Number of women and children unable to find refuge up 38%


WOMEN AND children in situations of domestic violence could not access refuges more than 3,000 times last year, a 38 per cent increase on equivalent figures for 2009, a report has found.

The figures are contained in the National Statistics on Domestic Violence 2010 report, which was released yesterday by Safe Ireland.

A total of 1,993 women and 2,355 children accessed refuge places last year.

However, on 3,236 occasions, 3,004 of which involved children, services around the State were unable to accommodate those who sought their services, either because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in their area.

The figures find the number of women who were able to access accommodation in refuges last year actually fell by 6 per cent.

Sharon O’Halloran, director of Safe Ireland, which represents 39 frontline domestic violence services nationwide, said cutbacks meant essential new refuges were not opening while existing refuges were finding it more difficult to maintain their services.

She said the latest statistics showed that existing services had reached tipping point in Ireland, which had just one-third of the refuge capacity recommended by the Council of Europe.

“These women and their children are the tragic fallout of Ireland’s abject and consistent failure to meet European minimum requirements for refuge,” she said. “When a woman leaves her house with her children, often in the middle of the night, she should expect to be accommodated safely behind the first door she knocks on.

“While accommodation is found for all women who come to a refuge, if it is not immediately available, it only prolongs the stress and anxiety of the situation.

“Refuge accommodation is not just about getting a roof over your head. Our refuge and support services are staffed by professionals who have over 30 years’ experience in providing for the physical, mental and emotional needs of women and children leaving abuse.”

Ms O’Halloran said that women and children were feeling the brunt of some statutory agency policies that were often about saving money over the needs of people.

The overall number of women and children receiving support from domestic violence services grew to 7,235 last year, up slightly on 2009 when 7,171 women contacted the agencies around the State.

The number of helpline calls received by services across Ireland reached 38,629 last year.