Tusla asked to fund clearance of child therapy backlog

The Child and Family Agency has said it is open to redirecting funding into the areas of most need but could not confirm that an organisation helping sexually abused children will get the money it says it needs to clear a therapy backlog.

Children At Risk in Ireland (Cari) yesterday launched its 2015 annual report by calling on Tusla to provide one-off funding of €200,000 to help clear a backlog which has resulted in 92 young people waiting for therapy, with waiting times between assessment and therapy now as long as 18 months for some children.

Cari said delays in providing services were particularly acute at a time when there has been a growth in referrals of younger children under 12 displaying dangerously sexualised behaviour.

According to the annual report: “Despite the improved output, waiting lists remain stubbornly high as we have a backlog from the recession and our capacity has not yet reached pre-recession level. In early 2015, Cari approached Tusla for additional funding to meet the needs of these children who were either affected by sexual abuse or were under-12s exhibiting sexually harmful behaviours.

“Cari has met with, not only refusal, but requests to move to new locations without any additional resources. We remain locked in this dispute as we go to press in 2016.

“Meantime, many of these children were getting no service during all that time and others were left with no choice but to access private or non-specialised services. Our campaign for specialised therapeutic services for children affected by child sexual abuse will not let up until we are satisfied that children have access to the same range of specialized services that are available to adults.”

In its response, Tusla said it was discussing funding details with funded agencies as part of its annual process to determine funding arrangements for next year.

According to a spokesperson: “As part of this, Tusla is engaged in on-going discussions and meetings with Cari and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time on the content of these discussions.

“‘Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures’, the national policy framework for children, requires that resources be directed where they can be most effective and meet the greatest need. Tusla is currently developing a commissioning strategy to ensure a clearly defined approach to deciding how to use all resources available to the agency.”

The spokesperson said Tusla’s approach to commissioning is based on an analysis of needs. In all, more than 260 families were supported by Cari last year, with an increase in demand for all its services in 2015 bar its helpline. A wage freeze for staff in place since 2008 remained in place and while state funding reduced by a further 8% in 2015, it still represented 50% of Cari’s income.

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