Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shannon has called for a new specialist unit to be set up within the Child and Family Agency Tusla to handle retrospective allegations of abuse.

In his eleventh annual report, Mr Shannon said there is a significant issue with the degree of expertise required by social workers in assessing and substantiating cases.

He says this is particularly the case where it is expected that the evidence obtained in these cases be of a forensic standard to withstand the test of criminal proceedings.

He says specialist teams of forensic investigators should have dedicated responsibility for substantiation of allegations.

He also said there needs to be a stronger partnership between Tusla and An Garda Síochána on interviewing child and adult victims and that this would reduce the risk of repeat interviews.

The child protection watchdog's latest report makes 30 recommendations across a range of areas.

It also calls for a separated family law court system across the country. 

Mr Shannon said the message from other jurisdictions is unequivocal that children and family services in the court are best managed by a dedicated and integrated family court structure that is properly resourced with an interdisciplinary system.

He said this should be located separately from current venues with sufficient room for private consultations and a welfare and assessment service.

The report also recommends the abolition of the direct provision system and adequate provision for children's standards of living.

It said the system should be placed on a statutory footing and a time-limited period of six-nine months introduced, after which an individual who has not yet received a first instance decision should be able to leave and live independently and access social welfare payments.

Mr Shannon also says that while the Domestic Violence Act 2018 is a welcome step, efforts should be made to ensure it is commenced as soon as possible subject to certain amendments to strengthen it. 

The definition of "communicating" should be clarified so it includes phone calls, text messages and emails, communication through social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram and online messaging services and mobile phone applications such as WhatsApp and Snapchat.