Rape Crisis Network Ireland queries State obligation to fund good data collection

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) is to ask the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to clarify if the Government has a legal obligation to fund good data collection in the context of Tusla pulling funding for its database.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland queries State obligation to fund good data collection

RCNI executive director Clíona Saidléar said their database’s standard has already deteriorated since Tusla withdrew funding. While data for 2016 has been imputed into their system, the RCNI cannot stand over it, Ms Saidléar said.

“It’s been damaged in the process of de-funding. We haven’t been able to clean the 2016 data. We won’t be able to stand over or verify it.”

Up to now, extensive data cleaning was carried out to check for mistakes or omissions before any data was analysed. The RCNI contracted external expertise to do this.

Ms Saidléar said under international obligations, the State’s agencies must collect data to high standards and the State funds them to do this.

She said under the spirit of the law, they should also be obliged to fund non-governmental agencies to conduct high standard data collection. She pointed out that their database has been praised by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), an EU body aiming to strengthen the promotion of gender equality.

A report on Eige’s website says the RCNI infrastructure around its data system “supports best practice in upholding survivor rights to data protection and privacy, particularly given the majority of data relates to instances that have not been reported to the police, and supports services in meeting their legal obligations as data controllers”.

Eige also acknowledges that the Irish Government “has committed to establish a bottom line ‘gold standard’ of data collection and analysis by all agencies working in the area(s) of domestic and sexual violence”.

The RCNI is hoping to be intrinsically involved in this “gold standard” system.

Last October a row broke out between the RCNI and Tusla after the Child and Family Agency published a report on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Services using data obtained from up to 56 domestic and sexual violence organisations that it funds.

At the time, Ms Saidlear questioned the legality of the methods by which “Tusla acquired, held and used data gathered by RCNI” and how the figures were compared.

When the Irish Examiner asked Tusla if it intends to press ahead with its own system of data collection rather than relying on the RCNI, Tusla said:

“Whilst the work undertaken by RCNI to improve data on sexual violence is recognised, Tusla, as the statutory body with responsibility for Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV) services, requires a complete, and comprehensive dataset and made a decision to develop this dataset to enable access to data for routine reporting, and ultimately to improve outcomes for survivors.”

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