Ireland is up to its eyeballs of late with talk of the sickening notion of national bankruptcy and the prospect of draconian social cuts in the upcoming national budget. Ireland now has to pay back all of the cash the government borrowed to bail out Irish banks; money borrowed without the populations approval, which will have to be repaid plus interest on the backs of that same voiceless population. One would think that in a country where everything is done by referendum, that the ordinary person would have a say in the borrowing and the expenditure of sums of money that endanger it's very sovereignty.
Lost in the confusion is the action plan for taking care of the nation's children against Ireland's dark background of abuse. Over Euro 150,000,000 has been spent (perhaps more), not as you might expect on abuse prevention, but on reports to tell us about a sampling of the abuse that has occurred.
Just today 'the Roscommon Report' was released which recounted the horrors of one family's neglect by the now notorious, but handily anonymous, Health Service Executive (HSE). Nothing wrong with that per say except the cost of preparing a report - that any decent child protection agency would do as a matter of course - tied up the valuable time of one of Ireland's leading child protection specialists, Barnardo's Nora Gibbons.
The Irish government has got it arse about face. Banks and budgets will come and go like ministers cars at the Four Seasons. Children, however, as much as we like to pretend we love them, remain abandoned without any viable new programmes to help them. Sure there are stacks of recommendations and perhaps even a plan, but no rubber has hit the road. The existing agencies are stretched to the limit.
Last week the Sunday Tribune (see below) reported that the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) was underwater with the tsunami of calls they receive on a daily basis from children on the ChildHelp line - 15,000 calls a week, 1/3rd of which cannot be answered. 15,000!
Has the ISPCC been offered extra help from the government to pick up the slack? No. In fact the government finances only a small fraction of this critical agencies budget. The vast majority of funding comes from private sources.
Just last January a representative from the Department of Health met with US/Irish charity One Child International and asked them to donate the funds needed to underwrite a Missing Child Helpline and an Amber Alert system. One Child agreed on condition that the Department of Health cover 25% of the cost. Nothing more was heard from the department.
One Child CEO Evin Daly was in Dublin two weeks ago to deliver a proposal to the Taoiseach, Barry Andrews and Phil Garland about a simple and effective way of providing child protection to the children of Ireland. It is a project called 'Inform' and it calls for Ireland to be the first country in Europe to undertake such a simple but effective endeavor.
One Child has an information package comprising of three brochures which explain the four types of child abuse; physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. Information on all aspects of abuse is provided, including what it is, how it is recognized and what to do when experienced.
It is in use already throughout Ireland where it was supplied over the summer. The One Child's project 'Inform' mantra is 'an informed parent and community equals a protected child.'
The proposal for Messrs Cowen, Andrews and Garland? For the cost of One Euro per household plus postage these information packages could be sent to every home in Ireland, all 1.47 million of them. And all within 60 days - in time for Christmas. As a charity One Child does not profit from a project such as this. They have however said that they will underwrite the cost of the Missing Children and Amber Alert project entirely if the government green lights the distribution of the child abuse prevention material.
Two weeks out and no word other than a form letter response from Barry Andrews. That folks is Ireland. I'll add that One Child in their test programme has, since June, given away over 110,000 brochures, many thousands of which were (and still are) distributed around Ireland. Free; paid for by private donations.The bottom line, while as a nation we wring our hands and grind our teeth at the pitiful plight of our maltreated children, while the government writes blank cheques for reports and recommendations which are already gathering dust but which given the appearance that they're doing something - that they 'care,' and tens of billions are borrowed and spent chasing a ghost in the banking industry, nothing new is being done for our kids, our future. And that's a disgrace given what we have all learned in the past five years about ourselves and the plight of generations of our children. Action, not reports, is what is needed.
Sunday Tribune (Oct 24, 2010):36% of Childline's 15,000 calls go unanswered
One Child Int'l: www.abusewatch.eu
Leah Tobin is a writer and editor for the ButlerReport.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org