Government urged to extend emergency supports for people fleeing domestic violence

Some 41 people have so far availed of provision granting emergency rent supplement without a means test to people experiencing domestic violence
Government urged to extend emergency supports for people fleeing domestic violence

Safe Ireland said it was vital the means-test 'obstacle' had been removed for people experiencing domestic violence and the measure should stay beyond the end of the pandemic.

The Government has been urged to extend a new provision granting emergency rent supplement without a means test to people experiencing domestic violence beyond the end of the pandemic.

Some 41 people have so far availed of the measure.

Last August, the Department of Social Protection and Tusla established a new protocol to assist victims of domestic violence whereby they would be able to apply for rent supplement on referral by Tusla or by Tusla-funded service providers for an initial three-month period.

Figures provided to the Irish Examiner by the department show 41 people have done that so far, and so were required to pay a minimum contribution towards rent, regardless of means. Just 20 people progressed to the second three-month phase, when an element of means-testing is required.

Rent supplement is currently supporting 19,304 active recipients. 

A department spokesperson said, "The number of domestic violence cases currently in payment under the Domestic Violence Protocol is 41 and of these 20 are now in a second three-month phase of support. 

The arrangements of the Domestic Violence Protocol remain additional and complementary to the range of other supports already in place for victims of domestic violence."

Safe Ireland said it was vital the means-test "obstacle" had been removed for people experiencing domestic violence and the measure should stay beyond the end of the pandemic.

Safe Ireland consultant and communications officer Edel Hackett said the protocol was "a buffer" that allowed those impacted by domestic violence to "get back on track".

She said while "there was slow take-up on it", the positive impact of the measure could not be understated.

"Even if it is only working for one or two women, that's fine," she said.

"We would hope it's not something that stays just for the pandemic.

"Regardless of the numbers, it's really important that that change has been made, that that means-tested barrier has been removed.

It widens the choice for women."

Ms Hackett said: "The housing crisis itself has had an enormous impact on the availability of accommodation."

She said this meant some women having to rely on refuges not as a short-term measure, but as something more long-term.

"We have had situations where they were in refuges for months, up to a year in some cases – that's meant those places were not available for other women," she said.

"There is the non-availability of housing stock – that is an issue and it has not gone away because of the pandemic."

Ms Hackett said Safe Ireland would outline its most recent contact figures in the coming weeks and added that "anecdotally the numbers rose consistently from March to August and I know from the services – and we have had meetings with services every week – they were busier in the second part of the year than in the first".

• Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 and www.womensaid.ie / the National Male Adviceline 1800 816 588.

safeireland.ie

Gardaí said that over 4,000 criminal charges were brought for breaches of domestic abuse court orders last year — an increase of 25% on 2019.

Gardaí said that over 4,000 criminal charges were brought for breaches of domestic abuse court orders last year — an increase of 25% on 2019.

More than 43,000 domestic abuse calls made to gardaí last year

Some 43,000 calls were made to gardaí to respond to domestic abuse last year, a 16% increase from 2019's figures.

Updated data issued by gardaí shows the impact of multiple of Covid-19 lockdowns on people trapped in abusive situations.

Issuing the data, gardaí also stressed that current travel restrictions do not apply in the case of domestic violence or an escape of risk of harm. 

In addition to an increase in calls, gardaí said that over 4,000 criminal charges were brought for breaches of domestic abuse court orders last year — an increase of 25% on 2019 — and over 7,600 criminal charges in total were brought for crimes involving an element of domestic abuse, up 24% on 2019.

In excess of 4,300 domestic abuse court orders were notified to gardaí in 2020.

Daniel Kane: jailed for ten and a half years for coercive behaviour. Picture: RTÉ

Daniel Kane: jailed for ten and a half years for coercive behaviour. Picture: RTÉ

And three convictions were recorded in 2020 for coercive control which was first made a crime in January 2019 — two at the circuit court and one at the district court.  

Last week, Daniel Kane, 52, was jailed for 10-and-a-half years after becoming the first person convicted by a jury of coercively controlling and repeatedly assaulting his former partner during a 20-month reign of domestic terror.

Last February, Kevin Dunleavy, 33, was jailed for 21 months after he pleaded guilty to coercive control and other charges including harassment at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

And one other person was convicted at a district court last year on a guilty plea.

Some 23,785 contacts and attempted contacts were made by gardaí with victims of domestic abuse under Operation Faoiseamh, which commenced on April 1 to help those trapped in abusive relationships during the pandemic.

Following each report of domestic abuse, An Garda Síochána now contacts the victim within seven days to ensure that victims are supported and protected at this difficult time.

The Garda National Protective Service Bureau (GNPSB) is overseeing the implementation of this proactive initiative.

Resources dedicated to the support of the vulnerable and victims of domestic violence have not been affected during the Covid-19 pandemic, gardaí said. 

The GNPSB and Divisional Protective Service Units (DPSU) are now established in every Garda Division, with support from Divisional Victim Service Offices (DVSO) and front line gardaí to allow members to respond to these crimes and support citizens.

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