Tusla: Over 7,600 referrals relating to child abuse received in three-month period

Tusla: Over 7,600 referrals relating to child abuse received in three-month period

There was a 43% increase in the number of child abuse referrals to Tusla in the first quarter of this year.

There were sharp rises in concerns about emotional and sexual abuse, compared to the same period last year.

The Child and Family Agency received 7,613 referrals relating to child abuse in the first three months of this year - up from 5,307 in the same period last year, according to Tusla's latest figures.

"What I think this figure is showing is that we have people who are making more referrals into Tusla," said Eve Farrelly, executive director of the Children at Risk in Ireland Foundation.

"That could be that mandated reporting is working very well, it could be that organisations providing training on child protection are upskilling their staff to be able to identify signs of abuse and upskilling them on how to give that report in."

This year, there has been a 34% increase in sexual abuse referrals with 1,029 received.

A breakdown of the sexual abuse referrals shows the highest number in the first three months of this year was in Cork at 151.

"I think that the issue around child sexual abuse is presenting in different ways within our society because children are being raised in a very different world than the one that their parents were raised in and I think that needs to be highlighted for parents," said Ms Farrelly.

"Children have smartphones and unlimited access to material that we never did when we were children."

Emotional abuse has doubled, with more than 3,600 incidents recorded.

There has been a smaller increase in physical abuse or neglect, with 8% and 7% rises respectively.

From today, Tusla will operate its first national emergency phone service for its foster carers.

The new Emergency Fostering Support Service has been running as a three-month pilot scheme in the north Dublin area since August.

It is now being extended nationally and will operate 365 days a year from 6pm to 7am from Monday to Friday and between 9am to 5pm and 6pm to 7am on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays.

"It is essential we provide them with all possible support, information, advice and encouragement in time of difficulty in the course of their family life," said Linda Creamer, Tusla Service Director and national lead for Tusla Out-of-Hours Social Work Services.

"In turn, this will create better outcomes for children in their care.

"Foster carers can contact their link worker during office hours, but for the first time they will now be able to contact Tusla social workers on a near round-the-clock basis if an emergency situation arises with their foster child."

Tusla’s new Emergency Fostering Support Service number is 1890 800 511.

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