No Junior Minister for Domestic and Sexual Violence Disappointing

Safe Ireland today said that it is disappointed that there is no designated junior Minister for Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence in the new line-up, particularly considering the prioritisation of this issue and the robust government, community, art and business support that has been shown during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Safe Ireland, which is the national policy and services hub for 39 domestic violence member services across the country, has consistently called for a designated Minister with the whole of Government reach, responsibility and resources needed to respond effectively to this epidemic.

Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that while it has been reported that DSGBV will be held within the new Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, it was, to date, being kept “in the closet”, with little public discussion or championing of its cross-cutting role across many ministerial responsibilities.

She said, however, that the sector remains hopeful and is awaiting continued, meaningful engagement with this new Departmental home and with other actors, as a continuation of the sustained awareness and support generated over the crisis pandemic period.

“It is disappointing that this crucial issue – named in the Programme for Government as an epidemic – did not receive a dedicated Junior Ministry,” she said. “However, over the past few months in particular we have seen an unprecedented awareness, outpouring of support and recognition from businesses, communities, artists and government that people should not have to live with abuse and control.”

“As a sector that has become more united through the pandemic, it is our strongly held belief that this is an issue which can be resolved – but not without a sound infrastructure and a coherent government location with cross departmental reach and resources. We look forward to continuing to work with Government to achieve this,” she concluded.

For more information contact:

Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Safe Ireland and totalhealth Pharmacies Join Forces in ‘Gateway to Safety’ Initiative as DV needs continue

As the country moves towards fully re-opening after lock-down, Safe Ireland and totalhealth Pharmacies are launching a community-based initiative called Gateway to Safety, to help ensure that survivors of domestic violence can get access to expert support and advice on their main streets.

People experiencing domestic violence and coercive control, and those close to them, are encouraged to come forward to talk in confidence to the team at their local totalhealth Pharmacy where they can be immediately connected with one of the 39 frontline specialist domestic abuse services across the country for free and confidential support and advice.

Safe Ireland’s Co-CEO Mary McDermott said that during lockdown, there was a collective focus on the sanctuary of our homes and a national outpouring of empathy for those trapped in unsafe and controlling environments. Now that we are beginning to move out from our homes again, she said, it was vital that we don’t lift our eyes away from those continuing to live in unsafe homes. She said that post-lockdown domestic violence services had already seen a significant increase in the numbers and complexity of cases coming forward. It was now more important than ever that it easy for women to reach out to the specialist services they need from a variety of community based sanctuaries, like pharmacies. 

Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 frontline domestic abuse services working with women and children throughout the country. totalhealth is the largest independently-owned pharmacy chain in Ireland over 80 branches, many of which have been providing care, advice and support to Irish communities for many decades. 

“If we want safe homes, we must have safe communities,” Mary McDermott, Co-CEO said.  “With this partnership with totalhealth, we are making it clear that people do not have to live with domestic abuse and coercive control at any time and that support is available, right here in your community, on your main street, at all times. totalhealth Pharmacies are providing an accessible, safe and confidential space for survivors and those close to them who may be concerned, to be connected with expert help so that they can begin to make a first, simple step to safety and freedom.”

The initiative is part of Safe Ireland’s Safe Homes Safe Communities programme, which aims to bring voice and visibility to the issue of domestic violence into communities by bringing together businesses, statutory groups, community organisations and civil society to change the culture of silence that allows domestic violence to continue. The Gateway to Safety initiative provides information and support to both women and men who are victims of domestic violence.

Commenting on the partnership, Rory O’Donnell, chairperson of totalhealth, said: “It’s so important that people who may have been living with an abuser know that help is available and that their community supports them. We are delighted to be able to join with Safe Ireland and its members in all of our communities to provide a safe, confidential gateway to professional domestic violence advice and supports.”

John Arnold, Managing Director of totalhealth, added “Our pharmacies are rooted in their communities, for generations in some cases. They are involved in caring for local families, their own families have grown up in the area, and they care about the communities in which they live. This partnership is a natural extension of the community support we pride ourselves on.”

