The philosophy that the GAA has adopted in the promotion of our Games recognizes that every young person has the right to enjoy an inclusive, safe and supportive environment.
This we can achieve through the manner in which we coach our young players, play our games, and recruit our managers and other personnel and by adopting good practice procedures that ensure players’ needs are catered for in a balanced and holistic way.
This section of the Code of Best Practice in Youth
Sport seeks to make our personnel more aware of what may be defined as abuse. It is however important to state that individual members of the GAA, whether they be parents or coaches have no authority to investigate allegations of abuse.
The procedures for dealing with such allegations are outlined in detail in the GAA Guidelines for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse (Fourth Edition) and such allegations should at the outset be referred to the Club’s Designated Person or the County Board Designated Person.
A specially appointed group the GAA Child Protection and Welfare Committee is charged with the implementation of the Guidelines on Dealing with Allegations of Abuse in the GAA.
Reluctance to think badly of people or a lack of awareness can lead to resistance in hearing, recognizing and dealing with the possibility of abuse. It is important that coaches, mentors and parents are aware of the possibility for abuse to take place within and outside the Association and it is essential that the mechanism exists as described above to enable them to address any Child Protection concerns that they may experience.
Essentially, the steps to be taken in respect of allegations of abuse and procedures to be followed in respect of an allegation against either volunteer coaches or employees within the Association are contained in the GAA Guidelines for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse.
Categories and Definition of Child Abuse
Child abuse has generally been defined into four main categories:
Neglect, Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse and Sexual Abuse.
A child – defined as a person less than 18 yrs. of age who is not or who has not been married – may at any given time be subjected to more than one form of abuse.
Appendix 2 outlines in detail the definitions of Neglect, Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse and Sexual Abuse.
Recognizing Child Abuse
The ability to recognize child abuse depends as much on a person’s willingness to accept the possibility of its existence as it does on knowledge and information. It is important to note that child abuse is not always readily visible, and may not be clearly observable. It is also important to avoid either a situation where volunteers/employees are constantly wary and on the lookout for abuse or one where complacency exists. Essentially, we should consider, in a measured way, the possibility of child abuse if:
A young person appears to have suffered a suspicious injury for which no reasonable
Explanation can be offered
A young person seems distressed without obvious reason or displays persistent or new
A young person shows unusual or fearful responses to an adult who is responsible for their
Care at any particular time .
It is important to remember that many signs of child abuse are non-specific, and that alternative explanations for indicators should always be considered.
Indicators of Concern
Young people will sometimes, though not always, disclose that they are being physically or sexually abused, and are less likely to disclose emotional abuse
Or neglect. It is possible that volunteers/employees will become concerned because of a young person’s Behaviour, or because of something that is reported by another person. The following examples would constitute reasonable grounds for concern and should be reported to the Club’s Designated Person in the first instance:
Disclosures of abuse by a young person
Age-inappropriate or abnormal sexual play or knowledge
Specific injuries or patterns of injuries
Signs of injury for which there is no explanation, or which is consistent with abuse and unlikely to be caused in any other way
absconding from home
Under-age pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease
Someone else (a parent, friend) may disclose that a young person has told them they are
Being abused, or may have witnessed the abuse themselves
A young person’s Behaviour may raise concerns
A volunteer/employee may personally witness abuse taking place
There may be consistent indication, over a period of time that a young person is suffering from emotional or physical neglect
Signs in one or more of the above categories at any one time
A suspicion that is not supported by any objective indicator of abuse or neglect would not constitute a reasonable suspicion, or be reasonable grounds for concern. Under no circumstances should any individual member of a Club attempt to confront an alleged abuser.
