State failing children at risk – CARI

“Children are being failed,” the head of a children’s charity has stated of Ireland’s lack of provision for children abused and at risk.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic after the launch of the latest CARI annual report, the body’s CEO Mary Flaherty said the State is failing to deal adequately with child sexual abuse.

“The State has seen fit to provide a counselling service to adults over 18 in all regions, and there is a network of rape crisis centres too, all for adults,” Ms Flaherty explained. But, she added: “For children there’s CARI and the two children’s hospitals in Dublin.”

This, the charity head stated, was at a time when the Health Service Executive is receiving some 3,000 new cases of alleged child abuse every year.

While CARI continues to “bridge the gap” in services for at-risk children, Ms Flaherty pointed out that 2012 had been a difficult year for its work due to austerity. The current CARI report shows that cut-backs resulted in the charity closing its Cork therapy service. “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,” the report states.

Yet, over the same period, CARI’s helpline recorded a 4% increase in calls.  The report notes: “30% of total calls in 2012 related to sexual assault and rape (an increase from 10% on total calls in 2011). Both Helpline and Therapy received increased referrals arising from sexualised behaviour.”

Ms Flaherty warned that such increases would have serious and negative consequences for individuals and society. 

“We know the long-term consequences of not getting therapy are repeated abuse, self-harm, and mental health issues,” she said, insisting that “access to services is vital”.

The current failure for children she said, is one of “failing to acknowledge the reality of abuse today”.