Child abuse calls up, but services cut

Children’s abuse group CARI saw a marked increase in calls about rape and sexual assault last year — while it has been forced to cut services due to lack of funding.

The group’s annual report, due to be released today, shows a 4% increase in calls last year while funding was cut by 13%.

CARI acting national clinical director Majella Ryan said the cuts were of more concern when the State was unable to provide for the children using the CARI services.

“It was a very difficult year for CARI, seeing the devastation of clients with the closure of our Cork service and leaving children waiting for up to a year for therapy.”

Ms Ryan said that one in five girls and one in six boys were being abused in Ireland every day and that if not treated these children can develop a range of serious problems in later life.

“Children as young as eight years old present with thoughts of suicide, self-harm and mental health issues; many struggle at school as a result of their experiences.

“When left untreated, they can go on to develop problems with addiction, social skills and many other things that can make life difficult and unbearable.

“When these children are made safe and receive the right intervention, they can move on and the abusive experience does not have to define them.”

Going into the last quarter of the year, CARI said it is implementing further cuts and is struggling to fund the service to the end of the year.

The HSE has said its funding to CARI is to be restored to 2012 levels. However, the Family Support Agency is planning to cut its funding to CARI and all the services it funds by 12% next year.

CARI’s court accompaniment support service (CASS) reported a 40% increase in calls, while there was also a 21% increase in children and families supported during court attendance last year.

CARI CEO Mary Flaherty said the result of ongoing cuts to its funding was that services were being pared back.

Last year, the group had to close its therapy service in Cork — the only specialist therapy service for child victims of sexual abuse in the region.

“In addition, all staff took a month long lay-off. The result was that there was a drop of 7% in therapy and waiting lists grew to over 50 children by year end. Our helpline tried to bridge the gap — recording a 4% increase,” she said.

Their service has seen a marked increase in calls last year — almost 40% related to sexual assault and rape. Both its helpline and therapy services received increased referrals arising from sexualised behaviour.

Ms Ryan said there were still far more services available for adult survivors of sexual abuse and assault than there were for children.

*CARI lo-call and confidential national helpline is 1890 924567

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