Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Questions (22)

Anne Rabbitte


22. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the levels of sexual abuse and abuse of children within emergency accommodation settings; the steps she has taken to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22277/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I understand the Deputy is referring to the number of mandatory reports in relation to sexual and other abuse  made about children living in emergency and homeless accommodation. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, respond to children who are reported to be at risk of harm. In some cases there are increased risks for children who experience homelessness. 

Since the introduction of mandatory reporting in December 2017, an average of 1% of mandated reports were from managers of homeless or emergency accommodation, a total of 127 reports in all. These reports relate to physical and emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.

I can advise the Deputy that the figures published on mandated reports nationally reflect the overall number of referrals made by all mandated reporters.  Sexual abuse referrals made up 17% of mandated referrals in February 2019.  It is  important to note that multiple referrals may be made about the same child. 

Tusla collates data on all referrals received, including those coming from mandated reporters. This information is published on their website on a monthly basis.

I have been advised that a joint protocol has been agreed between the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DHRE) and Tusla.  The protocol restates, as a matter of good practice, the duties to report abuse to Tusla and Gardaí, as per the requirements for mandatory reporting under the Children First Act 2015 and the 2017 Children First guidance.

The aim of the protocol is to ensure that appropriate responses to child protection and welfare issues are in place between the agencies.  The protocol outlines the responsibilities on service providers of homeless accommodation under Children First to notify the Child and Family Agency where concerns regarding possible abuse exist.  

Tusla examines all notifications and making a determination is made on whether the concerns refer to harm or welfare.  Following that determination a pathway is identified to ensure that there is an appropriate response. Managers of emergency homelessness accommodation are designated persons, with clear obligations to report concerns of abuse or neglect to Tusla.