During the Covid-19 lockdown period, domestic violence was recognised as a national priority. An Garda Síochána has reported a 25% increase in domestic violence cases over the past three months.

On average each year, Safe Ireland frontline member services, which work primarily with women and children, provide a range of supports to approximately 12,500 people across Ireland. In addition, there are on average 50,000 calls to helplines around the country each year.  However, research also shows that only 21% of women who have experienced intimate partner abuse have reported the most serious incident to police. Safe Ireland wants to change this extreme under-reporting by making it easier for survivors to reach out for support in a variety of community locations.

 

NOTES TO EDITOR:

ABOUT TOTALHEALTH PHARMACY

totalhealth Pharmacy is a cooperative symbol group of community pharmacies throughout Ireland. By working together, we improve the service provided to our patients and our local communities, as well as offering security and support to our members. We represent over 80 pharmacies nationwide and continue to grow.

 ABOUT SAFE IRELAND

Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 frontline domestic violence services throughout the country.  We are leading a nationwide movement to end domestic abuse and coercive control – and to make Ireland the safest country in the world for women and children. We want to transform the culture in Ireland so that coercive control and domestic abuse is no longer tolerated in our communities, in our mindsets, in our systems and in our societal structures. 

Airbnb partners with Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid to offer free accommodation for domestic violence survivors

Airbnb has announced it will partner with Safe Ireland, with the support of Women’s Aid, to assist domestic violence survivors in Ireland at a crucial time when emergency accommodation is particularly needed.

Airbnb will work through its hotel partners to provide temporary accommodation, free of charge, when specialist emergency accommodation (refuge) is not available. Domestic violence services throughout the country will assess the safety needs of survivors before facilitating bookings into the temporary hotel accommodation. All those accommodated as part of this unique initiative will continue to be closely linked in and supported by domestic violence specialists.

Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 domestic abuse member services. Safe Ireland will coordinate the initiative with its frontline services and support from the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline. All accommodation costs are sourced and paid for by Airbnb and HotelTonight, part of the Airbnb family.

The partnership comes at a crucial time as Ireland moves towards opening up fully following the COVID-19 lockdown. Capacity in domestic violence specialist accommodation is down approximately 25% because of the need to ensure safe social distancing and to allow for isolation units if needed.

At the same time, domestic violence services are reporting a surge in calls and needs, particularly since the country started to ease restrictions. Many services are reporting that they are responding to the double trauma of lockdown and months of abuse with many seeing a particular increase in women with multiple children coming forward and looking for crisis accommodation in the community.

The timely partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid has received the backing of Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who has been a leading advocate on domestic violence issues in Ireland.

Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said, “We want victims of this horrific crime to know that they are a priority for us and that support is always available. I welcome this valuable new initiative which complements the important work that the Government has undertaken in this area since the start of the pandemic. We are doing everything we can to protect and support all victims of domestic violence, especially now as Ireland re-opens after Covid-19.”

 Caitriona Gleeson, Programme and Communications Manager with Safe Ireland, said, “We welcome the community leadership shown by Airbnb with this partnership. The pandemic has shone a light onto the epidemic of domestic violence that continues in this country. It has also sparked an incredible outpouring of empathy, understanding and support for survivors trapped with abusers. The security of safe accommodation is essential for women and children to be able to make their first step towards freedom and recovery. This generous contribution by Airbnb means that we will be able to support many more women as they come forward following lockdown.”

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid, said, “This is a really welcome, collaborative initiative bringing together the generosity of Airbnb and dedicated specialist domestic abuse organisations to meet the needs of women and children forced to flee their homes because of violence and abuse. The Women’s Aid National Helpline responded to 39% more calls during the crisis compared to the same period in 2019. We are delighted to be assisting referrals through our National Freephone Helpline so that this supplementary accommodation is available 24/7 where refuge may not be an option.”

