ISPCC response to the ‘incomprehensible’ St John Ambulance Child safeguarding shortcomings

The victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and grooming at St John Ambulance are to be commended for speaking out in such difficult circumstances in the pursuit of truth and justice. 

Today sees the long-awaited publication of the inquiry into such allegations at St John Ambulance. 

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, recently nominated Judge of the Circuit Court, is to be applauded for his forthrightness in laying bare the serious and hugely concerning child safeguarding issues at St John Ambulance, many remaining unrectified to this day. 

It is shocking that it is only in light of the report’s publication that St John Ambulance has said it will develop “robust internal accountability frameworks” and committed to employing a full-time safeguarding officer. 

The safety of children should always be at the heart of such organisations.

It is incredibly important that when children speak out about such heinous crimes, as they did at the time, that they are believed and that the appropriate policies and procedures are followed. Children need to see something is being done by the adults who are in place to safeguard them. This did not happen at St John Ambulance. 

John Church, ISPCC CEO said: “St John Ambulance cadets are children aged 11-18 years of age. It is incomprehensible to learn that any organisation working with and/or involving children did not have a finalised child safeguarding policy in place, a requirement by law. 

“Child sexual abuse is deemed an adverse childhood experience meaning children who are subjected to such experiences are potentially at heightened risk of other physical and mental health issues in adulthood. All victims and survivors ought to receive the necessary supports they deserve.”  

Whilst St John Ambulance has reportedly stated it undertook a due diligence process in response to the delay in the publication of this report, it is now time it undertakes the same due diligence process to address its child safeguarding obligations. This is not historic child sexual abuse, it is very much abuse that happened in the recent past, and it is difficult to see how such crimes can be prevented from happening again considering the governance issues Dr Shannon has pointed out. No organisation should ever put its reputation before the safety and protection of a child in its care. 

The ISPCC notes that St John Ambulance has followed Dr Shannon’s recommendation and offered an apology to its victims and survivors, accepting the shortcomings of the structures enabled the grooming and abuse of children. 

It is not enough to proffer an apology, action must be taken to safeguard children at all times. 


ISPCC welcomes the official establishment day of Coimisiún na Meán


ISPCC welcomes the official establishment day of Coimisiún na Meán which has been set up in accordance with the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act (OSMR).  

It is a great development to see Niamh Hodnett take on the role of Online Safety Commissioner. ISPCC has campaigned for the establishment of such an office since it was recommended by the Law Reform Commission in 2016. 

We commend Minister Catherine Martin for empowering the Online Safety Commissioner to develop binding online safety codes that hold designated online services to account for how they deal with harmful online content.

John Church, ISPCC CEO, said: “The establishment of Coimisiún na Meán and the office of Online Safety Commissioner is a crucial step in improving the safety and experience of children and young people in the ever-changing digital landscape. This is an extremely positive day for children and young people and we look forward to supporting the Coimisiún in any way we can.”

ISPCC | and acclaimed author and illustrator
Katie O’Donoghue to host series of free resilience-boosting webinars

Digital sessions will equip parents and teachers of primary school children with tools to bolster resilience and provide tips to help manage anxiety 

March 14, 2023 – ISPCC and author and illustrator, Katie O’Donoghue are set to host a series of free webinars for parents and teachers that will provide them tools and tips to help bolster children’s resilience and manage anxiety.  The first in the series which is primarily for parents, will take place on March 28th, 2023.    


At ISPCC, we know what is worrying children and young people in Ireland; we know what is on their minds and we know how to support them. Through this series of bespoke webinars, parents and teachers will learn skills and strategies for children between five and 12 years of age who are feeling anxious and who would benefit from a boost in confidence to strengthen their resilience.   


ISPCC parenting leads will be joined by author, illustrator and art psychotherapist Katie O’Donoghue, whose second book The Little Otter Who Tried has recently been published by Gill Books.   


The Little Otter Who Tried is a beautifully illustrated book that aims to teach children valuable lessons about self-care, resilience and how to ask for help; vital lessons that will be covered throughout the webinar series. Participants will also gain a better understanding of resilience, as well as increased knowledge of coping skills to support children and a toolkit of resources.  


Webinar details are: 

Parents – Building Resilience 

March 28th, 7-8pm 

Parents – Managing Anxiety 

April 25th, 7-8pm 

Teaching Professionals 

May 9th, 3-3:30pm where both topics will be covered.

Participants who register will also be in with a chance to win a signed copy of The Little Otter Who Tried. 

