Maeve Lewis of One in Four: number of clients tripled last year

Two of the state's leading charities working with abused children and adults have had to let staff go after having their funding cut by the government in the past year, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

This is despite the fact that both One in Four and Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) have struggled to keep up with demand for their services since the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports last year.

CARI's annual report, launched last week, reveals that it cost the state just €635,000 in funding to provide its services to "at-risk" children in 2008. But this figure was cut to €548,000 in 2009.

At a time when the government has pumped billions into "bailing out" the banks, CARI says it survived January 2009 only with the help of a short-term loan from its bank. The remainder of its budget comes from fundraising, which has also collapsed due to the recession.

Dr Niall Muldoon, national clinical director with CARI, said it now has only 18 paid staff, compared to 31 a year ago. It has also been forced to close two of its "satellite" services in Meath and Wicklow.

"We basically had three rounds of cuts. We tried to protect therapeutic services. But when we got to round three we had to let two of our therapists go," he said. "They would handle around 24 cases between them a week. We were hoping we could grow the number of therapists we could provide. Instead we're going in the opposite direction. We're talking children's lives here for the €30,000 or €40,000 cost of hiring a therapist."

Maeve Lewis, executive director of One In Four, said the number of clients coming through its doors almost tripled last year. It costs €1 million a year to run One In Four, which now has a staff of 18, having made two people redundant last year. Yet it has also had its HSE funding cut from €650,000 in 2008 to €580,000 this year.

"The number of people contacting us is so great that we are on the point of closing our waiting list," Lewis said. "While we appreciate the grave economic situation of the country, it is difficult to justify denying help to people who have already suffered so greatly, and who were promised support when the Ryan and Murphy reports were published."

A spokesman for children's minister Barry Andrews said he met with One in Four and others last week to discuss their operations and financial concerns. He said another €200,000 would be allocated by the HSE to various child advocacy groups. However, it remains unclear how this money will be allocated at a time of unprecedented demand for resources nationwide.