Laois mothers and children are sleeping in cars to escape violent homes

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Laois mothers and children are sleeping in cars to escape violent homes

Laois Domestic Abuse Service is calling for a refuge for the county.

Laois mothers and children trying to escape domestic abuse are forced to sleep in cars or move as far away as Mayo to find refuge because there is no domestic violence refuge in this county, according to the Laois Domestic Abuse Service.

The service says that the situation has worsened during Covid-19 because of families on lockdown in violent homes.

As a result, Marna Carroll, manager of Laois Domestic Abuse Service, has called for the development of a domestic violence refuge in Laois to meet the urgent need.

“The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever, the absolute necessity of having a refuge located in Laois," she said this week.

“Six weeks into the COVID 19 crisis and this is what we know: there is no ‘new normal’, nothing is predictable, and we must think on our feet constantly, women and children experiencing domestic abuse are in even more intensely desperate and terrifying situations," Ms Carroll said.

“One certainty over the last six weeks is that the demand for domestic abuse accommodation is growing day on day. We have experience of supporting women and children forced to sleep in their car because there is nowhere else to go, and this is not an isolated situation," she said.

“Tthe absence of appropriate and safe refuge in Laois is dangerous and unacceptable. They are forced to travel to refuges in Kildare, Kilkenny, Westmeath and as far as Mayo, because of the absence of such facilities locally. It is not acceptable. Where is the justice and equality in that for some of our most vulnerable citizens?" she asked.

“Women and children who are seeking refuge have already been exposed to a deeply traumatic experience. Forcing these families to relocate to a strange new town or city away from support networks, and in many circumstances, having to find new schools for their children only exacerbates the trauma that has already been experienced by these families,” she said.

Ms Carroll also claimed that none of the €160,000 announced by the Government for frontline services supporting victims of domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic will come here.

“We were disappointed to learn that none of these funds would be allocated to Laois,” she said.

She said the lack of a refuge makes it harder for mothers to take the brave decision to leave home.

“This lack in our community makes it more difficult to leave increasingly dangerous situations,” she said.

She noted that the outgoing Minister for Children Katherine Zappone had acknowledged that the State needs to provide more emergency refuge spaces for women and children experiencing domestic violence and access to safe and secure accommodation needs to be improved’.

“I am now calling on the new Government to ensure that funding is prioritised for a domestic violence refuge in Laois. Laois Domestic Abuse Service is already extremely overstretched. Despite Laois being an obvious choice for a refuge, from a socio-economic and geographical perspective, the Government have offered no assurances,” she said.

The Laois service recently formed a working group of Laois professionals to campaign for a refuge. The closest refuge to Laois is Teach Tearmainn in Kildare which has space for only four families.

See more on the confidential supports offered by Laois Domestic Abuse Service on their website here.