Domestic violence has been an issue that has been pushed behind the curtains for years, with each government passing the problem on to the next.
The situation has reached crisis point with two out of three women looking for emergency accommodation being simply turned away because of lack of facilities.
However as of January 1 last, the Child and Family Agency opened under the Minister for Children and Youth affairs, Frances Fitzgerald. This new, reformed agency will be responsible for a number of areas including domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services.
“The 2011 Programme for Government committed to reforming the delivery of child protection services by removing responsibility of child welfare and protection from the HSE and by creating a dedicated Child welfare and Protection Agency,” the Minister told The Anglo-Celt during a visit to Cootehill to open the new Youth Café last Thursday.
“From the 1st of January, my department launched the new Child and Family agency, under which the area of domestic violence falls. For the first time ever there have been 17 area managers appointed across the country to look into domestic violence services. Children and women from these homes remain its focus.
“Domestic violence is not a thing of the past but a current issue and we cannot close our eyes to this, especially with the increase use of alcohol and drugs,” she said.
At present there is no refuge to cater for victims of domestic abuse in Cavan and Monaghan and many of the victims who seek accommodation for themselves and their children are being left with no choice but to return to their abuser. Unfortunately there are still no plans for a refuge to be built in the future; however, the Minister has stressed that in cases of domestic violence, women and their children should not have to leave their family home.
“Ideally, women should be able to stay in their homes, but again this is a problem that can not be dealt with by one agency alone.
“There also will be four regional co-ordinators for sexual violence against young people. It will also be the first time that there will be regional co-ordinators, and this, too, will increase awareness of sexual violence.
“There is a huge concern about the impact domestic violence has on women and children, they need access to health facilities as well as mental health support,” she said.
Despite the reforms being made to domestic violence services over the past month, the need for a refuge in Cavan is more clear than ever, said Lisa Marmion, a spokesperson for Women’s Aid in Dundalk.
“Last year we had a total of 293 requests for emergency accommodation that we could not facilitate in Women’s Aid, Dundalk. That’s a large jump from the previous year which was 225 and the number of those seeking emergency accommodation has continued to rise in the last three years,” she said.
“The need for another refuge in the border county still remains. Now is not the time to be closing refuges.”