Rape support services cut to balance books

Rape support services are facing an unprecedented funding crisis, with one of the country?s biggest centres forced to shut its doors because it cannot pay its staff.

Rape support services cut to balance books

Rape Crisis Mid-West is closing its Ennis and Nenagh centres for a month, possibly longer, while it tries to balance its books after six years of cuts in state grants.

The problem is wide-spread and the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland has warned the closures are likely the first of many.

Director Fiona Neary said: ?This is the first closure but it?s inevitable that more centres will face the same hard choice. There is only so much you can do to cut costs before you run into a brick wall.?

The 16 centres across the country have seen their grants collectively cut by 30% over the last six years, while experiencing record demands for their services.

From 2009-12, the centres saw a 28% increase in clients using counselling and support services, a 38% rise in helpline contacts, and a 116% increase in the number of victims accompanied through court proceedings.

The centres shared ?4.5m last year, but Ms Neary said ?7m was needed to keep the full range of frontline services running. Indications for this year and 2015 are for further cuts.

Rape Crisis Mid-West also has a centre in Limerick that is to stay open but with a restricted service which it said will struggle to cater for the 80 clients a week who use the three Mid-West centres.

Director Miriam Duffy said the closures in Clare and Tipperary, and reduction in services in Limerick, were due to a ?120,000 funding shortfall this year.

?This decision has not been taken lightly and has come on the back of additional significant cost-saving measures over the last number of years. We have six part-time paid counsellors, and two full-time staff covering the entire Mid-west, and by everybody taking a month?s unpaid leave, we?ll be saving a further ?20,000,? said Ms Duffy.

?We do not wish to close our doors to those who are most vulnerable in society.?

Like other charities, Rape Crisis centres have seen public donations drop, with staff hours and wages slashed as a result. Counselling sessions have been reduced, outreach services scrapped, and education programmes abandoned.

Ms Neary appealed to the Government to act: ?Rape Crisis centres are increasingly dependent on volunteerism for core service provision. There is nothing left to cut. Under these continued circumstances, closures such as we see in the Mid-West today have become unfortunately and disgracefully inevitable.?

Ms Neary said Ireland was bound under the EU Victims Directive to provide adequate support services for victims of sexual violence. ?We are watching nothing less than a spectacular failure in terms of what Ireland should be doing in order to provide any meaningful response to victims of sexual violence,? she said.

The Child and Family Agency funds Rape Crisis centres and said the Mid-West service had been cut by 2.5% this year. ?This is in line with other services and in keeping with financial restrictions.?

It said it is reviewing all services funded within the domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence sector.

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