Proper procedures should be followed at all times as outlined in our Guidelines for Dealing with Allegation of Abuse. It is the statutory authorities in whatever jurisdiction in which an allegation or report has been made who ultimately will determine how far and in what manner an investigation should be conducted
Responding to a Young Person Disclosing Abuse
When a child or young person discloses information of actual or suspected abuse you should where possible involve the Club’s Designated Person immediately in any form of response:
(a) Deal with any allegation of abuse in a sensitive and competent way through listening to and facilitating the child to tell about the problem, rather than interviewing the child about details of what happened
(B) stays calm and do not show any extreme reaction to what the child is saying. Listen
Compassionately, and take what the child is saying seriously
(c) Understand that the child has decided to tell something very important and has taken a risk to do so. The experience of telling should be a positive one so that the child will not mind
Talking to those involved in the investigation
(D) be honest with the child and tell them that it is not possible to keep information a secret
(e) Make no judgmental statements against the person whom the allegation is made
(f) Do not question the child unless the nature of what s/he is saying is unclear. Leading questions should be avoided. Open, non-specific questions should be used such as “Can you explain to me what you mean by that”
(g) Check out the concerns with the parents/ guardians before making a report unless doing
So would endanger the child or compromise an investigation
(Advice from the HSE/Social Services can be sought by the Designated Person in relation to this).
(h) Give the child some indication of what will happen next, such as informing parents/
Guardians, Health Service Executive or Social Services. It should be kept in mind that the
Child may have been threatened and may feel vulnerable at this stage.
(I) carefully record the details
(j) Pass on this information to your Designated Person
(k) Reassure the child that they have done the right thing in telling you
Further information on Responding to a Disclosure of Abuse may be obtained in the GAA Guidelines for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse (Fourth Edition 2009).
Reporting Suspected or Disclosed Child Abuse
The following steps should be taken in reporting child abuse to statutory authorities:
(a) Observe and note dates, times, locations and contexts in which the incident occurred,
Allegation made, report made or suspicion was aroused, together with any other relevant
(b) Report the matter as soon as possible to the Designated Person with responsibility for
Reporting abuse. This may be your Club or County Designated Person.
(c) If the Designated Person has reasonable grounds for believing that the child has been abused or is at risk of abuse, s/he will make a report to the health service executive/social services or Gardaí that have statutory responsibility to investigate and assess suspected or actual child abuse.
(d) The Designated Person shall also, in accordance with the GAA Guidelines for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse, report such matters to the County Designated Person. Such reports will as a matter of course is forwarded to the GAA Child Welfare and Protection Committee who may deal with reports in accordance with the above mentioned Guidelines.
(e) In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk and the
Designated Person is unable to contact a duty social worker, the Gardaí should be contacted. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending
Intervention by the Statutory Authorities.
(f) If the Designated Person is unsure whether reasonable grounds for concern exist s/he can informally consult with the local HSE/Social Services. S/he will be advised whether or not the matter requires a formal report. This report may be made on a standard Reporting Form.
(See Reporting Allegations or Suspicions and Abuse Appendix 6)
(g) If the Designated Person, having consulted with the statutory authorities, decides not to make a formal report to the statutory authorities, they are obliged to facilitate the person that may have made the allegation or report and in facilitating them should inform them as to how they may, if they so wish, make a the report themselves.
(h) The Designated Person is obliged to keep a record of all actions and decisions taken during the reporting process. A Designated Person reporting suspected or actual
child abuse to the Statutory Authorities will first inform the family of their intention to make such a report, unless doing so would endanger the child or undermine an investigation (advice from the social work department should be sought in relation to this).
In the Republic of Ireland, The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 provides immunity from civil liability to persons who report child abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to the Health Service Executive or the Gardaí.
The Act also covers the offence of ‘false reporting’.
The main provisions of the Act are:
1. The provision of immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to designated officers of Health |Service Executive or any member of An Garda Síochána;
2. The provision of significant protections for employees who report child abuse. These
Protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to and including, dismissal;
3. The creation of a new offence of false reporting of child abuse where a person makes a report of child abuse to the appropriate authorities “knowing that statement to be false”. This is a new criminal offence designed to protect innocent persons from malicious reports.
It should be noted that an individual who reports concerns in ‘good faith’ is not deliberately attempting to slander another person’s name
Dealing with an allegation against GAA personnel
If the Designated Person has reasonable grounds for believing that a child has been or may be in danger of abuse they are obliged to report this matter to the statutory authorities and also to the GAA, through their County Designated Person or as deemed appropriate to the GAA National Children’s Office in Croke Park.
Should an allegation that merits reporting to the statutory authorities involve a person acting on behalf of the Association or a person associated with the GAA, this person shall be requested or instructed to step aside from their role(s) pending an investigation of the allegation.