To register, follow this link:[email protected]184987285


ISPCC response to the sentencing today of a man and woman who have been jailed over the rape and abuse of her children

“ISPCC shares the shock and distress felt by so many on hearing the horrifying details of rape and abuse carried out by a man and a woman on her young children following their sentencing at the Central Criminal Court today.  

Fiona Jennings, ISPCC, Head of Policy and Public Affairs said: “Parents and those in a parenting role are expected to protect their children and keep them safe, yet in this case it is clear from the sentences handed down that these children did not experience such protection. 

 “We join with Mr Justice David Keane in paying tribute to the young children at the centre of the case who showed such bravery in recounting the horrendous abuse they were subjected to at such a young age.” 

 ISPCC welcomes the lengthy sentences handed down to both perpetrators of this shocking abuse and strongly condemns the heinous crimes carried out against these young children. Any child who has been sexually abused must be offered and receive support in a timely manner.  

 The specialist interviewers must also be commended for their diligence in gathering such harrowing testimony to secure such a substantial sentence. However, it is not acceptable that it took eight years to get to trial and for the children to have to wait such a lengthy period to access justice.  

 ISPCC reiterates its call for the Government to commit with haste to a national strategy for child sexual abuse as recommended by the Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, 2017. 

 It is generally accepted that the number of cases of abuse in this country are grossly under-reported and the ISPCC strongly encourages anyone who has concerns about a child to help them disclose these horrific crimes to the authorities.  

 Such crimes can be reported by contacting An Garda Síochána’s Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Phone Line, which is a dedicated phone line for the reporting of child sexual abuse, on 1800 555 222.   

Children must always be protected, and we must do everything we can to ensure that we live in a society that puts children and their needs and rights at the heart of all we do. 

Why ISPCC | needs your vote

You can help children and young people in Ireland reach out to us for any reason – with a click of your mouse!

At the ISPCC we are delighted to have been shorted-listed for the 2023  Permanent tsb Community Fund, and we need you to help us get our submission across the line. 

By going to voting for us, you can help us make a real difference to the children and young people in Ireland. 

Childline volunteers are here to support children and young people 24/7. Our support service is free, confidential and non-judgemental.  We rely heavily on public generosity so that we can be here for every child and young person all over Ireland, whenever they need us. 

Our volunteers are always here to listen, support and help guide children and young people, no matter what is going on in the lives. 

They make a real difference to the children and young people, and so can you by voting for ISPCC to become one of permanent tsb’s charity partners this year. Voting closes on Friday, March 10, at 6 pm. 

Go on, help us to help children and young people. 

• Childline’s 24-hour support line can be contacted for free, 365 days a year 24/7.  Children can chat online at or call 1800 66 66 66

• The permanent tsb Community Fund supports local communities by providing funding to community organisations that are working hard to make a difference.

ISPCC calls for Government commitment to meaningful investment in mental health provision for children and young people

ISPCC calls for Government commitment to meaningful investment in mental health provision for children and young people

Children’s mental health was in the spotlight again today as the Children’s Rights Alliance (CRA) launched its Report Card 2023 and for the second consecutive year awarded the Government an ‘E’ grade in relation to youth mental health.

Children have a right to appropriate care, and at ISPCC we know the importance of prevention and early intervention. The Government must commit to a policy of both targeted and universal investment in mental health service provision for children and young people. 

We reiterate our call for the Government to commit with haste to the implementation of the Pathfinder interdepartmental unit on youth mental health in order to align and streamline the mental health supports across various government departments. 

ISPCC CEO John Church says “This has been a key policy ask of the ISPCC since it was first recommended in the National Youth Mental Health Task Force Report in 2017, of which ISPCC was a member. There can be no further delay if we are to truly recognise the health rights of children and young people and to employ best efforts to have a world-class mental health service.”

It is a mammoth task to issue an annual report card and we commend the CRA for all its efforts in doing so. 

The Government’s ‘E’ rating in this year’s CRA’s report card – a grade awarded due to the long waiting lists facing young people requiring support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) – shows the need for this administration to demonstrate that it considers the mental health of children and young people to be a key priority. 

ISPCC shared the sense of shock felt by many on the publication of the interim report by the Mental Health Commission into the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in January. 

CAMHS is illustrative of the crisis facing the health service. Yet, sadly, this is not a surprise for those of us working to support children and young people. 

