Tusla urged to deal with delays in historical sex abuse cases

Over 350 retrospective disclosures of child sex abuse reported in January-March 2017

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said Tusla has a limited role where there is no evidence of a current risk of sexual abuse to children. She  said experienced social workers were dealing with high-priority cases. File photograph: iStockPhoto

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said Tusla has a limited role where there is no evidence of a current risk of sexual abuse to children. She said experienced social workers were dealing with high-priority cases. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

More than 350 adults who were allegedly sexually abused as children have this year made retrospective disclosures to Child and Family Agency Tusla.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the 354 cases, reported in the first three months of 2017, are among a total of 1,895 historical and retrospective cases “on hand”.

Of the total, 754 are still waiting to be allocated to a social worker, while 1,141 have been referred to social workers.

Ms Zappone said all the referrals had been reviewed by social workers and 120 had been categorised as high priority.

She acknowledged it was a “very complex and worrying situation”, but said “the safety of children now is my top priority”.

The Minister said Tusla was focusing on indications of current risk to children. “In cases of urgent need the disclosure is acted on immediately.”

Current risk

She said Tusla has a limited role where there is no evidence of a current risk to children. Ms Zappone said experienced social workers were dealing with high-priority cases.

The Minister said Tusla would report to her on a monthly basis on progress it was making.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on children Anne Rabbitte, who raised the issue, had asked how many adult retrospective disclosures had been made since 2011.

Ms Rabbitte warned that because of the delays, people who have worked up the courage to come forward had been “kicked back again and may lose their courage”.

‘Dark part of our history’

She said “this is a dark part of our history” and called for a section within Tusla “that is singularly responsible for retrospective cases in order that we can clear the backlog”.

The Galway East TD said a person comes forward and “yet we are saying it is a matter for An Garda Síochána, that Tusla has dealt with it fully in recording the disclosure”.

Ms Rabbitte said the person against whom the complaint has been made “could still be actively involved in the community, childminding, working in the local GAA club or whatever, but Tusla has done its job, dotted its i’s and crossed its t’s and sent the discloser to An Garda”.

She said there had to be a tightening up of the roles between gardaí and Tusla, and encouragement regarding disclosures of adults, such as young people aged 18 or 19, or who might be in college and seeking support outside the family for the first time.

Ongoing collaboration

Ms Zappone acknowledged it was important to have ongoing collaboration between An Garda Síochána, Tusla and the HSE for counselling services.

She said her understanding was that people were supported in that way when they contacted Tusla.

The Minister pointed out that when someone makes a disclosure to Tusla, the agency is obliged to write to the person against whom allegations have been made where there is sufficient information to do so.

“This is going to result in a large number of letters issuing around the same time from the end of quarter two or the beginning of quarter three in 2017. It is likely to raise public awareness.”

Tusla’s aim “is to balance the safety of children and fair process for a person against whom an allegation is made”.