Local independent TD Mattie McGrath has condemned the failure of both the HSE and government to provide adequate levels of funding to women’s refuges around the country.
Deputy McGrath was speaking after it emerged that the scale of the crisis among groups and refuges trying to offer shelter is putting the welfare of women and children at serious risk, and after the shock announcement that the Wexford Women’s Refuge is due to close for 13 weeks, due to budget overruns.
Deputy McGrath said that his office has been in direct contact with Clonmel’s women’s refuge Cuan Saor, about the devastating impact on their service due to lack of funding. He said the emerging picture is worse than he had imagined. Cuan Saor’s core funding has decreased by €110,000 since 2010 and project leader at the local refuge, Geraldine Mullane has told Deputy McGrath that because of the huge increase in referrals to their service, Cuan Saor has been unable to accommodate 212 women and 256 children in 2011 and 163 women and 194 children this year.
“In light of these figures how can the government’s response, which has been to further slash funding be seen as anything but reprehensible hypocrisy. These refuges do extraordinary work and their staff members regularly go beyond the call of duty in providing care and shelter when they can. Unfortunately thanks to the absurd lack of funding all of that is in direct danger of collapse,” he said.
Lack of places in refuges is not the only problem to be faced however. Under the 2011 housing regulations, women who are joint owners of a home are not deemed to have a housing need unless they are divorced or formally separated – even if they have fled the home because of violence. This means they cannot be added to housing lists and are unable to get rent supplement. This causes huge levels of difficulty for women and their families who are trying to break the link with an abusive partner.
“We have been talking about this problem in relation to housing since at least 2008 when a national strategy to combat the crisis was proposed. Since then however no government has seemed willing or able to take up the challenge of formulating non-discretionary guidelines which would be of real practical help to women and children in crisis. Although I am informed that Cuan Saor have a very good working relationship with the local authority, there are still huge problems in terms of inter-departmental cooperation at government level which is frustrating the process and preventing more effective solutions being applied.
“I am also aware that there is a proposed 7.5% cut in funding from local authorities in Waterford on the cards. This will not only cause havoc with the Waterford Refuge but will also have a serious knock-on effect to other refuges which will see an increase in referrals. The time for political platitudes is over. The women and children of this country who are experiencing serious life threatening crises in terms of domestic abuse need more than talk from a government that is endlessly showcasing its commitment to children’s welfare but doing little or nothing to back it up,” said Deputy McGrath.