Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Awareness of instances of domestic, sexual, and gender based-violence
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which his Department has noted various experiences of women and children who may be under threat from domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, including those in the care of the State and or by orders of courts; his plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) under the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013. Supports are generally provided through funded NGO service providers.
In the course of its work, Tusla will also become aware of instances of DSGBV through the provision of its other services such as child protection and welfare and alternative care. Domestic abuse also constitutes a form of child abuse, as detailed in the Children First National Guidance Tusla may instigate child protection and welfare assessments and interventions where they receive a referral of domestic abuse.
These are operational matters for Tusla and I as Minister am not made aware of individual cases, nor do I have a role in intervening in individual cases.
Funding of DSGBV services has increased from €23.8m in 2018 to €30m in 2022 and €38.534m in 2023.
Tusla currently provides funding to approximately 60 DSGBV services, including 22 providing emergency refuge accommodation, and 16 rape crisis or sexual violence services. Tusla has a specific unit dedicated to DSGBV services, which has greatly raised awareness of the sector and fostered relationships with key service providers and NGOs. Funding to these services through Tusla has afforded the establishment and expansion of phone helplines and availability of services from NGOs.
Tusla’s approach reflects community-focused integrated response for victims, where community-based organisations and outreach supports are in place alongside refuges.
Tusla is increasing its focus on child protection in domestic violence cases through the allocation of Domestic Violence Support Workers to each Tusla Area (representing an additional 13.5 whole time equivalent specialist workers). This arose from engagement with DSGBV services, demonstrating an increased need for specialist child protection focus in domestic violence cases in addition to care for adult victims. This initiative will enable child protection teams to enhance their response to child protection and welfare referrals.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has agreed that the Department of Justice will be the lead Department with responsibility for responding to DSGBV, and that responsibility for policy, accommodation and services will also sit within the Department of Justice. Tusla will continue to have responsibility for accommodation and services while the new administrative arrangements are put in place. A new dedicated agency for DSGBV will be established under the Department of Justice in 2024.
The establishment of this new agency by the Department of Justice will not impact the continued provision of child protection services in domestic violence cases by Tusla.
The Department of Justice launched the ‘Zero Tolerance’ strategy in 2022, which commits to doubling the number of refuge places within its lifetime. The Zero Tolerance Strategy also commits to examining other options for victims of domestic violence, such as addressing barriers to remaining in the home if that is their preferred option. The overarching priority over the lifetime of this Strategy is to ensure that everybody who needs a refuge space will get one.
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill has passed all stages in the Oireachtas, and when enacted will introduce a new right to domestic violence leave. Ireland will become one of the first countries in Europe to introduce a right to paid leave for victims of domestic violence.
The Department of Social Protection has also introduced a rent supplement for survivors of DSGBV.
It is important that the needs of those who experience domestic violence are met in the most appropriate way possible.
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