Written Answers. - Child Abuse.

Michael McDowell

Ceist:

38 Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Health the procedures currently in place by health boards for the validation of incidences of child abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8767/96]

,Limerick East): The procedures followed by health boards in investigating allegations of child abuse are in accordance with the 1987 child abuse guidelines issued by the Department of Health. The procedure which I introduced last year for the notification of suspected cases of child abuse between the health boards and the gardaí represents a major amendment of the 1987 guidelines, in so far as the interaction between the two key players involved in child protection is concerned.

The 1987 child abuse guidelines specify that where child abuse seems likely and that a child appears to be at serious risk, immediate action must be taken to protect the child and any other children in the family. The guidelines specify that, whether with parental consent or under an emergency care order, the child should be taken for a medical examination by a local doctor and/or, where appropriate, by attendance at the nearest paediatric unit.

The identification and validation of child sexual abuse is fundamentally different and the child abuse guidelines set out particular issues which must be borne in mind in such cases. Multi-disciplinary teams should be designated for the examination of children and the validation of alleged child sexual abuse. These teams are required to be sensitive to the needs of sexually abused children and to the many complex issues involved including matters related to the giving of evidence in court.

Since 1993, additional resources totalling £35 million have been invested in the development of child care services. All health boards availed of this funding to strengthen their community care teams to better protect children from abuse and specific measures were undertaken to improve services for the validation of child victims of abuse. These included: the expansion of services at the child sexual abuse units at Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin and Temple Street Hospital; the development of the child abuse unit at St. Finbarr's Hospital, Cork; and the expansion of services provided by the child sexual abuse unit at Waterford Regional Hospital.