What is the project?

The European Union/Council of Europe Joint Project “Support the implementation of the Barnahus project in Ireland” aims to strengthen the country’s response mechanism to child sexual abuse, and to ensure that undue delays in the treatment of such cases are diminished and all children who are victims of sexual violence benefit from a child-friendly access to justice.

In 2015, Ireland successfully implemented the Children First Act, which introduced mandatory reporting for suspected cases of child abuse. It was followed by the development of a pilot Barnahus project in Galway in 2019, which became operational in January 2022 with the name of “Barnahus West”.

The goal of the project is to address the challenges encountered during the pilot project and to open two additional centres: Barnahus South in Cork and Barnahus East in Dublin.

The project is co-funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe, and is implemented by the Council of Europe's Children's Rights Division in close co-operation with the Irish Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) from 12 August 2022 to 11 February 2025.

 Project news

 What is Barnahus?

Barnahus (Children’s House) is a child-friendly, multidisciplinary and interagency response model for the coordination of criminal and child welfare investigations in cases of violence against children, including child sexual abuse.

It brings under one roof all relevant professionals (the judge, the prosecutor, the police, social workers and medical professionals such as psychologists, forensic doctors) in a safe environment for children, with the purpose of providing a coordinated and effective response and for preventing re-traumatisation during investigation and court proceedings. The Barnahus model puts the best interest of the child at the heart of investigative procedures, while taking into account that the child’s disclosure is key to identify and investigate violence against children both for criminal and for protective and therapeutic purposes.

developed by the National Children’s Advocacy Centre in the United States, the model was introduced and adapted to the European context by Iceland in 1998. The model was recognised in 2015 as a promising practice by the Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Committee). It has been already replicated in Sweden and Norway and is in the process of being adapted in more than a dozen of other European countries. Apart from this project in Ireland, the Council of Europe Children’s Rights Division has supported the Republic of Slovenia in establishing and operating their first Barnahus and is currently implementing projects in Finland and Spain.

 What do we aim to achieve?

 Who do we work with?

The participation of representatives of the relevant bodies and institutions is foreseen. Civil society organisations, Ombudspersons and academia will also be involved in the work carried out to implement and strengthen the Barnahus model in Ireland in light of existing needs to formulate concrete potential solutions.

 Who will benefit from the project?

The project targets Irish national, regional, and local authorities, as well as professionals in contact with children and/or dealing with cases of violence against children, including child sexual abuse. They will benefit directly from the project through training and capacity building measures provided.

The final beneficiaries of the project are children at risk of or victims and/or witnesses of any type of violence, including sexual abuse. Children will eventually benefit from improved access to justice, more effective state response and more child-centred and child-friendly practices during the processing and management of cases of violence against children.

The Irish society as a whole will ultimately benefit from the project with the wider public reached through awareness raising and promotional activities. The project will contribute towards a more aware society that is capable of identifying, preventing, and responding to violence against children.

Project documents

 Video on the Icelandic Barnahus model

“Keep me safe”, the Icelandic Barnahus model

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