online information resource will be developed for childcare students and will be launched shortly.

South Dublin County Childcare Committee delivers Always Children First training monthly. Information on courses is distributed to childcare services weekly through the bulletin. Childcare Services or early years workers seeking Always Children First training should contact

South Dublin County Childcare Committee also delivers Child Protection Policy workshops on a regular basis, please email if you wish to book a place.