Cari pleads to avoid further funds cuts

Children At Risk in Ireland (Cari), which treats victims of sexual abuse, has said it fears for the future of some services if it undergoes any further cuts to its funding.

Cari also expressed concern about HSE figures that show a 28% rise in child sex abuse referrals between 2008 and 2010, but a lack of clarity as to how many of those referrals were cases of confirmed abuse.

The organisation works with children aged 12 and under provides counselling and therapy to victims of sexual abuse. Its latest annual report showed it provided a 12% increase in therapy hours last year, despite cutbacks which led to the closure of its Cork office.

There were also increases in the number of completed calls (up 5%) and silent calls (up 12%), which received a total of 1,430 calls last year.

As for callers’ primary concerns, there were huge increases regarding extra-familial abuse and sexualised behaviour in children.

The report also highlighted issues of abuse within “blended families” — where there are children from different biological parents brought together in a new family unit — and problems with breaking cycles of intergenerational abuse.

CEO Mary Flaherty said Cari needed to be exempt from funding cuts following a 5% cut in its HSE funding and a 12% cut in Family Support Agency funding.

She said Cari was focussing on maintaining services, but added: “We are struggling to do what we do, and to be asked to do more with limited resources seems impossible to me.”

Referring to the growth in sex abuse referrals between 2008 and 2010, she queried if those children were receiving therapeutic services.

On the rise in calls regarding sexualised behaviour in children Gordon Jeyes, national director of the HSE’s Children and Families Service, said there was a need to “strengthen our efforts in that regard”.

He said there was a “shared frustration” that recommendations by the Ferns 4 National Steering Committee charged with examining the therapy needs of children who suffered sexual abuse had not made it “across the line”.

Mary Flaherty said increased resources were needed to make these recommendations happen and called on Government to provide an additional €400,000 to fund two new services in 2013 in the south-east and north-west.

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