An EU/Council of Europe joint project to ease trauma for children who have been sexually abused has been launched.
The national implementation of the Barnahus model of services will be adapted from Iceland to an Irish context.
It aims to eliminate undue delays in the treatment of cases of child sexual abuse.
All children who are victims in such cases, and their families, should benefit from a child-friendly access to justice and healthcare under the scheme.
The roll-out involves three departments (Department of Children Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Department of Health, and Department of Justice) with four agencies involved in the delivery of services (Tusla, Children’s Health Ireland, Health Service Executive, and An Garda Síochána).
Proposed locations for Barnahus East in Dublin and Barnahus South in Cork will build on the existing services provided in the first operational centre in Ireland – at Barnahus West, in Galway.
Minister Roderic O’Gorman said: “In Barnahus West, we now have a strong interdisciplinary and multiagency service that brings child protection, policing, medical, therapeutic and forensic services together, under one roof, to provide services for children who experience sexual abuse, and their families.
“There is now a real opportunity to learn from, and build on this established service, and develop a standardised model that can also adapt to work on a regional basis," he said.
“It has been accepted, for a long time, that there is a need for sensitive and more integrated services for children in this situation. Continuing to adapt the Barnahus model to an Irish context is an important step in building the foundation for a national framework that is sustainable in the long term,” the minister added.
The Barnahus model:
- Brings together forensic, child protection, medical, therapeutic and policing services in a child-centred way, when sexual abuse has occurred or is suspected,
- Is informed by international best practice, and is based on the Icelandic ‘Barnahus’ model,
- Will ensure close coordination and cooperation between key services, and support families in caring for their child throughout a difficult process, when fully developed as a national service, and
- Will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of child sexual-abuse services.
Justice minister Simon Harris said: “The child-friendly principles that underpin the Barnahus model are one of its most appealing features.
"The need for children to repeatedly share their experience is reduced, which minimises re-traumatisation as they engage with multiple agencies. A setting which has been designed with children in mind provides a safe and caring environment for children, and their families or caregivers throughout a difficult process.”
The project is co-financed by the EU Structural Reform Support Programme and the Council of Europe.