Tuesday 26 September 2017

'Funding needed' for Tusla abuse inquiries

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Alan O'Keeffe

New rules to ensure mandatory reporting of child abuse will be impossible to uphold unless more funds is allocated to Tusla in next month's Budget, the agency has warned.

Opposition TDs last night criticised the Government for failing to give the child and family agency the resources needed for the introduction of mandatory reporting.

Their comments came after it was revealed that Tusla chief executive Fred McBride asked that mandatory reporting not be introduced from the beginning of 2018, as his agency did not have the staff or funding to deal with the expected increase in cases to investigate.

Teachers, nurses, social workers and others working with children must, from next January, alert authorities to suspected cases of child abuse, which covers assault, ill treatment, neglect and sexual abuse.

Documents released to RTÉ's 'This Week' programme revealed Mr McBride told the Department of Children and Youth Affairs that mandatory reporting would put so much pressure on its agency that it would reverse the progress made in dealing with social work waiting lists.

Mandatory reporting should not be introduced, as it had been shown in some countries it was "counter-productive", he said. Tusla requested €102m in funding for 2017, but received just €37m.

Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fáil spokeswoman for children and youth affairs, said last night: "Tusla hasn't got the staff to do the work. We've seen what happened in New Zealand when it was introduced, where the amount of referrals doubled.

"This is another classic example of the current Government being prepared to put a system in place before the funding and the people. Minister (Katherine) Zappone still has the opportunity in the upcoming Budget.

"The minister needs to decide if she is going to ring-fence funding for mandatory reporting."

Sinn Féin's children and youths affairs spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said: "Mandatory reporting is central to the 'children first' approach adopted by the Government.

"We have long been critical of the under-resourcing of Tusla, which manifests in the unallocated cases of high priority social work cases, and in the appalling lack of inspections of foster homes. However, Tusla and the Government cannot hide behind that."

He added: "The Government must ensure the commitments of the children's referendum are lived up to."

Irish Independent

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