Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte has raised very serious concerns regarding cases involving disclosures by adults of child sexual abuse, with the Minister for Children, Deputy Katherine Zappone.
Deputy Rabbitte explained, “Often survivors of the most extreme child sexual abuse do not summon up the courage to report on their cases until they reach early adulthood. However social workers have been privately voicing major concerns about the poor and inconsistent case management of such adult disclosure cases when they come forward.
“It seems that such adult disclosure referrals are being categorised as low priority and being left to the side due to the absence of guidelines on how to deal with them. This is despite the fact that many adult disclosures could still involve a live risk to other children from an abuser.
“Many cases are not being properly investigated as Tusla claims it fears potential legal liability. While routine statistics are not collected on adult disclosure cases, a recent HIQA assessment of Dublin South East/Wicklow found a high number of retrospective referrals remained unassessed with potential risk to children not yet determined.
“Current guidelines governing adult disclosures of abuse do not take account of situations where the alleged abuser does not wish to engage in the social work assessment. I have been told that social work teams have been legally advised to close the case in these instances, where an alleged abuser is unwilling to engage with the assessment.
“It is truly frightening that potential abusers can escape investigation, simply by refusing to engage with social workers. Tusla should not be allowed to continue to ignore this loophole and must come up with a tangible solution to address it. While a draft policy to deal with this loophole was put forward in September 2014, it was never published as it was found to contain glaring legal inaccuracies. This included the inconceivable proposal that Adult Survivors themselves should be informed that they may be liable to prosecution, where they do not engage with an investigation.
“Our system should be encouraging and facilitating people who have the courage to come forward. We need a new strategy that seeks educate, create awareness and encourage adults who have experienced abuse to come forward”.
“After raising this issue with in the Dáil last Wednesday, I will be writing to Minister Zappone urging her to personally investigate these concerns”.