Saoirse calls on Government to clarify funding for domestic violence services

Saoirse has called for clarity from the Government on the level of funding that will be provided to the hard-pressed sector as it continues to deal with increasing levels of domestic abuse and coercive control.

 Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, Acting CEO said that while Government has continuously name-checked domestic violence as a Covid-19 priority this has not yet been backed up by the resources and infrastructural modernisation needed by services throughout the country.

Ellens Head SHot compressor

Ellen O’Malley Dunlop

 She added that Saoirse would also now be contacting all local politicians in Dublin South West to outline the challenges that the service is dealing with and to urge them to join with it in seeking clarity on funding and development plans.

The call comes as Safe Ireland, the national agency for domestic violence working with 39 frontline services across the country, including Saoirse, presented a new report, called Tracking the Shadow Pandemic, outlining the prevalence of abuse and coercive control over the first six months of living with Covid-19, from March to August 2020. 

 The report shows that, in total, nearly 2,000 women and over 400 children received support from a domestic violence service every month during that period. It also shows that a total of 3,450 women and 589 children who had never, as far as is known, contacted a domestic violence service before, looked for support and safety from March to August. Saoirse’s Outreach and Prevention Service alone responded to 521 families with 974 children under 18.

There were 3,483 support calls and 122 court accompaniments. In one month alone Saoirse had 25 women and 28 children in refuge and the 24 hour Helpline dealt with 1,132 calls.

 A staggering 33,941 helpline calls were answered across the country over the period, that’s an average of 184 calls every day. In addition, services had to adopt and reconfigure, almost overnight, to provide vital, virtual services to women in lockdown.

Across the country, services held 33,624 phone support sessions, 575 video support sessions in addition to 8,143 in-person support sessions. Helpline emails, texts and online chat messages became more important than ever before.

Services received 2,260 helpline emails, 3,452 texts and 1,047 online chat messages.

 “Since the start of Covid-19 the government has prioritised domestic violence and we have always welcomed this” Ellen O’Malley Dunlop said. “But calling something a priority means that it also has to be name-checked in the national budget, and funded and resourced as a priority.”

“Almost overnight, we had to completely change the way we work to ensure that women and children trapped in abusive homes could find safety and professional support,” she continued. “We have pulled out all the stops to respond to the increasing and complex needs of women and children since March.”

 “But this huge effort is coming on top of decades of coping with an inadequate national support and historic under-funding.  Services like ours are now at breaking point.

The system is broken, the infrastructure is antiquated, the money is not clear and the promises have run dry.”

 Safe Ireland recommended that €7.5 million was needed for services in Budget 2021 to ensure that they can meet the current and growing demands they are facing.

The reports shows that demands on services have increased month by month since March and that Lockdown 2 has increased demand and needs further. 

 It has also called for a national services development plan, to be developed by Safe Ireland in collaboration with services on the ground like Saoirse.

To date, there has been no clarity from Government on additional funding or on how it is going to transform the out of date infrastructure.

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