Plan to cut funding to rape crisis network postponed


PLANS BY the Health Service Executive to cut funding to a rape crisis network which would have forced it to close have been postponed pending a review.

The HSE informed Rape Crisis Network Ireland recently it was cutting its core funding of about €270,000 a year which the network’s executive director Fiona Neary says would have put its future in jeopardy.

The network, which was set up in 1985, collates data from all 15 rape crisis centres across the country, develops policies for the centres and provides training for support staff who accompany victims to court.

It is based in Galway and has six staff, four of whom have been put on protective notice as a result of the HSE’s proposal.

Ms Neary said while the HSE had plans to take over the collection of data itself in an attempt to save money, an independent expert assessment conducted by Dr Maureen Lyons of UCD found what the HSE proposed would result in the data which was collected being unreliable.

She said while the network was not involved in the frontline delivery of services, the work it did allowed rape crisis centres to concentrate on delivering services to victims. If it closed the centres would not be able to provide the same level of services to victims, she said.

“This is an illusion, a false economy being presented by the HSE,” Ms Neary said.

The HSE also plans to cut the funding to the domestic violence network Safe Ireland.

A HSE spokeswoman said it spent in excess of €20 million a year on domestic violence and sexual violence services through a number of service providers and two network organisations and it was looking at how this money was spent so as to ensure greater value.

“As part of a review into how these services are currently delivered and funded, the HSE is planning to provide some of these services directly. The HSE is currently in discussions with service providers regarding new arrangements which will come into effect later this year. This will have client needs at the core of planning and strategy and will be designed to protect these frontline services. The new arrangements will eliminate any duplication of resources; ensure transparency and accountability and, importantly, value for money for the taxpayer,” it said.

The matter was raised in the Dáil last week by Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Responding on behalf of the Government, the Minister of State for Health Róisín Shortall said the HSE had been instructed by Minister for Health James Reilly “to extend the current funding to the Rape Crisis Network and Safe Ireland until August 1st” to allow him and his officials time to review the changes to funding arrangements proposed by the HSE.

She also said the HSE had stressed if the changes were made money saved would still be spent in the area of supporting victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.