Thursday, 22 October 2020

Ceisteanna (14)

Martin Browne


14. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Justice her views on whether an additional €400,000 in additional funding will be sufficient for organisations and groups responding to increased service demands from persons impacted by domestic abuse Covid-19 restrictions; if consideration is being given to tailoring the methods used to prevent and to deal with instances of domestic crime now that additional funding has been allocated to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32027/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (5 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Justice)

Is the additional €400,000 in funding significant for organisations and groups responding to increased violence and demands from persons affected by domestic abuse during Covid-19 restrictions? Will consideration be given to tailoring the methods used to prevent or deal with incidents of domestic violence crime now that additional funding for this has been allocated to the Minister's Department?

I thank the Deputy for raising an important current matter. We have seen how incidents of domestic violence have, unfortunately, been increasing in any event but have increased further since the onset of Covid-19. I am very conscious of that and it is the reason we allocated the additional funding this year.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter and I very much share his concerns for those who have been affected by domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, my predecessor as Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, ensured additional resources, support, enforcement and services were made available to key organisations in this area. This support was maintained and increased in last week's budget allocations and is of primary consideration in the context of the move to level 5 in the national framework for living with Covid-19.

My Department also initiated and continues to run the "Still Here" public awareness campaign, which we updated and refreshed this year. We do this in partnership with public sector organisations and the non-governmental organisation sector. The "Still Here" campaign is about getting the message out that services continue to be available to victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence no matter what.

I reassure the Deputy, and more important, anyone who is a victim or at risk of domestic or sexual abuse, that help continues to be available. An Garda Síochána, the courts and other services, including the vital supports provided by our highly skilled and committed community and voluntary services, are still here for them regardless of the restrictions we are facing in the coming weeks. Throughout the first lockdown phase, the Garda Síochána was particularly active through Operation Faoiseamh and the courts, which were mainly closed, remained open to help those who were vulnerable, particularly those who were victims of domestic violence.

The time for questions has expired but I will allow Deputy Martin Browne to complete this round.

We have broached the incredibly important subject of domestic violence previously. I raised the matter with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Roderic O'Gorman, during the week. It seems to me that €400,000 is a relatively small increase in funding for the incredibly important work of various organisations to tackle domestic abuse and care for those affected. Does this figure include accommodation? The Minister told me during the week that there had been difficulties in securing such accommodation earlier this year, and that hotels and similar types of accommodation had to be used. Is this still an issue or has it been addressed to some extent?

Some €2 million has been provided for victims of crime. That includes victims of domestic and sexual violence. On top of that, an additional €327,000 has been assigned to enabling those organisations to promote their services so that people know they are there. That funding is not intended to enable them to carry out the services. As the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs outlined, he has secured an additional €61 million for Tusla, which funds many of the services that provide the support. Much of the funding from my Department is devoted to making people aware of the services. A significant amount comes from Deputy O'Gorman's Department.

Moreover, this is not just about funding. The fact that the courts have remained open throughout the pandemic is extremely important. I refer to a very important element of progress. The Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020, which I passed in the summer, allows people to partake in a court proceedings online. For the first time ever, an online court order has been issued to a woman who is self-isolating through the Ennis district. This is very welcome progress, particularly for those in vulnerable positions.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.