‘Horrible experience’ for family fleeing domestic abuse

A woman and her children forced to sleep on blood-stained mattresses in cramped rooms after leaving an abusive partner had a “horrible” experience, said Women’s Aid.

Commenting on a report by the Ombudsman for Children, the domestic abuse charity said women and children should not have to leave home to be safe.

It has called for the Domestic Violence Bill — currently before the Dáil — to be strengthened and for an ‘out of hours’ system to give women access to barring orders.

A report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office said a family homeless for two years was placed in accommodation where the children were exposed to the mother’s ex-partner and his friends.

Director of Women’s Aid, Margaret Martin, said the report was an indictment of a system not fit for purpose.

She said families forced to flee their homes should receive the services and support they need immediately to be safe with as little disruption as possible to the lives.

“Spending almost two years living in a refuge, hotels and B&Bs is unacceptable. The experience of this family has been horrible, and no one should face this situation,” she said.

Last year, almost one in five (18%) of contacts made with Women’s Aid were from women worried about becoming homeless or seeking emergency accommodation because of domestic violence.

The lack of housing stock meant that even women who were eligible for social housing had nowhere to go.

Ms Martin said the current housing crisis was severe for women affected by domestic violence.

“If they cannot move, they and their children face the real threat of being harmed.”

Chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward said the report was shocking and highlighted the need for independent emergency accommodation inspections. She said some families forced to leave home ended up in a “dire situation” and the psychological effect on the children would be significant.

Ms Ward said the law should be changed so children could remain in their home and the parent living with them could ensure their everyday life remains as normal as possible.

“I think the report is shocking. It is telling us that the system is in crisis and that the emergency accommodation being provided is substandard.”

Director of investigations at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Nuala Ward said mistakes were made by Fingal County Council: the woman was sent to the wrong unit and had to find accommodation on a week-to-week basis.

“This family was forced to go through an unnecessarily bureaucratic process to ensure their housing application could progress separately from the mother’s ex-partner who she had separate from due to domestic abuse.”

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