The ability of CAMHS to provide a meaningful service is also hampered by staffing issues and the slow pace of digital transformation. A digital system that allows for timely monitoring and continuity of care is essential. As it stands, the system is utterly broken, despite the best efforts of those working within it. 

At ISPCC, mental health concerns are one of the primary reasons why children and young people contact us. Calls on mental and emotional health are a top profile in our 24/7 Childline Listening Service. 

In terms of online safety we are delighted to see the Government’s efforts recognised by the awarding of a ‘A’ grade. The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act is a crucial piece of legislation designed to improve the safety and experience of children and young people in the ever-evolving digital environment. However, we strongly believe that there is more work to be done in this area.

We need an updated action plan on online safety, the Online Safety Commissioner must be sufficiently resourced and proposed binding codes must be fit for purpose. 

It is imperative that children and young people can always be safe online, however we know from those who contact Childline that this is not always the case.

Our partner in the Irish Safer Internet Centre, has helped many of those young people who have been the victims of ‘intimate image abuse’ (IIA) as operators of the reporting mechanism for such images. Under the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act, it is an offence to share an intimate image or video of a person without their consent. 

This is a complicated issue, and ISPCC is grateful to have been involved in consultations regarding the revision of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme for Junior Cycle in post-primary schools. programme. We believe this is a key opportunity for the curriculum to be modernised and respond to the needs of children and young people.

It is crucial that we teach our children how to manage their relationships in a digital world. 

“A truly innovative and dynamic new RSE programme will empower all children and young people, by making them familiar with the concept of sexuality and the distinction between healthy and unhealthy, or inappropriate relationships,” says ISPCC CEO John Church. “This could assist in the prevention of, or early intervention in, potential child sexual abuse cases happening in future.”


ISPCC launches Lets Sweat It Together National Campaign

Irish rugby heroes Brittany Hogan and Caelan Doris (pictured above) join forces with Childline by ISPCC as they reveal their childhood concerns and urge the nation to get chatting

For rugby star Brittany Hogan, lining up for ISPCC’s latest fundraising campaign, Let’s Sweat it Together, is the perfect tribute to her childhood self. “Unfortunately, I was once that child in need, desperate for someone to talk to but was not sure how to approach my feelings or thoughts. Worries are so personal to each one of us and it is important to not bottle them up inside.

“I am proud to be supporting Childline on this fantastic campaign spreading awareness of the importance of chatting and what better way than getting outside and sweating those worries out together.”

While her fellow rugby player Caelan Doris had a different experience growing up, he understands the importance of sharing worries with loved ones. “Having psychotherapists as parents, I was always encouraged to be open about my feelings and discuss any worries or concerns that I had but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started doing it.

“It can be uncomfortable to talk about tricky things but the more I do it, the more I see the benefit in it. I’ve also realised that everyone has their own struggles and that our worries and anxieties are often quite similar which has been reassuring in not feeling alone or different.”

About Let’s Sweat It Together

From March 27 to April 2, Childline by ISPCC is calling on schools, businesses and individuals to take part in our latest campaign by walking a lap while having a chat with a friend, family member or colleague.

Let’s Sweat it Together was developed in response to the worries of callers to Childline. Childline is Ireland’s only 24/7 free listening service for children and young people. We know from talking to children and young people that their worries range from sibling rivalry and differences in music tastes to exam anxiety, confusion about sexuality and concerns about a friend self-harming.

  • “I’m confused about my sexuality”
  • “My friend is self-harming and I’m worried”
  • “My sister gets more praise than me”
  • “I’m worried about failing the Leaving Cert”
  • “I have some questions about puberty”
  • “How are babies made?”

We provide a supportive listening ear for all those worries and anything else on the minds of our callers.

John Church, ISPCC CEO commented on the launch: “As children around the country are entering a period of high pressure with exam season, we want to remind them that if a worry is big to you, it’s big to us at Childline. That’s why we are encouraging individuals, schools and businesses to join us from March 27 to April 2 and ‘Let’s Sweat it Together’ by having a lap and a chat with a friend, family member or colleague.”

ISPCC needs to raise up to 75% of its funding each year from donations and relies on the generosity of people right across Ireland.  The charity is grateful for all support which helps ensure its services and supports are available to children and young people 24 hours a day, every day.

To donate to Childline’s ‘Let’s Sweat it Together’ campaign or to find out more information on how to sign your school or business up, visit:

Almost 200,000 young people take part in Ireland’s biggest ever Safer Internet Day


‘Promoting Respect and Building Empathy Online’ more important than ever says Irish Safer Internet Centre

The launch of Safer Internet Day takes place today Tuesday, February 7, 2023, at The Chocolate Factory, 26 King’s Inns St, Rotunda, Dublin 1.

