Over 870 alleged historic abuse cases have no social worker

Retrospective sex allegations generally made by adults but perpetrators may still be active

There are 1,985 open cases of historic abuse, the highest number (345) in Cork.

There are 1,985 open cases of historic abuse, the highest number (345) in Cork.


A total of 871 cases of alleged historical child sex abuse have yet to be allocated to a social worker, figures seen by The Irish Times show.

The largest number of cases are in Cork, where 200 open files on historic sex abuse allegations remain unallocated.

Such “retrospective” cases are generally based on reports made by adults about alleged abuse experienced in childhood. Experts regard such cases as important because suspected perpetrators may have continued abusing children and could still be doing so.

When asked last month by The Irish Times how many cases of historical abuse had not been allocated a social worker, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, said it did “not have data available to answer”.

Data has now been collated however, showing the situation at the end of January this year.

In all, there were 1,985 open cases of historic abuse, the highest number (345) in Cork, followed by 238 in Louth/Meath, 211 in Waterford/Wexford and 141 in Dublin South Central. Of those unallocated, there were 200 in Cork, 153 in Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary, 77 in Donegal and 75 in Dublin South/Central.

Minutes of a meeting between Tusla executive personnel and the Department of Children on February 9th last noted the “number of retrospective cases is (about) 800 . . . The Department expressed concern in relation to these figures.”

Tusla’s 2014 Policy and Procedure for Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse and Neglect stated: “The response to an allegation by an adult of abuse experienced as a child must be of as high a standard as that provided to current abuse concerns, because there is possibility that a person who abused a child in the past is likely to have continued abusing children and may still be doing so.”

‘Alleged abusers’

A senior source within Tusla said the figures indicated a “huge amount of risk as persons reporting are those who were abused as children but have not reported until aged 18 or over.

“This means their alleged abusers have had considerable time to abuse others before they made their referral. Any delay after referral adds to this risk substantially.”

The minutes of the February 9th meeting also show the number of unallocated current and historic cases involving child protection concerns, including sex abuse and other forms of abuse and neglect, increased by 612 in one month last year, from 4,801 at the end of November 2016, to 5,413 at the end of December.

“The Department sought clarification as to why the number of unallocated cases has increased,” say the minutes. “Tusla highlighted that a decrease in social work staffing numbers in a number of areas has resulted in a number of cases not being dealt with.”

A Tusla spokeswoman said that since January the number of all unallocated cases had come down.

“At the end of January 2017 there were 5,016 cases awaiting allocation. This is a decrease of 397, or seven per cent, compared to December 2016 and 3,669, or 42 per cent, compared to the 8,685 cases awaiting allocation when Tusla was established in January 2014.”

“All referrals . . . including retrospective allegations of abuse, are screened immediately to ensure the immediate safety of any child or children involved.

“If, on the basis of the referral and/or any existing information, there is reason to believe that a child has been harmed or is at immediate risk of harm, the concern is followed up immediately and any necessary interventions made. This can include the reporting of suspected criminal offences to An Garda Síochána. All unallocated cases relating to retrospective allegations of abuse have been screened by Tusla.”