Feb 24 2009 Posted: 00:00 GMT
A research project conducted by NUI Galway, in conjunction with the HSE West, has revealed that many postgraduate students who will go on to be involved in child protection have very little knowledge of the processes to be adhered to when reporting and following up on child protection concerns. The project explored knowledge of the existing processes in child protection services in Ireland among postgraduate students from various disciplines including general and mental health nursing, teaching and social work. Focus group interviews with participants revealed major inconsistencies between the disciplines in relation to knowledge of child protection issues and their respective roles. The report has been published by the multi-disciplinary Child Protection Education Group West. According to Sinead Hahessy, Lecturer in Nursing at NUI Galway, and co-author of the report with fellow Nursing lecturer Marcella Kelly: "The report's findings raise concerns as to whether professionals understand the importance of the multi-disciplinary roles needed to enact effective child protection and welfare practices. In essence, this threatens what is advocated as international best practice". Other key conclusions to emerge from the study included: - Those agencies that have the most frequent professional contact with children, such as teachers, nurses, social workers etc. are often not aware of each others professional responsibilities. - Reporting concerns was deemed to be a convoluted process by postgraduate students. - There is considerable ambiguity surrounding the identification of a first point of contact for professionals, with evidence of ad hoc approaches to reporting among students. - Multi-disciplinary approaches to child protection is continuously being threatened in service provision across the disciplines. Sinead Hahessy added: "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 multi-disciplinary manner. 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." It is envisaged that the findings of this study will inform the development of an educational framework that will encapsulate the ethos of multi-disciplinary approaches to child protection. This is to ensure that those involved in professional contact with children can work effectively in the spirit of collaboration in providing protection for vulnerable children and their families. Funding is being sought to develop a specialist training module and it is envisaged that this could be done in an e-learning format to facilitate access and dissemination for all involved. E-learning offers a flexible mode of delivery for learners. It also has the potential to allow updating of material as legislation evolves in this area. Multi-media resources will be developed using the specialist facilities at the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, NUI Galway.