Failure to step aside may result in the removal of that person from their role(s) pending the outcome of the investigation by the statutory authorities or consideration of the
Matter by the GAA Child Welfare and Protection Committee.
This action does not conflict with the reporting of such concerns to the statutory authorities nor does it in any way impinge on a person’s individual rights as a member of the GAA.
Further information on Reporting Suspected or Disclosed Child Abuse may be obtained in the GAA Guidelines for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse
(Fourth Edition 2009).
GAA clubs have become increasingly aware of the issue of bullying and the detrimental impact it may have on those involved, i.e. victims, perpetrators, families, bystanders and the Association in general. It is vital therefore that all units of the Association are equipped to deal with any instances of bullying and in doing so will seek to counteract and prevent such unacceptable Behaviour occurring in the future.
What is Bullying?
Bullying Behaviour can be defined as repeated aggression be it verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against others.
Bullying contains seven key features:
An intention to be hurtful.
This intention is carried out.
The Behaviour harms the target (the person or persons being bullied).
The bully overwhelms the target with his or her power.
There is often no justification for the action.
The Behaviour repeats itself again and again.
The bully derives a sense of satisfaction from hurting the target.
There are a number of forms or types of bullying which may take place in a sports context.
Direct bullying – where the Behaviour is obvious and bystanders are aware of it, e.g. physical or verbal bullying.
Indirect bullying – where the Behaviour is more difficult to recognize, e.g. intimidation or
Verbal bullying – including slandering, ridiculing, slagging, abusive telephone calls, name calling etc.
Physical bullying- including pushing, shoving, assaults, damage to person’s property.
Gesture bullying – including non-verbal gestures/ glances which can convey threatening
Or frightening messages/intent.
E-bullying/Cyber-bullying – using web pages, emails, text etc. to abuse, intimidate and attack others, either directly or indirectly.
Relational bullying – Behaviour which sets out to deliberately damage another person’s friendship or feelings of inclusion in a friendship group, e.g. exclusion, isolation etc.
Extortion – the deliberate extortion of money or other items of property accompanied by threats.
Homophobic bullying – bullying that is typically aimed at young people who are gay or who are perceived to be gay. It can include name calling, isolation and violence.
Racial bullying – can be expressed physically, socially or psychologically when one is labeled
Negatively as being different from others according to one’s race.
Mobbing – This means that the target is being bullied by a group of perpetrators and not just one perpetrator.
All types and forms of Bullying are unacceptable. It important to be aware that the Bullying of a child in a GAA club may be carried out by other children, younger or older, by children individually or as part of a group or by an adult or adults involved in the club.
Indeed a child may be suffering from Bullying outside of the club but the actions suffered may still impinge upon the child’s participation in your club activities and your games.
Bullying is a ‘whole organization matter and as such requires a ‘whole organization’ approach. This means that any anti-bullying approach should step beyond those children and young people and other personnel who are directly involved and take account of everyone in the Association, as they all have a part to play in countering bullying.
A whole organization approach aims to create a supportive environment where it is not acceptable to bully and where the ethos of the organization is that it is ‘ok to tell’. In creating this type of environment, the cycle of silence in relation to bullying can be broken.
All clubs should develop and implement strategies both in relation to prevention and intervention in order to adequately address the issue of bullying.
Prevention strategies include anti-bullying policy, awareness rising through training, codes of Behaviour, peer mentoring, and health education programs.
Intervention strategies include mediation, No Blame Approach, Method of Shared Concern, Parental/Guardian Involvement and disciplinary measures.
Bullying Behaviour may take place in any setting whether it is in schools, the home or in a sports club setting. In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the Club whether it is through their Children’s Officer, their volunteer coaches, or employees to deal with any instances of bullying at Club level.
The more extreme forms of bullying Behaviour would be regarded as physical or emotional abuse, and as such should be referred to the Club’s Designated Person who in line with GAA guidelines may deal with the matter as a reported allegation of abuse which may be reportable to the statutory authorities.
Each Club should have a clear policy on countering bullying Behaviour which is known to members and implemented throughout the Club.
