Social Workers Unable to Be Contacted over Child Abuse Reports

Evening Echo [Ireland]
February 2, 2006

A shocking survey today revealed that more than 90% of social workers could not be contacted with concerns over child abuse.

The study was disclosed by the One in Four sexual violence support group at a Joint Committee on Health and Children.

The charity is also calling for an amendment in The Children's Act, which currently is entirely ineffective in cases of extra-familial abuse in Ireland.

Colm O'Gorman, of the One in Four group, was discussing the The Ferns Report, which investigated more than 100 allegations of child abuse against Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Ferns over the period 1966 to 2002.

"The Ferns Report details compelling evidence of the failure of this state to adequately protect its children," he said.

"It details how appalling sexual abuse of Irish children occurred despite numerous complaints and allegations to both church and civil authorities.

"It found that current child protection police and legislation is entirely ineffective in cases of extra-familial abuse.

"There is a need to amend the constitution so that it recognises the unique status and vulnerability of the child. The amendment must reflect the rights of children to live free from abuse and exploitation and the duty of the state to act to safeguard children from harm."

In one day the support group attempted to contact 32 on-call social workers countrywide to raise fictitious concerns over possible children at risk.

Only 7% of social workers took details of the alleged offences. There was no reply from 10% of the numbers dialled, 12% of the calls went on to voicemail, 7% had been listed with a wrong number, 7% were referred to another service, 7% were asked to call back and in 31% of the cases no-one was available to talk to.

Independent TD Paudge Conolly called the findings 'disturbing', and urged that the state's system of vetting people for employment in childcare should include details of sexual offenders in the United Kingdom.

He said: "There are 600 paedophiles in Northern Ireland and there is nothing to stop them moving across the boarder. We should be tied up with the UK system."

The charity, which recently closed its waiting list due to escalating numbers of victims coming forward since the publication of The Fern's Report, has also highlighted the need for more resources and public awareness.

The committee heard it can take up to two years for a adult to receive help after reporting a case of sexual violence, with a child waiting between six months to a year for psychotherapy support.

Members supported a referendum to change the current constitution for The Children's Act.

Dr Liam Twomey TD added: "It is unbelievable hearing this again, that from the top down nothing is being done for children. We need constitutional changes to help children in cases of abuse."


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