One In Four has had its client list closed for the past 11 weeks and its executive director, Maeve Lewis, said it was likely it would remain that way until June.
That means new clients may have to wait before their names can be placed on a list for appointments, although Ms Lewis said that anybody needing help should not give up hope and the organisation would do whatever possible to help people in the meantime once they first make contact.
One In Four also had to close its client list last year for four months, and is operating now with almost 25% less funding than it did in 2008, as well as employing six therapists as opposed to eight in 2008.
Earlier this month, One In Four said it was aware of at least three people on its waiting list who had died by suicide over the past four years “because we were unable to meet them when they phoned”.
Ms Lewis said that since the publication of both the Ryan Report and the Archdiocese of Dublin Report into child sex abuse — both published in 2009 — the number of people asking for help had initially trebled and was still double now what it was seven years ago.
“This is not a crisis situation, this is a chronic situation,” said Ms Lewis. “People could be waiting two and a half to three years for an appointment, which is absolutely terrible for a person looking for help.”
She said the problem was not just confined to One In Four and was affecting other organisations, with successive cuts in recent years to statutory funding as well as a dip in public funds due to controversies over Central Remedial Clinic and Rehab, although she said this was now recovering.
Ms Lewis said there was also long waiting times for the National Counselling Service and that if some families could afford private therapy, they were making that choice.
“It is a national scandal,” she said, adding that emerging cases — such as that involving Mairia Cahill late last year — typically led to a surge in requests for help that the organisation was trying its best to deal with despite depleted resources.
Children At Risk in Ireland (CARI), which offers therapy and outreach services to children who have suffered abuse, said it too was under pressure to deliver quick responses to clients.
CARI’s chief executive, Mary Flaherty, said she was hopeful that the situation might improve with the launch of the new national steering group on sexual abuse services.
Regarding the therapy options available to children, she said: “It is a matter of geography.”
In recent years, CARI has had to close its Cork, Navan, and Wicklow centres and curtail the scope of other services. At the end of last year, it had 50 children waiting for an appointment at its Dublin and Limerick centres.
This steering group is expected to greatly assist in ensuring a co-ordinated approach to service development in this complex area of service provision. It is due to meet for the first time in May.