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CARI's executive team pictured at an emergency news conference today on the potential closure of the agency Sam Boal

National child sexual abuse agency could be forced to close due to funding shortfall

CARI said it faces closure unless it receives ‘immediate government funding’.

LAST UPDATE | 15 Nov 2023

CHILDREN AT RISK Ireland (CARI) has said that it may have to “begin the process of closing down this week” due to a funding shortfall.

CARI is the only national child sexual abuse agency in Ireland and has been in operation for 34 years.

It provides long-term therapeutic supports to children aged 3-18 affected by child sexual abuse and their families.

In an emergency news conference today, CARI said that it faces closures without “immediate government funding”.

A CARI spokesperson said the agency has been “consistently denied HSE funding and Tusla is our core State funder”.

The spokesperson then said CARI’s budget from Tusla has dropped by 55% since 2021, when it received funding of over €735,000.

However, Tusla has said that it is “surprised” by CARI’s “response to fully cease operations” and that it has not reduced CARI’s core funding.  

Tusla said that to date in 2023, CARI has received €618,000.

This figure includes “core funding” of €336,000, as well as local funding to respond to local service needs.

Tusla said the projected funding to CARI will reach around €700,000 by the end of the year.

Tusla added that This is the amount the organisation is funded to operate their core services within.

In a statement to The Journal, a Tusla spokesperson said: “Over the last number of months, CARI has indicated that this funding allocation is inadequate to deliver their current service model.

“During this period, Tusla has been in regular contact with the organisation regarding their financial situation and their current service model.”

The spokesperson said that an “additional €250,000 once off funding from Tulsa’s pay saving measures was agreed to alleviate current financial difficulties for 2023”.

The spokesperson added that this funding provided CARI with the “time they required to finalise their service model for 2024 in line with their allocated budget, as is required by all services commissioned by Tusla”.

The spokesperson said “CARI advised Tusla that they will be unable to operate within this budget for 2024 and has now notified us of their intention to cease operations”.

Tusla CEO Kate Duggan said: “We were surprised by their response to fully cease operations, and whilst we respect the decision of the Board to cease operations if that’s what they deem necessary, I would continue to encourage the CARI Board to review their service model to ensure they can continue to operate within the allocated funding level.”

She added that Tusla is “currently looking at alternative options to deliver these important services to the children and families who require them if CARI make the decision to cease operations”.

In a statement to The Journal, CARI’s chief executive Emer O’neill said the core funding of €336,000 is “inadequate and this is why additional funding was sought from and granted by Tusla over the past few years”.

She added: “The offer of a top up of €250,000 for 2023 was made conditional on our acceptance of adjusting our ‘service model’ for a total budget of €336,000 for 2024.

“No service model can find a way to run an operation which costs €1.1m a year on less than a third of these funds.”

However, O’Neill also said that “CARI acknowledges that Tusla cannot provide all the funding they need on their current budget”.

“The responsibility lies with the Government to ensure that we have a sustainable annual budget to meet the needs of 3- to 18-year-old victims of child sexual abuse,” said O’Neill.

CARI currently provides services to around 50 children and their families and there are 135 children currently awaiting a service.

It has a main office in Limerick, a secondary office in Dublin, an outreach centre in Wexford, as well as a national helpline.

Two further part-time outreach centres were due to open next year in Louth and Kildare, subject to funding approval.

Last year, it provided 3175 hours of support to 339 people and has to date supported 322 people, some as young as three years old.

CARI said it “urgently” needs a further funding commitment of €763,000 to sustain its services in 2024 and has appealed to the government to prevent its closure.

CARI’s annual general meeting takes place on Friday and a spokesperson said that “without a commitment to funding, the Board will have to prepare to close its doors”.


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