Keeping Our Children Safe

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A message from our Childrens Officer Kevin Gorman

Portlaoise GAA is committed to creating and maintaining the safest possible environment for all young people who wish to participate in our Gaelic Games and activities. We will take all practicable steps to protect them from discernible forms of abuse – from harm, discrimination or degrading treatment and shall respect their rights, wishes and feelings, as they grow and develop as members of our club.

 

We do this by first and foremost recognising that all children have the right to be protected from harm and endeavouring to ensure that all of our coaches and volunteers are carefully recruited and selected and that they accept responsibility for ensuring the wellbeing of children in their care.

 

The Juvenile Committee complete a child safeguarding Risk Assessment each year, where we identify the potential for harm to children when they are participating in our games and attending our activities, under a number of headings. This helps to form our Child Safeguarding Statement, which is displayed in Rathleague and includes relevant contact numbers. This statement identifies the fact that at the moment, our main area of focus is any risk of harm resulting from unvetted, uneducated or unqualified coaches.

 

This isn’t just a club issue, it’s a national one, with the Children First legislation now making it compulsory for all coaches who are in any way involved with children to have met the following requirements; a) be garda vetted b) have completed a Child Protection in Sport Awareness Workshop c) have a coaching qualification and d) be a club member. This seems like a lot, but in reality is readily achievable. Garda vetting is now done online, just follow the steps at https://www.gaa.ie/the-gaa/child-welfare-and-protection/vetting – here you will see it outlined that “it is a criminal offence, for a person acting on behalf of the GAA, or for the GAA as an Association to permit any person to commence working with children on behalf of the Association without that person first obtaining a vetting disclosure from the National Vetting Bureau in respect of the role for which they have been recruited”.

 

There are a couple of ways of completing the other requirements – the County Board regularly organise workshops and coaching courses which we will circulate throughout the club, and we as a club also intend to run these courses independently throughout the year. We made a huge effort to become compliant last year, and in the process almost doubled the number of vetted personnel in our club. Almost 20 coaches attended a safeguarding course organised by the club in July, and the plan was to run more before the end of the year, until Covid restrictions intervened.

 

We will continue to do everything we can to help all coaches become compliant, thereby consolidating our position as an organisation where children do indeed come first. Aside from ensuring that personnel meet all conditions required, Portlaoise GAA as a club are committed to responding swiftly and appropriately to protect the welfare of children who participate in our games and related activities, providing parents and children with the opportunity to voice any concerns that they may have, reviewing the effectiveness of our Child Protection procedures and policies on an ongoing basis, and also insuring that members, coaches, team mentors, administrators, parents/guardians and spectators sign up to and adhere to our Code of Behaviour.

 

Our children are the future of the club – it is our focus, responsibility and duty to ensure that each and every one of them are given the chance to develop in a safe and secure environment, and be standard-bearers among Laois clubs when it comes to child safeguarding issues.

 

With everyone’s help and support, Portlaoise GAA can achieve this.

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