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Sunday 27 May 2018

1,100 child abuse reports for Tusla in only six weeks

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

More than 1,000 reports of suspected child abuse have been made by people working with children in the first six weeks of mandatory reporting.

The procedure came into effect on December 11, and means professionals such as teachers, doctors, nurses and gardaí, are mandated to report suspicions of child abuse to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

The move was met with mixed reaction at the time although many children's groups welcomed it. However, Tusla raised concerns that the expected spike in reports would put impossible pressure on child protection services.

Tusla chief executive, Fred McBride, warned Children's Minister Katherine Zappone that the additional strain may "pose significant further risk to services to children and families".

The agency recommended that the system not be introduced at all, or at least be pushed back.

However, the minister pressed ahead with its implementation and structures were put in place to prepare Tusla for the new reporting requirement.

The first figures available from Tusla show that 1,100 reports have been made in the first six weeks of the new system. The minister suggested that this figure was not unmanageable.

Spike

"Even with the health warning that the figures are preliminary it is clear the anticipated spike has not happened," said Ms Zappone.

It is understood that evidence in this area suggests reporting tends to rise and fall.

However the minister has welcomed the fact that to date "the negative impact on children's services has also not materialised".

The Dublin West TD said she had experienced many "sleepless nights" both before and after the introduction of the new policy.

But she stood by her view that "no effort should be spared to reach, support and protect every child in danger".

"There had been many predictions that services would not be able to cope and that the system would collapse," she acknowledged in an address to the Seanad yesterday.

Mandatory reports are made via an online portal via the Tusla website.

Mandated reporters are required to make their reports in writing, and have a legal entitlement to an acknowledgement that the concerns have been received.

The numbers of reports will be monitored on an ongoing basis with Tusla expected to feed regular updates into the department.

Speaking ahead of the introduction of mandatory reporting, Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay said there was a 'culture of silence' in Ireland that needed to be broken.

Notwithstanding any teething problems, mandatory reporting was necessary to tackle this culture, he added.

Irish Independent

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