The Minister for Justice has vowed to deliver more than 400 refuge beds across the country, as part of a plan to boost domestic violence services.
Helen McEntee has also promised to open refuge spaces in the nine counties, one of which is Longford, that currently have no services.
The minister said she also plans to increase the number of spaces in places that have reached capacity.
There are currently nine counties in Ireland that do not have refuges spaces for women and children escaping a violent home.
There are 140 emergency beds across the country, but Ms McEntee said she wants to scale up to 400 and “potentially more”.
The minister is planning to bring the findings of an accommodation review to Cabinet next week.
There has been a major increase in the number of calls for help by victims of domestic violence during lockdowns.
There has also been an increase in the number of breaches of court protection orders.
Ms McEntee said it is her intention to set up refuge spaces in the nine counties currently without any.
The minister said the plan to deal with domestic violence services has been her “priority” since taking up the justice role.
“We’re trying to fill gaps as they exist across the country where my department is responsible for providing support, but there’s a lot of other areas that we need to do,” she told RTE Morning Ireland.
She said that an audit has taken place across the country, looking at how policies are developed and how services and spaces are delivered.
“I’ve listened to and my colleagues have listened to the frontline workers, the community and voluntary sector, those who deliver these services and based on that audit, based on that accommodation review, we’re bringing together the delivery of policy and services,” Ms McEntee added.
“So in a matter of weeks, I will be the lead minister with responsibility for delivering those refuge spaces.
“But what we need to do is change the structure.
“At the moment, essentially if you do not have a community organisation or a service provider in an area that comes forward and says, I want to provide a service in this county, and we have many counties we know that don’t have services. If that doesn’t happen, then the services not delivered.
“That can’t continue and we need to change that. I’m already working with (child and family agency) Tusla.”
The minister said that women and children should no longer be turned away due to a lack of services.
Funding to open a domestic violence refuge in Longford could finally be delivered, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has indicated.
“Funding is not the issue here. Funding is provided through the Department of Housing, but because of the system and structure as it exists, because we have to essentially wait for somebody to come forward and say we will deliver this, it’s taking too long.”
The minister said that any victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse who are forced to flee their homes are entitled to funding under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.
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