Children who have been sexually abused are being forced to wait up to 18 months for therapy because of a shortage of funding.
Cari (Children At Risk in Ireland) has demanded the Government step in with one-off funding of €200,000 to clear a crippling backlog.
Cari also said it had seen a growth in the number of children aged 12 and under who have been referred to it because of sexualised behaviour, but where there is no evidence of abuse — pointing to the possible influence of pornography and inappropriate content online.
Cari will launch its annual report today, highlighting lengthening waiting times for therapy because of a backlog caused by a funding shortfall and warning that unless it is tackled, it may have to close off its services to vulnerable children until it can reduce the number of young people on its waiting list.
The organisation’s chief executive, Mary Flaherty, said there are currently 92 children on its waiting list for therapy, a similar number to a year ago and at a time when Cari has capacity to deal with 50 children a year.
Cari has centres in Dublin and Limerick and offers services to young people aged between five and 17, although it did see a three-year-old last year who is no longer on its list.
“About a quarter of all referrals are under-12s who have sexualised behaviour,” she said. “The trouble with that group is they should not be waiting at all.”
Ms Flaherty said ideally children should not wait longer than six months between assessment and receiving therapy, yet Cari’s waiting times had extended from eight or nine months to as long as 18 months.
“If Tusla does not provide additional funding for 2017, Cari may have to think of the unthinkable and consider closing the waiting list until waiting times are reduced to a clinically approved level,” she said.
It managed an 18% increase in appointments in 2015 and said the numbers waiting for therapy had also increased — a trend that has continued into 2016.
The annual report will also highlight the work of Cari’s child accompaniment support service and shows “excessive” and “unnecessary” court delays for children in criminal trials who are victims.
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