Rise in child sexual abuse hits help group

AN alarming increase in reported child sexual abuse has pushed a leading child protection group into a cash crisis.

Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI), which relies heavily on its own fund-raising efforts, is having to dip into its emergency reserves, as demand for its services continues to increase.

CARI national director Mary Flaherty said the organisation, which provides support and advice for around 50 families every month, is struggling to respond to the growing demand for its services.

The group’s expenditure for this year far exceeded its income and it needs some serious statutory or corporate funding, if it is to continue to meet the demand out there, she said.

Ms Flaherty said the organisation’s success is threatening its very survival, as more statutory services refer families to it: “That has put big demand on our services and we just don’t have the resources any more to cope.”

While the group got core funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (it increased by 3% this year), it was becoming more difficult to get support from cash-strapped health boards.

Ms Flaherty said general public support for the organisation had also fallen with the economy entering the doldrums and more attention focused on the Special Olympics.

CARI national clinical director Eileen Prendiville said the situation was not helped either by delays of up to three years for a child sexual abuse case to come before the courts. The situation is only compounding the psychological injuries suffered by children who need to be able to get on with their recovery, she said.

“We have drawn seriously from our reserves and it is now a matter of keeping the wolf from our door,” said Ms Prendiville. In recent years the organisation has been attempting to localise its services to reduce the travel burden on families. It has two full-time centres in Dublin and Limerick; satellite therapy services in Tralee, Arklow, Navan and Cork, and preparations are well in advance for its Galway service. Ms Prendiville said the organisation was finding that the service was unsustainable because it was paying two therapists to travel up and down the country.

“The cost of delivering the service has risen, because of making it more accessible to clients and this is having a major impact on the organisation,” she said.

Ms Prendiville said they were reviewing the situation and they had recently placed newspaper advertisements seeking additional therapists.

“Our therapists are overworked. We now have more clients than we have therapy hours available to see them. One of the options facing us now is cutting back on services and staffing and we want to do anything but that,” she said.

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