Women and Children First?
The new Programme For Government addresses the issue of domestic violence (at p. 72) and pledges in particular that the government will ‘set up a Domestic Violence Fund under which we will increase the number of refuge spaces.’ Yesterday – on the same day that the children’s organisation Barnardo’s reported a serious shortfall in its funding – the national representative body for women’s frontline domestic violence services Safe Ireland launched two important reports – Safety and Change and On the 4th November 2008 – which underscore the importance of making this promise a reality. Launching the reports, the Director of Safe Ireland, Sharon O’ Halloran said:
“I would like to be able to tell you we are making significant progress to eradicate this violence, but I cannot. What I will tell you is that services are being cut back all the time by this Government, that services are stretched and cannot stretch any more…We are hearing talk of cuts of up to 30 per cent to some services. That’s staff, resources, supports all being cut, at a time when demand is up. As I said, we know it increased 21 per cent last year and we know it’s going to be further up this year.”
Safety and Change is an evaluation of Irish women’s refuges by Prof Cris Sullivan of Michigan State University which surveys the views of women who have used their services. The evaluation is a fantastic resource – the first of its kind in Europe – and will reward in-depth reading. On the 4th November 2008 presents a census. Safe Ireland counted the number of women and children receiving support and accommodation from its organisations due to domestic violence within a 24 hour period. The following graphics are taken from the census document. The 6 women represented in the last graphic form part of a group of 1,722 women who could not be accommodated at refuges last year due to lack of space.