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One stop shop for victims of sexual abuse should be available to all – Ombudsman for Children

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon today (Monday) attended the opening of the Barnahus, One House Project in Galway. Niall congratulated all of those involved in making the pilot scheme happen and called for a nationwide rollout of this multi-agency approach to dealing with victims of child sexual abuse.

“I have long been an advocate of the colocation, or multi-agency approach, which sees all the essential services required by victims of child sexual abuse based in the same building.  Providing care and support for victims of child sex abuse while causing the least amount of additional stress and upset is child-centred and it is the right thing to do.

“The roles of the Gardaí, the HSE and Tusla have always been inextricably linked. However, during an Audit of the exercise by An Garda Síochána of the provisions of Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, found that communication between Tusla and the Gardaí was ‘superficial and ineffective’.

“Following the publication of Dr Shannon’s report, I was delighted to be invited by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone to investigate the multi-agency approach and to take part in the research that proceeded the launch of the One House Project.

“I travelled with Minister Zappone, Dr Shannon, representatives from An Garda Síochána, Tusla and Officials from Department of Justice to the Rowan Centre in Belfast and MASH in Oxford, England where co-location of services is up and running. A visit was also made to the Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) in the Bronx, New York.

“Having been involved since the beginning and seeing this approach in action, I am more convinced than ever that this is the way forward and that the Barnahus, One House Project should be the first of a nationwide rollout to benefit children in all parts of the country.

“Barnahus is a testament to what can happen when departments come together and commit to delivering for children. Adopting the ‘dare to share’ outlook allows the agencies of the state to engage openly with the best interests of children always taking priority.

“I commend those from the Departments of Health; Children and Youth Affairs; and Justice and Equality whose hard work will offer the children in the West access to medical, forensic, Garda, social work and therapeutic services as soon as an allegation is made.

“This is a big step towards fulfilling the recommendations of the Ferns Report of 2005 by designing the system to fit the needs of children rather than the other way around. This commitment to co-location and cooperation from all services shows a child-centred approach which is unique up to this point in time, and which we should build on.”