The Programme for Government commits to full implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention). Responsibility for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.
The Istanbul Convention is a significant legal instrument in tackling violence against women and domestic violence. Many of the actions required by provisions in the Istanbul Convention are being implemented on a daily basis under current legislation and administrative practice. The actions necessary to ratify the Istanbul Convention are contained in the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, published in January, 2016.
The implementation of most of these actions is underway including public sector training/education by a range of State agencies, the development of a Risk Assessment Matrix by An Garda Síochána, commissioning of national helpline services to respond to issues of domestic and sexual violence and support for child witnesses.
The remaining outstanding actions are legislative and require delivery of two pieces of legislation:
- The Domestic Violence Bill, which was published on 3rd February, 2017. The Bill has passed all stages in the Seanad and Second Stage in the Dáil. Committee stage is expected to commence shortly in the Dáil. It is hoped that this Bill will be enacted early this year. The enactment of this legislation is key to advancing the ratification of the Istanbul Convention as its enactment will deliver four of the actions required under the Istanbul Convention.
- The one remaining legislative action is the enactment of legislation for extraterritorial jurisdiction. Work on this action is underway and it is anticipated that this legislation will be published in the first half of 2018.
- When the required legislative actions are implemented, Ireland will be in a position to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
- Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the provision of care and protection to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV).
- In 2017, additional funding of €1.5m was allocated to Tusla to support the development of services. I was pleased to secure a further increase of €1.7m for 2018, bringing the total level of funding for DSGBV services to €23.8m. This includes funding for some 60 services throughout the country, including emergency refuge and support services.
The provision of domestic violence refuge spaces nationally in 2017 was 155 family units, comprising 147 emergency refuge family units and 8 emergency non-refuge family units. Guidance from the Council of Europe in relation to the provision of family places in a refuge indicates that “In member states where shelters form part of a community strategy with intervention projects, there should be one family place per 10,000 women”. Using the methodology set out by the Council of Europe, based on average family size and overall bed capacity, where a "family place should cater for a woman and the number of children based on the average family size for the country", current provision in Ireland is one family place per 7,765 adult women thus exceeding the recommendation for minimum refuge provision.
However, given the variations in configurations of unit size and type, the emergency basis of provision and geographical distribution of demand, it is impossible to ensure a direct match between available units and family size and there have been geographical disparities in provision across the country. Tusla recognises the need to assure that the complement of emergency refuge services nationally matches as best as possible within available resources, demands for services and the needs of service users.
Services for victims of domestic abuse in the North East region, namely counties Louth, Meath, Cavan, and Monaghan, received approximately €1.4m in funding from Tusla in 2017. Services to victims of domestic violence in counties Cavan and Monaghan are provided by Tearmann Domestic Violence Services, which received funding of approximately €192,000 from Tusla in 2017 for the provision of support and advocacy services to victims. Individuals based in West Cavan can avail of the services of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service for Sligo, Leitrim and West Cavan, which also provides support and advocacy services. This service received approximately €317,000 in funding in 2017. Subject to the availability of spaces, women from counties Cavan and Monaghan may also avail of refuge services in Dublin or other parts of the country in line with availability of spaces and safety needs.
Tusla has no immediate plans to provide a refuge in the Cavan/Monaghan area. There are three refuges situated in Drogheda, Co. Louth; Dundalk, Co. Louth; and Navan, Co. Meath, which provide emergency domestic violence accommodation to women based in the North East region. This includes 21 family units of emergency refuge accommodation.
As part of its commissioning approach to developing services, Tusla carried out a number of needs analyses projects in 2017 to identify gaps in service provision and to prioritise service developments. All future service developments, whether based in the North East region or elsewhere, will be informed by Tusla’s commissioning approach. In 2017, Tearmann Domestic Violence Services completed a Strategic Plan as a means of improving and developing services in counties Cavan and Monaghan. Tusla will meet Tearmann Domestic Violence Services and other partners shortly with a view to supporting these developments.