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Centre for children suspected of suffering sexual abuse opens in Galway

It will provide a safe space where children can access teams of gardaí, social workers and other professionals working together under one roof.

Charlie Flanagan and Katherine Zappone.
Charlie Flanagan and Katherine Zappone.
Image: Johnny Bambury

A CENTRE FOR children who may have been the victim of sexual assault has been opened in Galway. 

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone along with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan officially launched the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway pilot project at a special launch at The Institute for Lifecourse and Society At NUI Galway today.

The project brings together health, medical, therapeutic and policing services for children and adolescents in a child-centred way where sexual abuse is suspected.

It will provide a safe space where children can access teams of gardaí, social workers and other professionals working together under one roof.

Minister Zappone said:“In the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway project we have the first multi-agency integrated service, developed to respond to the needs of children who have experienced sexual abuse, and their families.

“The need for a sensitive, joined up service for children in this situation has been recognised for a long time. Identifying an appropriate model for this type of service was an important step in setting the foundation for the new service. I travelled to New York with Dr Geoffrey Shannon, where we visited a Child Advocacy Service providing the key services required and my officials also travelled to the UK to examine similar interagency work there.”

Detective Inspector Michael Coppinger said gardaí were delighted to partner with the Government agencies on this matter. 

He said:”This centre will provide co-ordinated and child-centred forensic, protection, health, therapeutic and policing services for children and adolescents where sexual abuse is suspected.

“Members of the Garda Síochána have worked closely for a long number of years with the Child & Family Agency, Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU), the Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service (CASATS) and other agencies, such as rape crisis centres and CARI to provide effective services to victims of child sexual abuse.”

Dr Joanne Nelson, who is the Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service (CASATS), said that a centre such as this has been needed in Ireland for years. 

She said that the new centre will mean that “every voice will be heard” and that a child who might have been the victim of a sexual attack will get all the support necessary.

“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.”

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