My Department provides funding for Victim Support which this year amounts to £651,000. This is an organisation dedicated to the provision of emotional and practical support to all victims of crime. It is a community based organisation with a large number of volunteers and a small professional staff. It has a 24 hour helpline and a number of special services, including the support of victims before, during and after court proceedings.
In relation to specialist counselling services for victims of sexual abuse, it, therefore, acts only as referral agency to other specialist groups, although many victims receive counselling in the context of the court accompaniment scheme.
The Deputy will be aware, however, that the Taoiseach this year announced a special fund of £4 million per annum to establish a dedicated counselling service in all regions. The health boards, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, are currently finalising proposals for the establishment of this service.
Given the expertise in the health boards in regard to the organisation of services, including counselling services, the Department of Health and Children has not sought an input from my Department in regard to this specific issue. If any issues arise, my Department will be more than willing to assist.