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19 Aug 2022

Government accepts need for eight family refuge spaces for Laois

Government accepts need for eight family refuge spaces for Laois

A new report by the child and family protection agency TUSLA has backed the need for a refuge in Laois for women who have been the victim of domestic violence.

The report says Laois should have eight family refuge spaces. The county is among 10 locations nationwide recommended to get a total of 82 new spaces. 

Laois is waiting on a permanent shelter in Portlaoise, with Laois County Council, the Laois Offaly Garda Division and Laois Domestic Abuse Service working together to make it a reality.

Earlier this month, Laois Domestic Abuse Service confirmed to the Leinster Express that a site has been identified in Portlaoise to build a purpose built safe unit, that would have individual homes in a safe enclosed setting.

However Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland declined to confirm the site until the deal was over the line, speaking at the January meeting. 

Laois/Offaly Fine Gael TD, Charlie Flanagan welcomed the inclusion of Portlaoise Refuge as a priority in the publication of the Tusla review of accommodation services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

He said that while the review says that a minimum of between 50 and 60 new refuge places are needed as a priority, further analysis has identified 10 locations nationwide where the delivery of 82 family refuge spaces would have the most impact if prioritised

“I have been working on this issue over recent years and am delighted that the green light has now been signalled. I am assured that resources are not an obstacle.

“I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Marna Carroll of the Laois Domestic Abuse Service, Chief Superintendent John Scanlon and his team at Garda HQ Portlaoise and John Mulholland of Laois County Council," he said.

Sean Fleming T.D., Minister of State in the Department of Finance welcomed the plan to provide a new 8 unit refuge for victims of domestic violence in Portlaoise.

"This is welcome news for victims of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based violence and their children. There has been no such facility in Laois up to now and this is a major improvement that people will be able to seek refuge accommodation within the county.

"I personally discussed this matter with An Taoiseach, the Minster for Justice, Laois County Council and Laois Domestic Abuse Service throughout 2021. I received commitment from the Government before Christmas that this 8 bed unit would be approved for Portlaoise.

"I have been guaranteed by the Government that the funding is immediately in place to progress and complete this new 8 unit refuge. It is great to have this official announcement today. I will be personally working with all interested parties to ensure the accommodation is available for victims as soon as possible.

"Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-based Violence should never be tolerated in our society, but while we continue our work to achieve our shared goal of zero tolerance we need to protect and support the victims. Finally I want to thank all those who have been directly involved in this project in recent times and we will continue to work together until the Domestic Abuse refuge is finally completed, staffed and in full operation," Minister Fleming said.

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, today welcomed the publication of the Tusla review of accommodation services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

The Ministers also outlined the priority areas for refuge provision, as well as long term structural reforms to improve supports for victims and tackle domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

The Tusla review highlights gaps in geographical coverage and inadequate provision of safe accommodation, including refuges, to meet the country’s needs. It recommends an approach to address these issues with immediate, medium and long-term actions required.

At the end of 2021, Tusla funded 155 DSGBV-related accommodation units, provided by 44 organisations. These consisted of 137 refuge units and 18 safe houses.  In addition, Tusla supports 16 rape crisis/sexual violence organisations who provide critical and specialist services to victims.

The Ministers acknowledge the need to dramatically increase the provision of refuges.

While the review says that a minimum of between 50 and 60 new refuge places are needed as a priority, further analysis has identified 10 locations nationwide where the delivery of 82 family refuge spaces would have the most impact if prioritised.

These locations and refuge need have been chosen on the basis of required proximity to a refuge, as well as a need for refuge spaces per population in densely populated areas.

These represent areas where there is the most significant under-provision and represent a starting point to increasing refuge spaces comprehensively and in every county across the country.

They are:

·         Sligo (8 family places)

·         Cavan/Monaghan (8 family places)

·         Cork city (12 family places – 6 new, 6 replacement)

·         North Cork (5 family places)

·         West Cork (5 family places)

·         Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown (10 family places)

·         Westmeath (8 family places – four new, four replacements)

·         Portlaoise (8 family places)

·         Balbriggan (10 family places)

·         Longford (8 family places)

 

In addition to the locations identified by Tusla, there will now be engagement with local authorities, government departments and State agencies to source refuge provision in Offaly, Carlow, Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan/Monaghan.

