JUNE 19TH 2017


One in Four welcomes the HIQA Report, published today, into child protection practices at Tusla.  The Report identifies major failings across the child protection system.  It validates the concerns that One in Four has been raising for many years, especially in relation to retrospective allegations of child sexual abuse.

Executive Director Maeve Lewis says “Adults who have been sexually abused as children hold valuable information about the person who abused them who may still pose a risk to children.  It is vital that a system is in place across the country that can properly assess these types of allegations and can identify those people who may still be sexually abusing children. “

The HIQA Report acknowledges that there are many examples of good practice executed by committed professionals, but there remain wide inconsistencies and delays across the system, especially in relation to retrospective allegations.  The Report identifies a lack of urgency in assessing these allegations which may leave children living in risky situations.

Maeve Lewis continues” I welcome the introduction of specialist teams to deal with retrospective allegations in Tusla.  However, many social workers simply do not have the specialist training or expertise to conduct this type of forensic investigation.  Neither do they have the legal powers to compel persons of concern to cooperate with an investigation.  Social workers carry all the responsibility to keep children safe without having sufficient authority to do so. As a result, when our clients engage with a Tusla social worker, most allegations come back as “unfounded”.  Two changes are necessary:

  • Legislation needs to be introduced to reform the Children’s Act 1991 so as to statutorily underpin the authority of social workers, as has been recommended by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection to the Government. 
  • Specialist forensic investigators need to be involved in these cases too.  The obvious solution is that social workers and the Gardaí work together in investigating retrospective allegations, even if a criminal prosecution is unlikely. “

Maeve Lewis ends “I recognise that Tusla are working very hard in difficult circumstances to improve the current situation. However, it is vital that the recommendations of this Report are fully implemented within a specified timeframe and that the resources are made available to support this. Failure to do so will result in many more children suffering sexual abuse.”