Domestic violence victims lose out on housing due to county rules

Women’s groups warn lack of joined-up thinking among agencies and local authorities means victims of domestic violence face increased risk of further abuse

 

Some victims of domestic violence can’t get access to emergency accommodation because it is outside their home county, the head of a women’s charity has warned.

Director of Women’s Aid Margaret Martin said that a lack of joined-up thinking among agencies and local authorities means victims of domestic violence are at an increased risk of homelessness and further abuse.

She said women often need to leave the area where they live for safety reasons but that they can’t be accommodated outside their home county.

“We could get a call from gardaí­ somewhere in the country about a woman where she is at really high risk and needs a refuge,” Ms Martin said.

“So she wants to go to a certain county which needs to be outside her own county where she is living. So we have to find a refuge place in another county, but they might not take women from outside their own borders.

“Now that is the kind of thing we are facing all the time. It is absolutely ridiculous. We are a small State. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Ms Martin said an informal agreement was reached several years ago between local authorities that domestic violence victims could be accommodated across county lines.

“That seems to have just fallen by the wayside,” she said.

Fiona Ryan, chief executive of the women’s refuge group Sonas, said that much of her staff’s time is taken up with ringing hotels to find emergency beds for the women who come to them because there’s no room in the refuges.

“One of them rang 50 different places in the run-up to last summer,” Ms Ryan said.

“People usually look forward to summer. In our service we’re dreading summer. Why? Because the kids are out of school, so that removes some of the protective factors for women, and the beds are gone.

“Our support workers are supposed to be supporting victims of domestic violence but they’re spending their time ringing hotels to find beds.”

The women were speaking at the launch of a policy document by Sinn Féin TD and spokesman on housing Eoin Ó Broin calling for increased funding and more joined-up thinking in the Government’s approach to domestic violence.

He said housing authorities need to use their discretion in allowing victims from outside their geographical area access to emergency accommodation.

Mr Ó Broin also called for increased data collection on the impact of domestic violence on homeless figures. He pointed to research by SAFE Ireland which suggests at least 4,000 domestic violence victims who are living in refuges or other emergency accommodation are not being counted in the official homeless figures.

According to research by Sonas, one in six homeless families cite domestic violence as the reason they don’t have a stable home.

Women’s Aid say they received 16,375 reports of domestic violence in 2015 including 10,876 incidents of emotional abuse, 3,281 incidents of physical abuse and 1,602 incidents of financial abuse.