Jean Hoey, Public Policy Lead for Airbnb in Ireland, said: “In recent months throughout the pandemic, most of us have been confined to the safety of our homes. For those in abusive situations however, that environment can feel more like a prison. We are proud to support the heroic efforts of Women’s Aid, Safe Ireland and local frontline services by offering temporary safe havens for survivors right across the country.”

Similar initiatives were recently launched by Airbnb in the US.

ENDS

 

Welcome for First Programme for Government to recognise the epidemic of domestic and sexual violence

Safe Ireland, the national policy and services hub for 39 frontline domestic violence services across the country, gives a cautious welcome to the draft Programme for Government which acknowledges, perhaps for the first time in such a programme, that there is an “epidemic of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence” and that the infrastructure in place to address it has to be examined. 

Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that while the sector’s call for a dedicated Minister with responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender based violence was not specifically responded to at this stage, the proposal to conduct an immediate audit of how responsibility for DSGBV is segmented across different government agencies is an acknowledgement that the current infrastructure is not fit for purpose. 

She said, however, that in advance of any such audit it was important to put in place a recognised lead actor – ideally a dedicated Minister – with profile and visibility, a whole of Government reach and responsibility and the resources needed to ensure that this audit is far reaching and transformative. 

“Covid-19 has exposed the fragility of the state infrastructure and the deep fault lines that have existed for decades in the state’s response to domestic violence,” she said. “While the commitments in this new Programme for Government answer some of the issues that the sector has raised for many years, it does not address the need for fully resourced coherent oversight, nor the systemic difficulties and challenges that survivors face every day. This programme is a welcome acknowledgement that what we have been doing has not been working and that we can do things differently.” 

“This programme is perhaps the first to send a message to thousands of women and children across the country that they are beginning to be heard,” she said. “It’s a message that they have been waiting for, from successive governments, who have never fully grasped the seriousness and complexity of gender-based violence and have not been prepared to acknowledge that our system for responding to them is broken and needs to be transformed.” 

She said that Safe Ireland welcomes particularly the commitments to include a National Prevention Strategy in the development of the next National Strategy on DSGBV and the commitment to a comprehensive training programme on the crime of coercive control.  It is also encouraging to see that there will be a plan for future refuge space, she said. Safe Ireland is also pleased to see the commitment to investigate paid leave and social protection provisions to victims of domestic violence, as acknowledgements of the financial abuse that pervades domestic abuse and the financial trap that too often stops survivors from finding safety and freedom. 

Finally, Safe Ireland welcomes legislative commitments to introduce Domestic Homicide Reviews and to enact the Harassment & Harmful Commitments Bill to outlaw image-based sexual abuse.

The network will now review the entire final Programme for Government, including the intersection of domestic violence in areas such as health and justice programmes, with its 39 members.

Safe Ireland Welcomes Prioritisation of Rent Supplement for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Safe Ireland, the national policy and services hub for 39 domestic violence services, welcomed the “swift and positive response” to the sector’s call for the introduction of a Domestic Violence Emergency Rent Supplement.

Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that the Government’s move today was unique and will now enable women and children fleeing abusive and violent partners to be sheltered quickly and safely, regardless of their circumstances. 

She said that the move recognises particularly the financial abuse which pervades many abusive relationships, and is a significant and welcome recognition that seeking safety from a violent home cannot be contingent on means testing at crisis point.

She praised Minister Regina Doherty and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) for their dedicated work on this issue. She said that Safe Ireland had worked positively with DEASP officials on operational details of this innovation, highlighting the importance of co-operation between Government and experience on the ground.

“Covid-19 illuminated an anomaly that our members had been dealing with for many years that meant that women and children fleeing violent and abusive homes did not access vital rent supplement as a priority group,” she said. “Rent Supplement directly removes the entrapment victims experience and supports them on their journey to an independent, safe and free life. We appreciate that the Minister and officials within the Department recognised this, were open to working with us, and then responded so swiftly and positively.”

