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Speech by Minister Zappone

Launch of Women’s Aid Impact Report 2016


Wednesday, 17th May, 2017

 




I would like to thank Margaret Martin, your Chief Executive, for the kind invitation to join you today.

It is a privilege for me to be here to launch the Women’s Aid Impact Report for 2016. 

At the outset, I wish to say how vital your work, and that of the many volunteers, is in providing services to victims of domestic violence.

Without your enormous contribution, and the contribution of all the domestic violence services around the country, the causes and consequences of domestic violence would not be spoken about so openly today.

Over the last 40 years you have been a beacon of light, providing a safe space for victims of domestic violence, to help them come through a dark, difficult and challenging period of their lives.

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, my remit in this area covers several aspects of your work.

Tusla has statutory responsibility for the provision of services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. My Department provides funding to allow Tusla to support some 44 organisations that deliver services to victims of domestic violence in Ireland and 16 organisations that provide sexual violence services.

In 2017, I have provided Tusla with additional funding of €1.5 million, on top of the 2016 base budget of €20.6 million.

Tusla will work closely with organisations such as Women’s Aid regarding service provision.

This year, Tusla is placing a particular emphasis on services for children who experience and witness domestic violence in its commissioning process.

It is important to note that many victims of domestic violence have families, especially children, who are severely impacted by events in the home.

Last year, 3,823 disclosures of child abuse were made to Women’s Aid. This is a large proportion of the total disclosures received by your organisation.

We must do everything we can to ensure that the children affected are provided with the supports they need to overcome these traumatic experiences.

Tusla has also initiated a literature review of the evidence base for best practice in response to children and young people affected by domestic violence.

The documented experiences of children and young people are all-important in planning our future actions.

We need to know what interventions make the greatest impact in children’s lives in order to map the future of service provision.

In doing so, I hope that we can broaden the opportunities available to children and young people affected by domestic violence.

No child should be limited by such early childhood experiences, and yet we know that if left unchecked, the effects of domestic violence can be far-reaching.

I strongly value the role of Women’s Aid, and other domestic service providers, as you work with Tusla to optimise services for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

It is clear from your Impact Report that last year was another busy year for Women’s Aid.

In 2016, there were 136,845 visitors to the Women’s Aid website.

Victims of domestic violence often carry years of suffering with them. This often goes unreported. However, when individuals do take that courageous step to contact services, it is really heartening to see that you offer excellent supports.

There were also 9,594 visitors to the 2in2u dating abuse website last year, which is aimed at educating young people about healthy relationships.

I highly value this kind of work with young people. Early interventions of this kind are so valuable in shaping attitudes and developing lifelong healthy behaviours.

I also know that this is a special year for Women’s Aid as your support Helpline has been operating for 25 years.

Last year you answered 15,952 calls from those experiencing domestic violence, and others concerned for their loved ones.

1,764 telephone calls were also made by your One-to-One services to those seeking support.

In Dublin, you have also been very active on the ground, providing 748 one to one support visits.

I know that your expertise and experience in this area continues to develop.

Every situation is different, and no individual organisation can reach every victim that needs help. 

We must continue to encourage all victims to have the strength and courage to report incidents of domestic violence.

You and the other domestic violence providers are at the forefront of this challenge.

It is good that we have a whole of Government response to tackle the issue of domestic violence.

Women’s Aid has played a powerful role over the years in bringing domestic violence issues into public consciousness and in promoting changes in practice.

You have provided court accompaniment for victims seeking legal redress, a Family Law Court support service, and extensive training on the issue of domestic violence.

It is important that you continue to advocate on behalf of victims of domestic violence.

The Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021 is extremely important in setting out future plans for services in Ireland.

I know that Women’s Aid and other service providers, in collaboration with Tusla, are working hard to achieve the objectives of this strategy.

This is vital to ensure that Ireland will be in a position to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention).

It is heartening to see the progress that has been made to ratify the Istanbul Convention so far.

Under Ireland’s commitments to the Istanbul Convention, Tusla is in the process of formally commissioning two national 24-hour freephone helplines.

These helplines will deal with domestic and sexual violence respectively.

All interested parties will be able to submit an application for the tender for these helplines.

It is hoped that the process will be finalised by the end of this year.

The national domestic violence awareness campaign ‘What would you do?’ was launched in November 2016. This campaign ensures the delivery of a single consistent national message and features TV ads, cinema, radio, outdoor, social and digital advertising.  The campaign also provides an opportunity for each of us, whether in our professional or personal lives, to start a conversation about what we would do if we came across such situations, a question that is rarely easy to answer.

I also welcome the new Domestic Violence Bill, 2017 which seeks to strengthen our laws on domestic violence.

The Bill will improve protections available to victims of domestic violence, particularly cohabitants and parents in crisis situations, and will introduce a new emergency barring order which can last for up to 8 working days.

The Bill also aims to make the court process easier for victims of domestic violence. A victim will have the right to be accompanied to court by a family member, friend or support worker.

A victim will be able to give evidence by live television link.

There will be restrictions on attendance at both civil and criminal court proceedings and protections for the victim’s anonymity.

The enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill will be a major step towards Ireland’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

No matter what legislation is enacted, however, domestic violence will unfortunately still occur.

That is why your services, and the services of other domestic violence service providers, are so important.

With your help, I know that this work will continue, as we strive to create a safer Ireland for all our citizens.

I wish you all every success for the future and compliment you and the other domestic violence service providers on the invaluable work that you do.

Thank you.

ENDS//

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