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Charities warn that children in care are at risk of sexual exploitation

It follows the revelation this week that over thirty people have been arrested in Northern Ireland as part of a major child abuse investigation.

Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson
Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson
Image: Photocall Ireland

TWO IRISH CHARITIES say that child welfare and protection services need to be vigilant for cases of sexual exploitation of young people in care.

Following confirmation by the PSNI on Monday that over thirty people had been arrested across Northern Ireland as part of a major investigation into the abuse of children, Barnardos and Ruhama are warning that children in care in the Republic are at risk of similar exploitation.

22 victims were identified in the PSNI investigation, following a review of cases where young people went missing from the case system.

“Through our work we know some children and young people who are in care in Ireland are at serious risk of exploitation by adults who seize on their vulnerability,” Barnardos’ Catherine Joyce said.

“It would be foolish to think that children in Ireland are not under similar threat of exploitation as that reported in Northern Ireland and in Britain. We know that they are.”

The charities warned that the combination of stretched front line services and a culture within the system that treated children who abscond from care solely as a behavioural issue needed to be tackled.

According to Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson: “We need to ask the right questions. Where do children go when they go missing from care? Who are they with? We need a greater focus on the child protection issues that come up in these situations rather than just on the child’s behaviour.”

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Benson said there had been “too few criminal investigations into the behaviour of adults keeping company with children who go missing while in care”.

Read: Over thirty arrested across Northern Ireland in major child abuse investigation >

Read: Remains found in Dublin Mountains are those of missing Elaine O’Hara >

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Daragh Brophy

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