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400 Laois families seek help to escape domestic abuse as new refuge planned

400 Laois families seek help to escape domestic abuse as new refuge planned

The lack of accommodation for Laois families trying to escape domestic abuse has been highlighted to Laois County Council.

Some 400 women and their children used the Laois support service last year but a refuge is needed says Portlaoise Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley.

“I’m in regular contact with Laois Domestic Abuse Service. I’ve referred some women. It is a vital service in our community. It is a lifeline. Covid has had a significant impact. They are looking to provide a refuge for families in the county. While the numbers haven’t significantly risen in Laois, the severity of abuse at home for women has. 

“Over 400 a year engage their services. They have had difficulties trying to manage access orders and barring orders. Women are dealing with coercive control, abusive behaviour, excessible drinking at home, physical and verbal abuse. 

“There are no physical meetings to support them because of Covid, it is all on the phone.  They have people saying that money is being controlled, being held back. The impact for children is off the scale. We won’t know the impact for years to come. 

She tabled a motion to the May meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District, asking the council to give a progress report on the plan to create a Laois refuge. 

Cllr Dwane Stanley also described the lack of staffing for LDAS whose office is based in Portlaoise.

“They have five employees, full and part time. They need to be able to up their game, they need another full time administrator, up from 20 hours a week. Their child support worker needs to be full time. There are 100 families a year going out of the county for beds. Our housing worker is supportive, finding emergency accommodation if necessary. That speaks for itself, it shows the demand. 

“A lot of work is going on to find a site. I hope that Laois County Council will support that. They are applying for CAS funding which gives 80% of the cost, they need to fundraise the 20%. I’ve no doubt the public will give that. 

“I ask that my colleagues support this motion. The council has 25 acres at Tyrrell’s. We have the mental grounds on the Dublin road and plenty of sites but Tyrrell’s is ideal. It’s my opinion that LDAS will engage with the council and give a presentation with further information,” Cllr Dwane Stanley said.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald seconded the motion.

“This is a service that is badly needed. A refuge has to be local with children in schools and in sports,” she said.

Cllr Thomasina Connell says that families are staying in violent and controlling situations because there is nowhere to go in Laois.

“I work in that area and there has been a massive spike in violence. We have a significant problem in Laois. There is a refuge in Longford which families are sent to. They don’t want to go that far. The demand exists. Women are staying in very difficult situations because there is no refuge. I’ve seen it first hand. We all need to put our shoulder to the wheel and get a refuge,” she said. 

Laois County Council’s Director of Services for housing is Joe Delaney.

He replied that the council is in regular contact with Laois Domestic Abuse Service. Funding for a refuge has been sought through the Capital Assistance Scheme with the council giving part of the cost. Buying a suitable site is the first step to be taken.  

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