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Domestic violence services at 'tipping point'

The number of domestic abuse cases against women rose last year, but Safe Ireland says that over a third more women were unable to access emergency accommodation.

Image: David Cheskin/PA Wire

THE NUMBER of women who could not be accommodated in domestic violence refuge centres rose by over a third last year, meaning that on over 3,000 occasions women and children seeking refuge could not find a space in support services.

Safe Ireland says that the latest figures for domestic violence in Ireland show that existing service have reached tipping point.

A total of 7,235 women received assistance from domestic abuse services last year, up 1 per cent on 2009.

Meanwhile, 2,850 children received support from domestic violence services last year, with 2,355 individual children admitted to a refuge.

Releasing its national statistics for domestic violence last year, Safe Ireland says that the overall number of women and children who received support from domestic violence services appeared to level off last year.

However, it says that there is an increasing trend in the severity of the situations, with more incidents becoming an emergency accommodation crisis. Last year, there were 1,993 admissions to a women’s refuge, while 39 women were accommodated in transitional housing. Helplines received 38,629 calls from around the state in 2010.

Safe Ireland director Sharon O’Halloran said that “the devil is in the detail”:

The real pressure points are being seen in the number of times women cannot be accommodated immediately. These women and their children are the tragic fall-out of Ireland’s abject and consistent failure to meet European minimum requirements for refuge.

O’Halloran said that the shortage of emergency accommodation exacerbates the stress and anxiety of  the situation. She added that the organisation’s 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”.

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On over 3,000 occasions, services were unable to accommodate women or children last year either because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in the area.

The number of women who received support rose by 21 per cent since 2008 and the number admitted to a refuge grew by 10 per cent last year compared to 2008. Six per cent more children received domestic violence support in 2010 compared to 2008, and 4 per cent more individual children were admitted to a refuge.

O’Halloran said that the focus on spending cuts and savings means that women are being left in limbo because of cuts across a range of services and are unable to move on with their lives.

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