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‘Shocking’: Nearly 1,500 children referred to child protection services each week in Ireland

Almost 1,500 children in Ireland are being referred to child protection services weekly suspected of having suffered abuse or neglect. The figures were received by Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín via a parliamentary question, who said the numbers were ‘shocking’.


“When we do the maths we see that nearly one and a half thousand children are being referred to Tusla each week suspected of having been abused or neglected,” he said.

“The figures would suggest that the final total for 2021 is likely to be in excess of 70,000 – that’s more than the number of children to start primary school in any given year.”

He also said he was struck by the details related to the referrals, “most notably 1,547 were referred by medical practitioners, while 96 were referred by probation officers, 1,121 by managers of domestic violence shelters and 57 by managers of direct provision centres.”

In the first nine months of 2020 alone, 53,489 children were referred to Tusla’s child protection and welfare services. As of the 2016 census, Ireland has 1,251,796 children (aged 0-18/of secondary school age). When put into context, the number of child referrals in the space of the first nine months of 2020 is the equivalent of 4 per cent of Ireland’s child population.  

A breakdown of the figures shows that 7,929 for suspected emotional abuse, 4,513 children were referred to Tusla for suspected physical abuse, 3,172 for suspected sexual abuse and 2,676 for suspected neglect.

20,109 referrals from January to September 2021 were made by Gardaí, while almost 6,000 reports were made by social workers. 57 referrals were made by managers of direct provision centres, and 1,121 were made by managers of domestic violence shelters.

1,547 of the referrals came from medical practitioners, while 13 referrals were made by members of the clergy. There were 3,811 reports made by teachers. The remainder of the referrals came from childcare staff, while a total of 117 children referred themselves.

In 2020, the agency dealt with 69,712 referrals to Child Protection and Welfare Services, and 2021 figures are estimated to be around the same total, given the number of referrals made in the first nine months of the year.

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