Huge rise in calls to abuse helpline
A helpline for parents, carers and professionals working with children received a more than 40 per cent increase in concerns about extra-familial abuse, new figures show.
There were more than 340 calls relating to alleged abuse by a person not a family member but acquainted with the child. There were also almost 400 calls to the charity’s helpline related to intra-familial abuse, the annual report from CARI found.
The two figures together, totalling 740 calls, showed “a child is most at risk within their own circle of family, friends and neighbours”.
“This message needs to be continuously reinforced,” the report said.
Another primary concern among callers was sexualised behaviour in children. More than 200 callers raised the issue, a 57 per cent increase on 2010 figures.
The report said in the past a child presenting with sexualised behaviour s was very likely to have experienced sexual abuse.
“That is now not the case as we live in a society where through a vast array of mobile devices children have ready access to a dizzying array of inappropriate material,” it said.
The charity said that despite cutbacks it had provided a 12 per cent increase in therapy hours and answered more helpline calls.
Chief executive Mary Flaherty said in 12 years of her leading the organisation “there has never been a better strategic environment” around dealing with child sexual abuse but at the same time, the resources “have turned completely in the other direction”.
While she understood that the Health Service Executive had a funding crisis and needed to make cuts, indiscriminate universal cuts meant where services were inadequate or at early development stages, such as in the area CARI works, “some exemptions needed to be applied”.
She highlighted the closure of the charity’s outreach service in Cork due to financial cuts.
“The impact on individual children and families was distressing and HSE social workers are now left without a specialised referral pathway,” she said.
“Some children may have to travel to our centre in Limerick to access an appropriate service.”
Ms Flaherty also said it was “unthinkable that any meaningful services could be rolled out around the country without additional resources”.
Speaking at the launch, director designate of the new Child and Family Support Agency said there needed to be a move beyond “we all must have less” to priorities. “The “1,000 cuts approach” needed to be reconsidered, he said.