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Departmental Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 29 March 2022

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Questions (135)

Fergus O'Dowd


135. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide an update on the discussions that have taken place within her Department and with other key Departments with regard to addressing and increasing funding and supports for refuge services across the country which are at breaking point in many cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16069/22]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

It is my goal that everyone who needs a refuge space will get one, and I am deeply committed to working with our partners in the sector and with my Government colleagues to achieve that.

This Government has prioritised tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) in all its forms, and ensuring that people, particularly women and vulnerable people, feel safe and are safe in our communities.

As the Deputy is aware, I am currently leading work on a new whole of government strategy to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. This new plan will have a particular focus on prevention, and on ensuring victims are better supported.

It is my intention to publish the final strategy and accompanying action plan as soon as possible in the coming weeks.

Minister O’Gorman and I also commissioned an independent audit of how responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender based violence is segmented across Government.

On foot of this, it has been agreed that my Department will assume responsibility for services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender based violence, in addition to policy responsibility and overall cross-Government coordination of implementation.

A detailed plan setting out how this will work is in preparation.

In relation to the specific issue of refuge spaces, in February Minister O’Gorman and I published the review by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, of accommodation for victims of domestic violence.

The review highlights gaps in geographical coverage and inadequate provision of safe accommodation, including refuges, to meet population needs. It recommended an approach to address this with immediate, medium and long term actions required and it provides a list of priority areas where additional services would address the most immediate need.

While the review says that a minimum of between 50 and 60 new refuge places are needed as a priority, further analysis has identified 10 locations nationwide where the delivery of 82 family refuge spaces would have the most impact if prioritised.

These locations and refuge need have been chosen on the basis of required proximity to a refuge, as well as a need for refuge spaces per head of population in densely populated areas.

These represent areas where there is the most significant under-provision and represent a starting point to increasing refuge spaces comprehensively and in every county across the country.

I fully acknowledge the need to dramatically increase the provision of refuges across the country, and key to this will be ensuring organisations can access funding.

I have established a high level Inter-Departmental Group to review the current system for the provision of refuge spaces and to identify changes that can be made to the system to deliver additional spaces as effectively as possible.

Specific issues for each location are being given due attention and as we progress this work we will be engaging with local authorities, government departments and State agencies across the country to source refuge provision. At the moment I urge any groups with proposals around refuge developments to notify Tusla in the first instance on their plans so they can be helped to progress them as appropriate.

This is a priority for me and I will be making sure this progresses as quickly as possible to ensure we meet the urgent need to make more refuge places available.

Tusla will continue to engage with stakeholders on all aspects of service development as part of its current remit to support the provision of services to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

My intention is that the timelines for delivery of these places, as well as further targets for nationwide delivery of refuge accommodation, will be outlined in the third national strategy and further detail will be contained in the accompanying action plan.