Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has accused the government of ‘abandoning women victims of domestic violence by imposing harsh and unacceptable cuts to funding for refuges that are trying to help victims and their children.”
Teachta Adams said: “Funding figures released to me by Jan O Sullivan, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on funding for homeless services, and in particular for women’s refuges for victims of domestic violence, make grim and disgraceful reading. The funding figures expose the extent to which this government has broken its election promises and turned its back on homeless families and in particular those who depend on refuges in times of crisis.
“Following the announcement by Dundalk Women’s Refuge two weeks ago that it was going to close in June because of a significant cut in its funding, I submitted a series of Dáil questions.
In her reply the Minister explains that her department ‘provides funding to housing authorities towards the operational costs of homeless accommodation and related services under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988. Housing authorities provide additional funding from their own resources.’
The funding allocated for homeless accommodation across the state has been slashed from €56 million in 2009 to €45 million in 2013.
In that same period Louth has seen its funding cut by €317,488 from €1,197,451 to €879,963.
This has occurred at a time when a report from the Housing Agency has projected that a minimum of almost 80,000 residential units, or 15,932 units per year will be required in urban areas to support the population over the next five years.
The report also highlighted a striking need for housing in Drogheda town and Dundalk, where 1,284 and 1,088 units respectively are required between now and 2018.
The government’s response to housing need has been to cut homeless funding.
Cuts to Domestic Violence Refuges
More starkly however is the government’s ruthless approach to the victims of domestic violence. According to the government’s own figures the funding it now provides to domestic violence refuges in the North East region, which covers Louth, Monaghan and Cavan, has almost disappeared in the last five years.
In 2009 the region received €155,746. Five years later this has plummeted by over 90% to €12,900 – a massive cut of €142,846.
Women’s Aid Dundalk is one of only two refuges covering three counties. It is in the frontline of helping victims of domestic violence. It provides a 24/7 service. Last year the demand on its services were such that it was unable to accommodate 293 requests for refuge.
One consequence of this is that Drogheda Women’s Refuge which has limited space will now have to cope with victims from Louth, Cavan and Monaghan.
The loss of the Dundalk service will leave hundreds of women and children vulnerable to continued domestic violence.
Cuts to Rape Centres
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has also revealed that funding to Rape Crisis Centres and refuges previously funded by the HSE and which are now the responsibility of the new Child and Family Agency, have also seen significant cuts over the last five years.
These services, which are separate from the homeless refuge provision have seen funding in Louth cut by €202,272 from €1,060,053 in 2009 to €857,781 in 2013. This has occurred at a time when demand on these services has grown.
The reality is that services and support for women and children is now at an all time low and this is especially true for those experiencing abuse.
These cuts to services for some of the most vulnerable in our society are a clear breach of the commitments of Fine Gael and Labour in their Programme for Government and echoed in both the Labour and Fine Gael’s election manifesto. Indeed the Labour party manifesto went further containing a commitment to: “protect funding for frontline services, such as family refuges, and draw on best international practice to reform the way the courts system deals with domestic abuse case”.
Clearly the opposite is occurring and frontline services such a family refuges are now under serious threat. The government, but particularly the Labour Party, needs to honour its commitments, reverse the cutbacks and acknowledge the extent of this problem.
Domestic violence is a significant problem that will not go away and is a cause of great hurt and hardship. The legislative and practical steps needed to provide for victims and prosecute abusers are known. It needs political will by government to make it happen. “