34,832 children referred to TUSLA in first six months of 2021
Figures released to the Aontú political party by TUSLA show that in the first half of last year nearly 35,000 children were referred to child protection and welfare services.
Speaking in response to the figures released to him, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD said:
"These statistics are difficult to read, and are symptomatic of a society and government which is failing it's most vulnerable citizens. In the first six months of 2021 teachers referred 250 children to TUSLA whom they suspected might have suffered sexual abuse along with 728 children who teachers suspected had suffered physical abuse. We must remember that for much of that time period schools were actually closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. In the same period speech and language therapists made 45 referrals, ten of which related to physical abuse. Preschool employees referred 23 children suspected of having been physically abused, while probation officers referred 12 children whom they suspected had suffered sexual abuse. 40 children seeking asylum in our country were referred to TUSLA by the managers of direct provision centres".
Deputy Tóibín continued: "These are stark figures. Given that we have nearly 35,000 referrals in the first six months, one would expect that the final figures for 2021 could be upwards on 70,000 referrals, similar to the 2020 figure. That's more than the number of students sitting the leaving cert on any given year! Aontú is of the view that the government was wrong to shut down the country to the extent that it did, and for as long as it did. Vulnerable children suffered the most - especially those attending special schools, the government closed their schools and then took away their multi disciplinary therapists and redeployed them into contact tracing. Children with special needs and their families were left completely abandoned for much of the pandemic".
"We also think of the children in direct provision centres, children from homes where a parent suffers with addiction, or children who are victims of domestic violence, we have failed these children. How many were not referred to TUSLA because they were at home, as per the government restrictions, and the usual red flags were not identified because the children were not in school? The government must answer these questions, and take more tangible action when it comes to the protection and safety of children - they need to improve addiction services, homeless services and mental health services drastically", concluded Tóibín.
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