Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

Launch of Barnahus, Onehouse Galway pilot project

Monday 16th September, 2019: Dr Katherine Zappone TD, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and Charlie Flanagan TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, officially launched the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway pilot project at a special launch at The Institute for Lifecourse and Society at NUI Galway today.

The Onehouse, Barnahus Galway 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. Ultimately, the project aims to develop better pathways and minimise the trauma on children and young people.

The project saw three Departments (Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Health and Department of Justice and Equality) working together, with the three agencies (Tusla, Health Service Executive and An Garda Síochána), towards establishing this model.
 
Minister Zappone said: “In the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway project we have the first multiagency 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.

“One of the most appealing aspects of the Barnahus model is the child centredness of the approach. All the key services are brought together under one roof, taking away the need for children to repeat their trauma as they engage with multiple agencies. It also allows families to be supported in caring for their child throughout a difficult process. The Barnahus, Onehouse Galway project can serve as a model for a more extensive national service. This will take time and commitment at the service delivery level and at the Departmental level. I know that that commitment exists, and I look forward to seeing this service supported and developed in the years to come.”

Minister Flanagan said: “I very much welcome today’s launch of the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway project.  For the first time, this project will deliver professional services to the most vulnerable of victims - children who experience sexual abuse.  

Child sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes that can occur and that’s why this project is so important.  It will deliver key supports in a professional manner to children and their families in a purpose built facility which will be better placed to meet the multiplicity of needs of those who tragically find themselves requiring these services. 

Barnahus, Onehouse Galway, in delivering a multiagency service, will provide practical support and reassurance to victims and their families in dealing with the effects and aftermath of abuse and I firmly believe that the coordinated delivery of services by Tusla, the HSE and An Garda Síochána will be the model for the future in addressing the complex needs of the vulnerable in our communities.

I commend everyone involved with the project for all of their efforts. I am delighted to have worked closely with my colleagues, Ministers Zappone and Harris, to ensure that children and the family are at the centre of these important services.”

Minister Harris added: “Today marks a really important moment in the State's response to sexual abuse. Today, we launch an inter-agency initiative aimed at enhancing the services provided to children at an unimaginably traumatic and difficult time for them.

It is essential we do everything we can to help victims of sexual abuse and to ease the burden on them and their families. It is also important we support staff working in this difficult and sensitive area.

These aren’t easy issues to talk about and these aren’t easy things to change. The levels of cooperation, coordination and collaboration that has gone into making this service a reality are significant and I want to acknowledge the commitment of the front line staff from all three agencies for coming together to work as a team  to support children and their families.

I am committed to continuing to work with my Government colleagues to ensure the expansion of this service over the coming months and years.”

Pat Smyth, Outgoing Interim Chief Executive, Tusla said: “The launch of the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway pilot project is an example of how real, effective collaboration between key services can provide better, more comprehensive and appropriate services for vulnerable children. I look forward working with our colleagues in an Garda Siochana and the Health Service Executive to continue to develop this important service into the future.”

Dr Joanne Nelson, Consultant Paediatrician, Saolta University Health Care Group and Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Treatment Service (CASATS) said:  “Agencies and individuals in Ireland have long been battling for progress within Child and Adolescent Sexual Abuse Services in Ireland. As such Ministerial endorsement, now and into the future, of the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway is hugely welcomed. 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.”

Detective Inspector Michael Coppinger, An Garda Síochána said:

“The Garda Síochána is delighted to be involved with Tusla the Child & Family Agency and the Health Service Executive (HSE), in the Barnahus, Onehouse initiative, which was launched today.

We look forward to working with social workers and other professionals who are participating in the Barnahus, Onehouse initiative, in Galway, which will offer a safe space where children may disclose abuse to the Garda Síochána.

The Garda Síochána has worked closely for a long number of years with Tusla, 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, for the purpose of providing effective services to victims of child sexual abuse”. 

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