Statement from CARI Chief Executive Presented to Emergency News Conference in Dublin This Morning

Today, we at CARI (Children At Risk Ireland) find ourselves in an emergency situation. Without immediate Government funding, we face closure after 34 years as the ONLY national Child Sexual Abuse agency. This follows Tusla’s confirmation on Monday that they will fund just 30% of our €1.1m operating costs for 2024. To be specific, they are only offering us a budget of €337,000. and Tusla say they simply don’t have the funding to give us more. We cannot operate a support service for child victims for sexual abuse and their families no this budget. We will have to begin the process of closing down this week, unless adequate funding is forthcoming now.

WE have been consistently denied HSE funding and Tusla is our core State funder. Our budget from Tusla has dropped by 55% since 2021, when we received funding of €735,723.

Child sexual abuse remains a fact of life in Ireland today. It is not simply an historical problem. In the first half of 2023 there were nearly 4000 cases of suspected child physical or sexual abuse referred to the Gardai by Tusla. In 2022 there were over 1800 official reports of child sex abuse in Ireland.

CARI is the only organisation outside Dublin providing long-term therapeutic supports to children aged 3 – 18 affected by child sexual abuse and their families. CARI has a main office in Limerick, a secondary office in Dublin, an outreach centre in Wexford, and a National Helpline. Two further part-time outreach services in Louth and Kildare were planned to open in 2024 subject to funding approval from the Department of Justice Victims Impact Fund.  CARI has also taken a pivotal role in the development of the Barnahaus Project in Galway. Working collaboratively, more children in the Western region have been responded to in the aftermath of disclosing abuse, increasing from just 3% to 21%.

Last year, we provided 3175 hours of support to 339 people. Now, in our 35th year, in the 9 months between January and October, we already supported 322 people from as young as 3 years old, equating to 2,245 hours. We have a further 134 children on our waiting list who will lose access to CARI’s specialised service of 1-3 years expert therapy if we close.

The inadequate funding that CARI already receives means children languish on our waiting list for 2 to 3 years. With the huge reduction of our core funding from Tusla forcing our closure, the outcomes for these children would be disastrous. Without the support they need, child victims of sexual abuse are more likely to experience premature death in adulthood through illness, disease, and suicide.

Tusla has proposed private therapy for the complex therapy needs of the children in our service. However, private therapy is not subject to the same expert oversight, governance, training, and supervision procedures which CARI has in place.

We note that One in Four, who support adult victims of child abuse receives 75% of its funding from State sources. In their last published Annual Report for 2021, they received combined state funding of €983,000, the HSE providing the majority at €611,000. If Tusla doesn’t have the funds, why is CARI not receiving HSE support, like One in Four?

Why are Ireland’s child victims of sexual abuse less worthy of support? It is shameful and disgraceful that CARI’s support for these children faces closure in this day and age when we are all too aware of the horror of child sexual abuse.

We are appealing to Government including the Department of Health, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth and the Department of Justice to please act collectively to prevent the closure of CARI’s services for child abuse victims.  We urgently need a further funding commitment of €763,000 to sustain our services in 2024.

CARI is committed to operating its services efficiently and to the highest standards of care. Should CARI be able to keep its doors open in 2024, the Board commits to putting a 5-year strategy in place to generate new streams of income.  It is difficult for us to make our case and raise funds because child victims of sexual abuse cannot speak out for themselves and their parents cannot speak out either without compromising their child’s anonymity.

Our Board AGM takes place this November 17th. Without a commitment to funding in respect of the amount CARI needs to remain viable in 2024, the Board will have to prepare to close its doors.

For the sake of the vulnerable and damaged young lives in our care and awaiting care, we urge you to support our call for adequate funding. It will let us maintain all our services and enable us to continue developing this much needed service throughout our country.

Urgent media enquiries to Connell Kennedy on +353 87 223 7708.