ONE IN FOUR WARNS OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE THAT CHILD PROTECTION LEGISLATION NEEDS TO BE RESOURCED
One in Four today broadly welcomed the Children First Bill in a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. Speaking to TDs and Senators One in Four applauded the introduction of clear, unambiguous legal obligations for statutory and voluntary agencies and for designated professionals to report concerns of child abuse and neglect to the HSE Child Protection Services.
However, One in Four expressed concern that the new legislation did not sufficiently acknowledge the role of agencies and professionals working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and the obligations of the HSE to investigate retrospective allegations. Executive Director Maeve Lewis told the Committee: “The reality is that most children do not tell. They wait until they are grown up and feel safe. But just because the abuse happened years ago does not mean that the sex offender is no longer a danger to children. The man who abused his daughters may now be abusing his grandchildren. The legislation must address this explicitly.”
Maeve Lewis also spoke of the danger of frightening people from coming forward for help. She said: “Survivors are often reluctant to report because they fear, often with good reason, the reactions of family and friends. The last thing anybody wants is to deny survivors access to services and silence them further. Resources must be put in place to provide skilled professional support to help people consider the implications of disclosing and while making a report”.
One in Four estimates that only 10% of the notifications we make to the HSE child protection services are examined. Maeve Lewis continues: “If this legislation is to be effective, resources will have to be put in place to ensure that all substantial allegations are investigated. Despite the harsh economic environment, choices need to be made if we are serious about protecting children. Otherwise the legislation is pointless”.
Maeve Lewis ended: “ In the past children were abused and tortured in plain sight because adults turned away and did not act. The Children First legislation will help to foster a culture where it becomes the responsibility of all adults to ensure that all children are safe.”