Today is the biggest ever Safer Internet Day in Ireland with almost 200,000 young people and children taking part in initiatives around the country  to mark the occasion. 

The launch is a student-led event focused on promoting respect and building empathy online. It includes discussions and explorations of the opportunities and challenges as they relate to protecting, empowering, and respecting children and young people, while they navigate a digital world. 

This year, the Irish Safer Internet Centre is calling on all of society to play their part in “Promoting Respect and Building Empathy Online”.

A recent survey of teenagers in Ireland, carried out by DCU’s Anti-bullying Centre on behalf of the Department of Education’s Webwise (the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre), with a focus on bystander behaviour online reveals that: 

• 45.3% of teenagers surveyed report witnessing some kind of mistreatment online over the last months, with most of the mistreatment happening at the hands of strangers.

• Among those who reported witnessing online mistreatment, 31.3% said a stranger started the mistreatment and 25% said other strangers joined in.

• Of those surveyed, 22.9% of participants who witnessed online mistreatment had used at least one kind of privacy or reporting tool to help others. 

Minister for Education Norma Foley T.D. said: 

“Safer Internet Day is fast becoming a key part in the school calendar and this 20th anniversary is another key milestone. We will continue to support learners and school communities to ensure their online experience is a safe one.

“Just two months ago I published Cineáltas: Action Plan on Bullying which places a significant emphasis on cyber-bullying and seeks to ensure that our schools are safe and happy places for all our children and young people.”

“I would encourage teachers and parents to examine the wide range of resources available to students through Webwise which promotes safer and better internet use.”

Irish Safer Internet Centre Representatives said:

“We are delighted to be back celebrating Safer Internet Day as an in-person event this year and to have the opportunity to discuss some of the key findings of our survey.

“Hosted by young people, today’s event affords us all the forum to ddiscuss all things about and regarding online safety. The theme of the event is ‘promoting respect and building empathy online’ which we know is more important now than ever.

“Our aim from today is to develop better strategies and partnerships on education, awareness prevention, reporting, resolution, which will ultimately effect behavioural change. 

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon, a sustained advocate for children’s rights, championing their safety in the digital environment, and guest speaker at the event, said:

“I am delighted to support the encouragement of more conversations on the topic of respect, empathy and online bullying for this population of children. The #SilentWitness campaign launched today on Safer Internet Day 2023, which was developed by Webwise in close consultation with young people and drawing from the latest survey findings, is an excellent way to kick-start those conversations. 

“The campaign is a series of three short films aiming to get children and adults talking inside and outside the classroom, within families, amongst peers, and in the wider community around the topic of online bullying and actions that can be taken.”

Prachi Agrawal (17), Webwise Youth Panellist said: 

“When you teach people about digital wellbeing you should also teach them about tolerance and acceptance from a young age. When you instil values of respect, respecting other people’s opinions, cultures, sexuality, and religion…you’re instilling a skill that people hold throughout their life.”

Safer Internet Day in Ireland is coordinated by the Irish Safer Internet Centre, a partnership between Webwise, ISPCC, National Parents Council Primary and, providing a range of complementary online safety services, including an education and awareness centre, child and parent helplines and a hotline.

The Centre is coordinated by the Department of Justice and co-funded by the European Union.


ISPCC receives ‘triple lock’ status again

ISPCC receives ‘triple lock’ status again

We are delighted to announce ISPCC has yet again been awarded ‘Triple Lock’ status by Charities Institute Ireland (CII).

This status is awarded to charities that uphold the highest standards in transparent reporting, ethical fundraising and strong governance structures. This recognition is the gold standard for Irish charities to offer assurances to donors, members and the general public.

To achieve the Triple Lock, we adhered to the following guidelines regarding ethical fundraising, financial reporting and governance:

• we adopt the Guidelines for Charitable Organisations for Fundraising to the Public. Our staff, volunteers and anyone else fundraising on our behalf are fully trained on the requirements and we have implemented controls to ensure that all our fundraising practices are fully in line with the Guidelines

• We prepare an annual report and financial statements in full compliance with the Charity SORP (Standard of Reporting Practice under FRS102).

• Our board has formally adopted the ‘Charities Governance Code. This means that we comply with the six principles of governance. These require that we advance charitable purpose, behave with integrity, lead people, exercise control, work effectively and are accountable