Charlie Flanagan and Dr Katherine Zappone at the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway pilot project. Photograph: Fennell Photography
‘Barnahus, Onehouse Galway’ model to ease trauma for children who have been sexually abused
Dr Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, together with Charlie Flanagan TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, have launched a pilot service for children who have been sexually abused.
The service, entitled, Barnahus, Onehouse Galway involves 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). The event takes place today in Galway, where the pilot service will operate.
Commenting at today’s launch Minister Zappone said: “In the Barnahus, Onehouse Galway project we have the first multi-agency 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 myself travelled to New York with Dr Geoffrey Shannon, where we visited a Child Advocacy Service providing the key services required.”
Barnahus, Onehouse Galway project
· 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.
· When fully operational, will ensure close coordination and cooperation between key services, and support families in caring for their child throughout a difficult process.
· Initially the new Galway service will provide a shared service to children in its catchment area of Galway/Roscommon.
· The Barnahus, Onehouse centres, when fully developed as a national service, will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of child sexual abuse services for the benefit of children who have suffered from sexual abuse and the families trying to support them.
Child Centredness Approach
Continuing Minister Zappone said:“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, reducing 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 professionals working in this area are fully aware of the challenges they face in providing a safe environment for disclosure, protection, prosecution, and healing for all members of the family, to take place. It is for this reason that we want to create the structures to support professionals to focus on the child’s experience.
“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 across the health, justice and child protection sectors, and I look forward to seeing this service supported and developed in the years to come.”
An Inter-departmental Group, established by Minister Zappone in 2018 and on which Ministers Harris and Flanagan are represented, will continue its’ work to develop a national service. It is anticipated that full shared services will be required in three locations across the country. Decisions about these locations will be based on learning from the pilot service, the availability of existing expertise, and the potential to develop skills in this specialist field.
Specialist expertise, skills and knowledge in this complex area will be developed as services are provided in this concentrated way. This will build on the existing work of Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) and selected hospitals that currently provide these services to children.