PRESS RELEASE: Immediate investigation needed to ensure cases of the exploitation of vulnerable children are escalated

Published date: 
22 Jun 2023


Immediate investigation needed to ensure cases of the exploitation of vulnerable children are escalated 


Today (22.06.2023) the Sexual Exploitation Research Project at University College Dublin, published The Protecting Against Predators study, informed by interviews with 21 staff from 14 key agencies working with vulnerable children.

Responding to the study, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance stated:

“This study reveals the underside of the most serious child protection issues we face. We need an immediate investigation to ensure that the children at the centre of this report have been referred to Tusla and the Gardaí. We know that these bodies have investigated over 30 cases but given the severity of this issue, and the irrevocably impact sexual exploitation has on a child, we need to make sure that no child or young person has slipped through the net.”

“There should be an absolute policy of zero tolerance of the exploitation of children. Every effort must be made to ensure that all suspected cases are escalated. It is shocking to read today that there are situations where these cases have not been referred or elevated to Tusla and the Gardaí who are best place to take action,” continued Tanya Ward. “It is positive to see Tusla are proactively rolling out joint training between Tusla staff and funded services. However, this problem goes beyond Tusla. We need a national policy response from Government that meets the urgency and seriousness of the problem highlighted in the research.”

“We need to make sure that there are safe and secure placements for every child that arrives in to the care system. The housing crisis and the social worker shortage is directly impacting on the Government’s ability to ensure there are sufficient secure care placements available. It is imperative that we see cross-government action in response. In other countries, it would not be left as the responsibility of one agency,” said Tanya Ward.

“Children who are vulnerable offline are more likely to be vulnerable online. The report today shines a light on the darker side of the internet – where the exploitation of children is made possible through the very architecture of online platforms. The children we are speaking of in this report are those without parental care. The risk of their exploitation is even higher as a result. This further supports our call for an overhaul of the regulation of online services and platforms to ensure that their services do not expose children and young people to harms of this nature. Consideration must be given to the measures that can be put in place to disrupt the activity of adults who manipulate online platforms to prey on and exploit vulnerable children. Our new Online Safety Commissioner is well placed to take the findings of this report and inform the development of the new online safety code to ensure it works towards creating safer online spaces for children and young people,” concluded Tanya Ward.



For media queries, contact Emma Archbold – 087 997 1419 /

Notes to Editors:

  • Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, is available for interview.
  • UCD Sexual Exploitation Research Programme – Research Report is available here.

About the Children’s Rights Alliance:
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 145 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL #123OnlineSafety