Door slams shut on domestic violence communication

Lack of funding will force the closure of National Domestic Violence Agency next week, writes Conor Ryan.

IT’S ironic that an agency set up to improve contact and communication between the services dealing with domestic violence is facing the prospect of closure because of a refusal to talk.

The need to collate the relevant information to help secure prosecutions in domestic violence cases was highlighted by the Department of Justice eight years ago.

The 1999 report — Safety and Sanctions — said the justice system did not recognise the complexities of domestic violence cases.

In response, it set up the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency (NDVIA) to fill the gaps. However, next week the NDVIA will be forced to close its doors because of a lack of funding.

Last year, the department commissioned a review of the three-year pilot project. It found there was a lack of clarity from the department about its funding plans and objectives for the NDVIA. It also said it was overly ambitious to expect the work of the agency to be completed within three years.

“On the one hand it can be argued that the objectives were devised on the assumption that additional resources would be available to the NDVIA than was actually provided,” it said.

“However, even acknowledging this, it is likely that a number of measurable outcomes were overly ambitious to be achieved with the time frame of a three year project. This is due to the length of time systems change can take.”

It said the NDVIA had far more potential as a long-term project rather than one which had to achieve all its goals within a pilot phase. It also said the department should have laid out its funding intentions in advance to allow the NDVIA to plan ahead properly.

It said that future terms of reference “should include a clear payments schedule specifying the amounts of payments, the timing of payments and the conditions of payments”.

The NDVIA had been expecting funding of €3 million but in its three-year life span it only received €440,000. These payments were staggered and for two extended periods the NDVIA had to stop taking new clients when it ran out of money.

A statement from the department said while its review was reasonably positive it highlighted a number of areas where the NDVIA did not meet all of its targets.

Since the publication of the review the NDVIA has made 16 requests to meet the department to discuss its future. These requests have been ignored.

The department said it is waiting for its internal report of the FGS review before deciding the next step.

When confronted on the closure of the NDVIA this week, the department said it never made any commitment to continue the project beyond the pilot phase. It said at no stage did it set out guidelines on the overall level of funding.

Director of the NDVIA Don Hennessy said: “The department just does not take this type of crime seriously and until that changes nothing will be different.

“If a survey could be done on some of the people who are now dead because of this, we would all be quite alarmed by what was known beforehand. But the difficulty is that information is not being kept.”

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