Raising an allegation, suspicion or concern of child or adult abuse.
Some things you may need to know.
The Diocese of Down and Connor takes seriously all allegations, suspicions and concerns of child and adult abuse made against any member of clergy, staff or volunteer, and has put in place a Safeguarding Designated Liaison Person whose role is to provide a service which receives and helps manage all allegations of child abuse brought to the attention of the diocese.
We recognise how difficult it can be to raise concerns about abuse and will try to make this process as easy as possible for all those involved.
Please click on the image below to view, download or print our leaflet which will explain how to report a concern.
As an adult, if you have been abused as a child or, you have a concern about a child or adult whom you consider may be in need of safeguarding, there are several options available to you for addressing this.
Please click on the image below to view, download or print our leaflet which will explain the role of a support person.
You may contact any of the following:
• PSNI (Police Service Northern Ireland); contact details below.
• Social Services (the local Trust’s Children’s Gateway Team); or the Regional Emergency Social Work Service (RESWS) if your concern is happening outside normal working hours, i.e. after 5pm; weekends or during public holidays; contact details below
• Alternatively, you may wish, in the first instance, to speak with the Diocesan Safeguarding Designated Liaison Person (DLP), Philip O’Hara (contact details below), with whom you can discuss your immediate concerns.
The Safeguarding DLP works closely with social services and the police, who hold responsibility for managing all allegations of adult and child safeguarding matters.
What will happen if I raise a concern about a child or an adult?
You can contact the Safeguarding Office and discuss your concerns in person, by phone, by letter or by email. It is always preferable, however, to meet in person, and the location can be of your choosing. The DLP’s role is to gather and clarify the information with you. It is not the job of the Safeguarding DLP to investigate the matter; that is the role of the police and or social services. If you have a concern, it is always better to share this with a professionally trained person than to do nothing at all.
If I share my concern who else will know?
Child and adult abuse is a crime and must always be shared with the police and/or social services. All agencies involved understand fully how traumatic sharing your concerns can be and will treat you and others involved with the utmost respect and dignity. As an adult victim of abuse by clergy or church personnel, you will be given support and advice about the entire process, so you can make an informed decision as to how you may wish to proceed with your allegation. The diocesan Safeguarding Office has an information leaflet explaining how your concerns will be managed and taking you step by step through the process. You can access a copy of this leaflet through this website by clicking here
What support will I receive?
The Safeguarding Office can share with you a number of options, which you may wish to consider by way of support.
Support Person – This is not the Designated Liaison Person, Philip O’Hara, but a person, appointed by the diocese, whose role is to assist and support you when making the complaint. The Support Person is someone from whom you can seek advice and guidance about what is happening. Their role is to assist and ensure that your wishes and concerns are put forward to the diocese. The Support Person does not act in a counselling capacity or provide legal advice but is someone with whom you can discuss your concerns. They will help you consider what type of support may best meet your needs and may also help you understand more fully what services are available to you. The Support Person works alongside the DLP and can explain what is happening throughout the process so that you are kept fully informed. The Support Person in Down and Connor is currently a retired, professionally qualified social worker.
Towards Healing – This is an independent organisation, funded by the Catholic Church in Ireland, providing professional support for people who have experienced institutional, clerical or religious abuse in Ireland. You can contact this support service directly by accessing their website (www.towardshealing.ie). which explains in more detail the nature of the service they provide. They can also be contacted directly by phone (Freephone: 1800 303416 in the Republic of Ireland or freephone 0800 0963315 in Northern Ireland and the UK).
Towards Peace – This is a spiritual support service for survivors of abuse by Catholic personnel within the church. The aim of this service is to provide a safe, supportive space, where people who have been affected by abuse in a church context can be accompanied as they seek their own experience of spiritual peace, one step at a time. The service can be contacted by accessing their website (www.towardspeace.ie), by phone +353 (0) 1 5053028, or by mobile +353 (0) 86 7710533.
What happens next?
The first step, which is always taken, is to report the matter to the statutory authorities, that is, the police and/or social services. Child abuse is a criminal offence and in Northern Ireland there is mandatory reporting of such cases. This means that any concerns of this nature must be referred to the police by law. The Designated Liaison Person makes this referral to the police.
Following referral, the following steps are taken:
1. The Bishop of the diocese is informed. The Designated Liaison Person for the diocese, Philip O’Hara, is usually guided by the police and social services regarding what can be shared with relevant others at this stage in the investigation.
2. The person against whom the complaint is made will be informed that an allegation, suspicion or concern has been made. However, it is the police who determine the nature of what can be shared and at what at stage in the investigation.
As taken on a case-by-case basis, sometimes allegations can be complex, and the process can take some time to complete.
However, you will be kept informed as appropriate and support, as outlined above, can be provided at any time if you wish to avail of it.
If you are unhappy with the way in which your concerns/complaint has been handled, you can make a formal complaint to the diocese or directly to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Details of how to go about making a complaint can be found on their website. (www.safeguarding.ie).
Concerns about Children or Young People
Police/ PSNI: 101
The geography of the Diocese of Down and Connor straddles four Health and Social Care Trust areas. To contact the Children’s Social Services Gateway team in your area, use the contact details in the table below.
|HSC Trust||Areas covered||9.00am – 5.00pm telephone number||
Out-of-hours emergency telephone number
The Regional Emergency Social Work Team (RESWS)
|Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Social Services Gateway Team||Greater Belfast Area||028 90507000||028 95049999|
|South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Social Services Gateway Team||Lisburn, Dunmurry, Moira, Hillsborough, Bangor, Newtownards, Ards Peninsula, Comber, Downpatrick, Newcastle||0300 1000300||028 95049999|
|Northern Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Social Services Gateway Team||Antrim, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Larne, Ballymena, Ballycastle, Ballymoney, Portrush, Coleraine||0300 1234333||028 95049999|
|Southern Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Social Services Gateway Team||Aghagallon, Kilkeel, Kilcoo, Lower Mourne, Upper Mourne||
0800 7837745 (free phone from landline)
NSPCC Child Protection Helpline: 0808 800 5000
NSPCC Childline: 0800 1111
Concerns about Adult Safeguarding or Adult Protection
The geography of the Diocese of Down and Connor straddles four Health and Social Care Trust areas. To contact the Adult Protection Social Services Gateway Team in your area, use the contact details in the table below.
|HSC Trust||Areas covered||9.00am – 5.00pm telephone number||
Out-of-hours emergency telephone number The
Regional Emergency Social Work Team (RESWS)
|Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Services Gateway Team||Greater Belfast Area||028 95041744||028 95049999|
|South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Social Services Gateway Team||Lisburn, Dunmurry, Moira, Hillsborough, Bangor, Newtownards, Ards Peninsula, Comber, Downpatrick, Newcastle||028 92501227||028 95049999|
|Northern Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Social Services Gateway Team||Antrim, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Larne, Ballymena, Ballycastle, Ballymoney, Portrush, Coleraine||028 94413659||028 95049999|
|Southern Health and Social Care Trust Children’s Social Services Gateway Team||Aghagallon, Kilkeel, Kilcoo, Lower Mourne, Upper Mourne||028 37564423||028 95049999|
Action on Elder Abuse: 080 88088141
Philip O’Hara – Designated Liaison Person
Tel: 028 90492798
Mob: 07534 992124