Domestic violence services ‘crippled’; can't meet needs of women and children

Services helping victims of domestic violence are crippled and can no longer meet the needs of women and children.

Domestic violence services ‘crippled’; can't meet needs of women and children

Politicians were yesterday warned of the situation by Sharon O’Halloran, the chief executive of Safe Ireland.

Such services were unable to meet up to 14 requests for safe accommodation from women every day in 2014, new figures show.

There were nearly 5,000 unmet requests from women over the full year, the highest figure recorded by the national organisation since 2008.

Ms O’Halloran said there had been a failure to face up to the reality and consequences of domestic violence and, in particular, the integral connection between domestic violence and homelessness.

“We can no longer support women to move on from refuge, there is nowhere for them to go,” said Ms O’Halloran.

“We hear stories about children growing up in hotel rooms. But now we are seeing children growing up in refuges, spending their formative years living in emergency accommodation.”

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald with Sinn Féin vice-president Mary Lou McDonald at Safe Ireland’s election manifesto launch in Dublin yesterday where the statistics on domestic violence were revealed.  Picture: Jason Clarke
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald with Sinn Féin vice-president Mary Lou McDonald at Safe Ireland’s election manifesto launch in Dublin yesterday where the statistics on domestic violence were revealed.  Picture: Jason Clarke

The statistics show that 9,488 women and 3,068 children received direct support and/or accommodation from a domestic-violence help service in 2014.

Safe Ireland is the leading national domestic violence organisation, working with 39 frontline members.

Annamarie Foley, a general manager with Adapt Women’s Refuge in Tralee, Co Kerry, said there were 200 occasions last year when it could not offer a place of refuge when asked.

“We can accommodate a maximum of six families at any one time. Last year we worked with in excess of 170 families across our services,” said Ms Foley.

“We are doing our best to offer the best service to women but it is becoming increasingly difficult. There does not seem to be the political will to address the issue.”

There were 1,658 women and 2,309 children living in a refuge in 2014. Some 899 of the children were aged under four, including 217 babies. Some 422 were aged between 10 and 14.

Ms O’Halloran said the growing gap between rent allowance and rent prices, coupled with a dire lack of suitable housing stock, means that most women could not find homes to move on to live safely.

Many women were left with little choice but to return to their abusive homes.

Ms O’Halloran said no woman was left without help and support from their member services but they were dictated by what was not possible rather than what was possible.

Safe Ireland published the statistics at the launch of its election manifesto in Dublin yesterday.

It wants the next government to commit to three actions within its first 100 days:

  • Allocate an extra €30m annually from 2017 to address immediate gaps across all struggling services, from An Garda Síochána to housing, and to ensure prevention work;
  • Appoint a minister, department, and cabinet sub-committee to spearhead a whole-of-government response to domestic violence;
  • Enact legislation on domestic violence and victims’ rights, with a commitment to look at the definition of domestic violence.

Politicians who attended the launch included Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Sinn Féin vice-president Mary Lou McDonald, Labour TD Anne Ferris, and local councillors.

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