I raise the absence of any accommodation in the midlands for victims of domestic violence. Nine counties do not have any such accommodation, including Laois and Offaly. Children and victims are sent as far as three counties away, to Limerick, to domestic violence refuges. More than 100 families went from Laois alone last year. This cannot continue. There is a shortage of places in the State overall. We need to increase the numbers of beds and accommodation. We all know that people are at their most vulnerable when fleeing domestic violence. The victims often feel they have no option but to return. People working with them will say as much. The Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, knows as a public representative that they will sometimes return to the family home where they have been abused. The abuse then continues. This can be repeated several times due to the lack of real alternatives. That cycle has to be broken.
This is the third decade in which I have raised the lack of facilities in Laois and Offaly. Marna Carroll and her team in the Laois domestic abuse service have called for this. We urgently need a domestic violence refuge in County Laois. In Offaly, Anne Clarke is manager of the Offaly domestic violence support services, which badly needs facilities. It uses a different model, which it calls three safe houses, in Birr, Tullamore and Edenderry, because of the geography of the county. It tries to work in partnership with the county council, but it needs the Government's backing and support.
I welcome the review that the Government published, but it tells us the obvious, which I or people who work in the service could have said. It states that nine counties do not have services and that there are huge geographical gaps, including in the midlands. I appeal to the Minister of State to address this. Provision is totally inadequate. There is no provision across the midlands for those victims. The State does not have enough spaces overall. I see the Minister of State's reply indicates that the lack of overall spaces will be addressed. The middle of the country is without any facilities. Those three safe houses are needed in Offaly. Laois has a different model, with a domestic violence refuge. It is a good match between the two counties. A high-level interdepartmental working group has been set up to review the current system of provision of refuge spaces. I am concerned that this could go on for years. We need to simplify it.
A number of Departments are involved here. We sometimes talk about bringing in all the stakeholders, consulting everybody and getting everybody involved. There is an old saying that when everybody is responsible, nobody is responsible. I am concerned that Tusla, the Department of Justice and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth are all involved, but somebody needs to catch the bull by the horns to steer this and drive it on. This has been going on for years. As we talk here this morning, there are people who have just fled domestic violence situations. The murder of Ashling Murphy brought home the nature of violence against women. I know that was not domestic violence, but it reinforced in people's heads the need to urgently address this. There are real situations with families every day of the week. I do not think anybody in the House would disagree with what is needed. We need to get on with it.