A detailed blueprint to provide long-term accommodation for victims of domestic abuse needs to be developed, the Oireachtas Justice Committee has said.
In a report, it said that this should include “wraparound” services including the provision of emergency crisis housing, therapy, legal, and welfare supports.
The report, based on submissions and hearings with various agencies, said the Department of Justice should review how barring orders are enforced with the aim of strengthening provisions and ensure perpetrators are held to account.
The committee recommends that consideration be given to establishing a refuge centre for male victims and their children who are fleeing domestic abuse.
It said the Istanbul Convention — laying down the necessary provision of refuge spaces in every country — should be implemented in full, with every county in Ireland having a refuge.
The committee said funding for domestic violence services should be “significantly increased”, but shied away from recommending any figures.
It recommends a comprehensive strategy for move-on or long-term accommodation for victims of domestic abuse needs and this should be incorporated into future national housing strategies.
“This should include wraparound services, including the provision of safe and transitional housing, emergency crisis housing, therapeutic supports, legal supports, and welfare support,” it said.
The report said agencies told the committee that, to comply with the Istanbul Convention, Ireland needs an additional 500 spaces, with 10 particular areas with no refuge accommodation.
Women’s Aid said it must inform two out of three callers to its national helpline that there is no refuge space available. Saoirse Domestic Violence Services found that in 2020 they were unable to provide refuge accommodation to 78% of the requests they received, amounting to 369 individuals.
Witnesses said more needs to be done by the Department of Justice, the Judiciary, and the Courts, in strengthening the provisions of a barring order and holding perpetrators of domestic violence to account.
Witnesses said victims often believe there is little point in obtaining a barring or safety order as they do not feel it will be respected.
The lack of long-term accommodation options prevents victims and families from moving forward to the next stage of their recovery.
Witnesses informed the committee that the funding for their organisations is never confirmed prior to the beginning of the calendar year, while Men’s Aid said it does not know if its funding is guaranteed from month to month.
Under the Third National Strategy to combat Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2022-2026, published earlier this year, the Government promises 141 new units of refuge accommodation on a phased basis at a capital cost estimated at €70.5m and running costs of €33m over the lifetime of the strategy.
Under the plan, a new domestic violence agency will develop a plan for long-term accommodation.