THERE was a massive 40% increase in the number of times women and children were turned away from domestic violence refuges last year, compared with 2009.
Figures released by Safe Ireland show that 1,993 women and 2,355 children were admitted to refuges last year. On 3,236 occasions, however, women were turned away because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in their area and, in 3,004 cases, children were involved. In 2009, there were 2,341 occasions where refuges were unable to accommodate women and their children.
Women also made over 100 calls a day last year — 38,629 in total, to all helplines throughout the country.
Safe Ireland director Sharon O’Halloran said the figures showed that existing services were “maxed out”.
She described the women and children who could not be accommodated immediately as the tragic fallout of Ireland’s abject and consistent failure to meet European minimum requirements for refuges.
According to Safe Ireland, the national organisation for 39 frontline domestic violence services, Ireland has just one third of the refuge capacity recommended by the Council of Europe.
Referring to Safe Ireland’s 2010 National Statistics on Domestic Violence, Ms O’Halloran pointed out that 7,235 women and 2,850 children received support from domestic violence services last year.
And, she said, while there had been a levelling off in overall numbers of women and children receiving support in the last two years, the continuing upward trend was now spilling into an emergency accommodation crisis and a spike in distressed telephone calls.
“With budget cutbacks, essential new refuges are not opening and existing refuges are finding it more difficult to maintain their services,” she said.
Ms O’Halloran pointed out a new refuge in Kildare would be completed next month, but there was no money available to open it.
Women and children were also feeling the brunt of some statutory agency policies that were often about saving money over people’s needs, she said.
Warning that any further cuts to domestic violence services would result in refuge closures, Ms O’Halloran said the Government must seriously consider ring-fencing current funding.
Domestic violence national helpline number — 1800 341900 (open 10am to 10pm).
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