Support from Scouting Ireland to alleged abuse victims not enough, charity claims

Support from Scouting Ireland to alleged abuse victims not enough, charity claims

The support offered by Scouting Ireland to people alleging they were abused, sexually and physically, within scouting is not enough, a leading abuse survivors charity has claimed.

One in Four executive director, Maeve Lewis, said people who suffered such abuse needed long-term therapy in order to recover.

“Very commonly, our clients are with us for two to three years,” Ms Lewis said.

“I understand that Scouting Ireland are currently offering quite short-term interventions and that really will not be adequate to meet the needs of the people coming forward,” she said.

Scouting Ireland has now identified 317 alleged victims and 212 alleged perpetrators. There is also evidence of alleged perpetrators being moved within scout groups.

The organisation has stated that most of the abuse appears to have taken place between the 1960s and 1990s.

“Given the relatively small numbers of volunteers who would have been involved over those years – that there are allegations against over 200 is immensely disturbing,” said Ms Lewis on RTÉ radio yesterday.

Sex offenders targeted organisations working with children as a way of having access to them.

“At One in Four we run a sex offender intervention programme – the Phoenix Programme, and we know very well that sex offenders will find contacts where they can have access to children.

"We have seen this in other major organisations – more recently in the Catholic Church and other sporting organisations, like, for example, Swim Ireland.”

However, she said One in Four had not detected a pattern of abuse in the scouting organisations.

Over the years it had one or two people alleging abuse in scouting and they would have been passed on to the child protection services.

“Since the scandal broke we have had about 20 people contact us many of whom do not want to get involved with Scouting Ireland. Those allegations would have been passed on.”

Ms Lewis said that a scandal like the one emerging from Scouting Ireland would re-trigger all the distress and trauma being carried by people for many years.

“It is absolutely vital that services are available to them," she urged.

Ms Lewis said she was satisfied that Scouting Ireland was acting correctly in liaising in the first instance with Tusla – the Child and Family Agency - and the gardaí. Scouting Ireland had good safeguarding policies in place and assistance would be provided to anyone who needed it.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone, said all alleged abuse victims who have already come forward must be properly supported and counselled and that the same level of support must be made available to any further victims who might come forward.

Support from Scouting Ireland to alleged abuse victims not enough, charity claims

Ms Lewis said Ian Elliott, Scouting Ireland's acting safeguarding officer, was an immensely experienced child protection officer.

“I think we can be confident while he is involved that every action will be taken correctly and the authorities will be notified of any allegations and that is very important.”

Scouting Ireland has revised its policies and procedures in recent months to strengthen safeguarding within the organisation.

It will be advertising for a full-time conduct officer and is in the process of recruiting a full-time safeguarding manager.

Scouting Ireland was formed in 2004 following the merger of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland.

The Scouting Ireland confidential freephone helpline is 1800 221199 or the Tusla confidential helpline on 1800 805665.

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