Allegations that reports by victims of extreme child sexual abuse "are being categorised as low priority and being left to the side due to the absence of guidelines on how to deal with them", have been made by a County Galway TD.
Galway East TD and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on children and youth affairs, Anne Rabbitte, is calling on the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone to "personally investigate these concerns".
Dep Rabbitte has alleged that "many cases are not being properly investigated" owing to fears of potential legal liability, and that routine statistics are not collected on adult disclosure cases. A recent HIQA assessment of Dublin South East/Wicklow found a high number of retrospective referrals remained unassessed with potential risk to children not yet determined.
The Portumna based TD also said that current guidelines governing adult disclosures of abuse "do not take account of situations where the alleged abuser does not wish to engage in the social work assessment", and that in some cases, social work teams have been legally advised to close the case in such instances.
"It is truly frightening that potential abusers can escape investigation, simply by refusing to engage with social workers," she said. "Social workers have been privately voicing major concerns about the poor and inconsistent case management of such adult disclosure cases when they come forward."
Dep Rabbitte is calling for "a tangible solution" to address this situation. While a draft policy to deal with this loophole was put forward in September 2014, it was not published as it was "found to contain legal inaccuracies", including a proposal that adult survivors should be informed they may be liable to prosecution, where they do not engage with an investigation.
“Often survivors of the most extreme child sexual abuse do not summon up the courage to report on their cases until they reach early adulthood," she said. “Our system should be encouraging and facilitating people who have the courage to come forward. We need a new strategy that seeks to educate, create awareness and encourage adults who have experienced abuse to come forward."