A new initiative launched in Galway this week aims to completely revamp the way child sexual abuse is handled in Ireland.
The Barnahaus Onehouse Galway pilot project brings together health, medical, therapeutic and policing services for children and adolescents where child sexual abuse is suspected in a way that focuses on the well being of the child.
Children will be able to get a medical exam, with evidence taken, speak with therapists and be interviewed by gardaí about what happened to them all under the one roof.
The pilot project was launched at NUI Galway’s ILAS centre on Monday by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.
Attending the launch Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said that the experience of interacting with the criminal justice system can be traumatic for child abuse victims.
“For the first time, this project will deliver professional services to the most vulnerable of victims – children who experience sexual abuse.”
A key part of this project is cutting back on the number of times which children will have to be interview by coordinating services between the HSE, Tusla, and An Garda Síochána.
Dr Joanne Nelson, Consultant Paediatrician with Saolta and Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service welcomed the news, saying that advocates have long been battling for progress in sexual abuse services for young people in Ireland.
“In this era of virtual online communication nothing promotes effective interagency working better than face to face contact – meeting, talking and planning around the best interests of the child.”
“Under one roof, the frontline Barnahus professionals will support vulnerable children and their families, addressing evidential, forensic, health, safeguarding and therapeutic needs.”
“Children will be brought to the Barnahus door, each with their own private and individual trauma. Every voice will be heard. The ultimate aim is that every child will be in a better position when the process ends than when it began.”
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said that the need for joined up service has been evident for some time.
“One of the most appealing aspects of the Barnahus model is the child centredness of the approach. All the key services are brought together under one roof, taking away the need for children to repeat their trauma as they engage with multiple agencies”.
She added that it also allows families to be supported in caring for their child through this traumatic time.