Written Answers. - Child Abuse Cases.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

20 Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health the number of child abuse cases reported in each of the health board areas in 1995; the number which were confirmed in each health board; the average time lapse between the reporting and investigation of a case; the plans, if any, he has to monitor or otherwise follow up cases which are not immediately confirmed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8799/96]

,Limerick East): Statistics on the number of alleged child abuse cases reported to the health boards in 1995 are not yet available in my Department. Preliminary figures for 1994 indicate that over 4,600 child abuse cases were reported. These figures are currently being finalised including the number of confirmed cases of abuse and I will forward details to the Deputy as soon as they become available.

Information on the average time lapse between the reporting and investigation of a child abuse allegation is not available. The procedures followed by the health boards in investigating allegations of child abuse are in accordance with the guidelines issued by my Department in 1987. In addition, last year I launched Guidelines for the "Notification of Suspected Cases of Child Abuse between Health Boards and Gardaí" which amend the 1987 guidelines in relation to the circumstances in which the health boards and the Garda are to notify suspected cases of child abuse to each other and in relation to the consultations that should take place between both agencies following a notification. The 1987 guidelines stress that where child abuse seems likely and a child appears to be at serious risk immediate action must be taken to protect the child and any other children in the family.
In certain circumstances where an allegation proves difficult to verify the guidelines state that the key health board worker involved should continue to visit the family as often as he/she thinks necessary until a decision to do otherwise is reached by a case conference or by agreement with a senior member of staff.
The Deputy will be aware that, in response to the recommendations of the Kilkenny Incest Investigation report, the health boards have taken steps to improve arrangements for the assessment and management of child abuse cases, with particular importance being attached to co-operation and co-ordination between the hospital and community care services of the health services.