Certain complaints and breaches of rules and procedures are dealt with in the GAA by:
The GAA Official Guide (which contains the Constitution and Rules of the GAA)
Club’s Guidelines for Dealing with Allegation of Abuse (Fourth Edition 2009)
The Club’s Code of Behaviour and
The Club’s Code of Conduct
The Club’s Code of Ethic’s
At local level some other matters of complaint that may not come under the immediate ambit of the above procedural rules and guidelines may be dealt with via a Complaints Procedure and it should be recognized that individuals in the GAA, including players (adult and under age), and the parents of under age players have a right to make complaints and have these complaints dealt with in a fair and efficient manner.
All Clubs should develop a clear complaints procedure for use by young people or by parents who are dissatisfied with any aspect of activities or services provided. The procedure should be promoted with children and young people, parents/guardians, staff and volunteers.
What is a complaint ?
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction, which suggests a failure to perform a function or provide a service in line with stated practices and policies.
Purpose of Complaint:
A complaint gives an organization the opportunity to:
Put something right which has gone wrong
Restore the service to the required standard
Ensure that faults/mistakes are acknowledged
Provide a remedy
Key elements for consideration
Those who make complaints should have easy access to an effective procedure to allow a quick resolution of their complaint. Who is the first point of contact for a complaint? This should be made known to all and the contact details of the person receiving such complaints on behalf of the Club or County also made known in advance.
Stages in a complaints procedure
There are normally two or three stages in a complaints procedure:
Stage 1 (informal)
The Club acknowledges the complaint and attempts to resolve the issue at local level. Experience has shown that the vast majority of complaints are best resolved informally and at the point nearest delivery of the service.
Stage 2 (Formal)
If the complaint cannot be resolved at the first stage, it is necessary to outline how it will be dealt with subsequently. This stage may involve formalizing the complaint by completing a complaints form or writing a letter. A realistic time frame for acknowledgement of the complaint and subsequent investigation should be identified. This time frame for resolving a complaint should be short and not drawn out for any purpose unless it is beyond your control.
Those with responsibility for investigating complaints should be clearly identified. All parties need to be informed of the outcome in writing. An appropriate final decision making point should be identified and options for appeals should be outlined.
Everyone involved – the complainant and the subject (s) – should be given the right of representation. They may for example be accompanied or represented by a friend or colleague.
Any process should be clearly and accurately recorded at every stage. Good practice would indicate that it is preferable to confirm arrangements in writing.
All information from the process – written or verbal – should be kept confidential.
When dealing with a complaint it is important to be clear about:
The particular incident of concern
Any previous incidents taken into account
Any remedial action to be taken, e.g. an apology
Any new Behaviour expected
What will happen if the arrangements agreed are not adhered to?
In the event of a particularly serous incident where a criminal offence is suspected, the Gardaí should conduct the investigation. Complaints that may infer any forms of Abuse should be dealt with under the GAA Guidelines for Dealing with Allegations of Abuse.
Confidentiality in the processing of allegations
Confidentiality should be maintained in respect of all issues and people involved in cases of abuse, welfare or bad practice. It is important that the rights of both the child and the person about whom the complaint has been made are protected.
The following points should be kept in mind:
A guarantee of confidentiality or undertakings regarding secrecy cannot be given, as the
Welfare of the child will supersede all other considerations.
All information should be treated in a careful and sensitive manner and should be discussed only with those who need to know.
Information should be conveyed to the parents / guardians of the child in a sensitive way.
Discussion with the statutory authorities should take place in relation to information sharing with all parties when ongoing investigations are taking place.
Giving information to others on a ‘need to know’ basis for the protection of a child is not a breach of confidentiality.
All persons involved in a child protection process (the child, his/her parents/guardians, the alleged offender, his/her family, coaches) should be afforded appropriate respect, fairness, support and confidentiality at all stages of the procedure.
Information should be stored in a secure place, with limited access only by designated people.
The requirements of Data Protection legislation should be adhered to.: – Any breaches of confidentiality shall be deemed as a serious matter and dealt with accordingly within the Association.
Anonymous complaints can be difficult to deal with but should not be ignored. In all cases the safety and welfare of the child/children is paramount. Any such complaints relating to possible child protection concerns should be brought to the attention of the
GAA Code of Best Practice in Youth Sport 01-11-2011