THE country’s leading organisation for supporting sexually abused children has launched a scathing attack on what it said was the Government’s year of broken promises.
Children at Risk in Ireland’s (CARI) annual report castigated the State’s services for abuse victims. It said there has been a deplorable delay in bringing forward proposals for a referendum on the rights of the child.
It also said the continuing care for abused children was being compromised by the failure to properly support therapy options.
CARI chief executive Mary Flaherty said the current legal system was unable to protect children and a flawed service for vetting adults needed reform.
“Only a tiny percentage of child sexual abuse cases ever get to court, less than 10%, and less than 5% end in convictions.
“So clearly there are many abusers who escape the current vetting information threshold. We know now that abusers seek out positions that allow them easy access to children... Ireland lags way behind best international practice,” she said.
Ms Flaherty said there needed to be a broader examination of child protection issues beyond the proposed referendum.
CARI’s annual report showed in 2007 it facilitated 2,369 hours of therapy for children — a 12% increase on the previous year.
This involved work with 123 different families.
It did report a drop in the amount of advice appointments it was able to provide which it blamed on a shortage of qualified staff.
Its helpline received 1,541 calls, a 22% increase on last year. More than one-fifth of these were silent calls which lasted an average of seven minutes.
The most significant issues it raised with its therapy service was the frequency of abrupt endings to care programmes put in place for children who had been abused.
It said in many cases when children have to move school their therapy is stopped.
“We have become increasingly frustrated by the number of unplanned and ill-prepared endings which have occurred over the past number of years as a result of circumstances beyond our control.
“These include change of social worker who may not believe in the benefits of long-term therapy and therefore removes the child without consultation or the impatience of a parent who does believes their child is not benefiting sufficiently,” it said.
The report highlighted another situation where funding is withdrawn for children coming from a residential home.
CARI said that while it is willing to work with clients who do not have funding it cannot overcome the impracticalities if staff at residential centres are not allowed accompany children to therapy.
“[With these abrupt endings] a positive and life changing opportunity is tarnished and could end up reinforcing the child’s doubts about their self-worth and trustworthiness of adults around them,” said the report.
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