Earlier this month, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys announced that victims of domestic violence will be granted improved access to the rent supplement on a permanent basis.
The measure, which ensures that means testing does not apply to domestic violence victims seeking accommodation, had been introduced on a temporary basis during the pandemic. The scheme was set-up to ensure that victims are not prevented from leaving home due to lack of finance or alternative accommodation options.
The initiative has successfully helped over 150 people since its introduction last year but a breakdown of the figures show that there is a high take-up in areas with fewer refuge spaces. For example, Cork has the highest number of people availing of the scheme (24) with Dublin (20) and Galway (15) following closely behind.
As a consequence of the lack of a refuge infrastructure in many counties, women and children are being forced to seek rental accommodation on the open market at a time when it is extremely scarce.
Refuges provide a vital first step out of a terrible situation for many very traumatised women and children. We cannot overlook their role in the overall domestic violence service. The rent supplement initiative is undoubtedly a life-saving intervention but the figures tell a story that cannot be ignored.