The timelines for delivery of these places, as well as further targets for nationwide delivery of refuge accommodation, will be outlined by Minister McEntee as part of the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender based violence and accompanying action plans, which will be published in April.

Reformed structures for delivering refuge spaces, to accelerate the process and ensure a truly nationwide availability of services, will also be included in the new strategy.

Minister McEntee also asked the many local organisations doing excellent work in this area to come forward to Tusla, working initially with its partners on a new interdepartmental group until new processes are established, if they need assistance in furthering projects to provide refuge places.

The Minister today updated those working in the sector on the third national strategy, which has been co-designed with those working on the frontline with victims. The Minister will also launch a wider public consultation tomorrow (Thursday).

The new structures include consideration of a new statutory agency on domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

This agency, which will require legislation, staffing and funding to succeed, will be tasked with:

 

·         Delivering excellent services to victims of DSGBV, which will include delivering on the number of safe and accessible accommodation spaces needed for victims of DSGBV, as well as ensuring that helpline and other supports are available to everyone who requires them;

·         Ensuring a robust set of national service standards and governance arrangements are in place to ensure adherence to the appropriate standards for such supports;

·         Answering to the Minister for Justice, following policy direction set by the Minister and the Department of Justice and, working with the Minister, co-ordinating the actions of the third national strategy across government

·         Reporting to a dedicated Cabinet sub committee

·         Leading on awareness raising campaigns designed to reduce the incidence of DSGBV in Irish society as well as ensuring that all victims know how to access the supports they require;

·         Leading on consistent and ongoing research to inform DSGBV policy development, working with others, such as the CSO, who have research and data projects underway.

 

Publication of the accommodation review follows the recent publication of an independent audit of responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender based violence across Government.

On foot of this audit it has been agreed that the Department of Justice will take over responsibility for service delivery, in addition to its policy responsibility for this important area. The new agency would form a major part of this approach.

Until the new agency is established, Tusla will report to the Minister for Justice for service provision for domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

Minister McEntee said:

“It is clear that we have a lot to do to achieve our shared goal of zero tolerance of domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

“It is also clear that it will undoubtedly be a challenge to meet the needs of our vulnerable women and men who need our help. But it is a challenge I have no doubt that we will meet.

“To do so, we must put in place structures and policies which will protect and support victims for generations, and bring about the societal shift in attitudes that is so desperately needed.

“We must also take action in the near term, and I intend to prioritise a significant number of areas for accommodation need and, in the medium term, there will be further service expansion in other areas.

“The response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is a cross departmental and multi-agency issue. I’m leading the development across Government on our new national strategy, which will set an overall goal of zero tolerance for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

“It will also make provision for how we deliver refuge spaces, both in the immediate and longer term, to cater for the needs of victims.

“It is my goal that everyone who needs a refuge space will get one, and we will work with those working in the sector to achieve that goal.

“I would urge any local organisations around the country to come forward to Tusla, working initially with its partners on a new interdepartmental group until new processes are established, if they need assistance in furthering projects to provide refuge places.”

The Minister has established a High Level Interdepartmental Group to look at the issue of delivery and how it can be improved.

Minister O’Gorman said:

“The Government is committed to delivering a strong response to domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence. It is clear that more needs to be done, both for those who are in immediate need of a safe place, but also in tackling the root causes of gender-based violence in Ireland. Through the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-based Violence, we can deliver that transformative change.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to Tusla for producing this review, which will help guide the Government’s wider response to the provision of services, and for their ongoing work supporting victims of domestic violence.”

Coordination and delivery structures are being finalised but they will include support from the Cabinet Committee on Social Affairs and Equality, chaired by the Taoiseach, and a high level oversight board co-chaired by the Secretary General to Government and the Secretary General of the Department of Justice.

Minister McEntee added,

“Today we spoke with the NGO sector about the Tusla accommodation review and shared a draft of the third national strategy as part of our ongoing consultation. Tomorrow I will launch a public consultation on the strategy.

“Following these consultations, the strategy and action plan will be finalised, brought to Government and published as soon as possible.”

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