Safe Ireland welcomes Garda commitment to continuing focus on Domestic violence

Domestic violence services also seeing rise in women and children looking for support as restrictions are lifted.

Safe Ireland, the national hub for 39 domestic violence services across the country, praised An Garda Síochána’s Operation Faoiseamh, which prioritised support for survivors of domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic. It welcomed the forces’ stated commitment that it will continue to allocate adequate resources towards crimes against the vulnerable.

However, it also said that it was concerned that things could revert to the way they were prior to the lock-down, which meant that domestic violence was one of the most unreported, undocumented and unprosecuted crimes on our statute books.

Speaking ahead of a twice weekly zoom call with all members this morning, Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that services throughout the country had also seen a noticeable increase in calls and demands for support and safety, particularly over the past month. Some services are reporting an increase in helpline calls particularly of up to 60%.

She said that women and children were emerging from the pandemic with the double trauma of lock-down and months of abuse and control with their aggressors.  Services, she said, were now facing the real crisis of need that Covid-19 has left in its wake.

“We have welcomed Operation Faoiseamh and the Garda prioritisation of this issue from its start back in early April,” she said. “There have been some patches of poor practice, however, for the most part, our services have worked extremely well with their local Gardaí and have praised their prioritisation of this issue.”

“But, it is now that our services are going to be facing their real crisis. Women with children in particular are coming forward and reaching out after months of entrapment with their abusers. Our services are going to be dealing with layers of complex trauma, emotional and practical needs. It is crucial that the prioritisation of this issue in Garda support and in resourcing continues.”

She also said that it was important that there was a national all of state response to an enormous national problem. She said that as the country starts to open up with reconfigured physical spaces and procedures to deal with Covid-19, there was no  government agency providing the adequate resources and technical support needed by domestic violence services to help re-configure the vital spaces needed by women and children as they look for face-to-face support and accommodation.

“Our biggest concern is that once the pandemic focus lifts, domestic violence will go back to being a hidden issue that can be pawned off with piecemeal and inadequate responses.  Domestic violence is an epidemic every day of the year, not just during a pandemic. We cannot go back.

Boots Launches Safe Space in Pharmacies For Victims of Domestic Abuse Across Ireland

Boots Ireland today have launched a ‘Safe Space’ initiative in partnership with Safe Ireland. Women who are experiencing domestic violence can go into their local Boots and access a ‘Safe Space’ in a pharmacy consultation room. In this confidential space they can contact one of the 39 frontline specialist domestic abuse services across the country and access free, confidential support and advice.

Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 frontline domestic abuse services throughout the country.  They are leading a community-based nationwide movement to end domestic abuse and coercive control and to make Ireland as safe as possible for women and children. As self-isolation and social distancing become the new norm for families across Ireland, Safe Ireland is concerned about the long-term impact of the reconfiguration of homes and family life. Those in abusive relationships and family homes are now in increasingly restricted conditions – they need to know that their community will support them and that there are specialist services available regionally and locally, said Safe Ireland Co-CEO Mary McDermott.

According to An Garda Siochána, which has prioritised domestic and sexual violence through Covid-19 with Operation Faoisimh, domestic violence reports have increased by up to 30 percent in some areas.

Safe Ireland frontline services provide a range of supports to approximately 12,500 women and 3,000 children across Ireland. In addition, there are on average 50,000 calls to helplines around the country each year.  The national freephone helpline accounts for approximately 19,000 calls, with the remaining 34,000 calls being made to local helpline services. However, since the beginning of lockdown, some services in parts of the country have seen up to a 60% increase in calls, making access to support even more critical.

Speaking about the partnership, Safe Ireland Co-CEO Mary McDermott said “Boots Ireland are showing a welcome corporate-community leadership with this initiative.  We are aware that women contained with their abusers through the Covid-19 crisis will not have the space or freedom to call for the support they need from their homes. The Boots ‘Safe Spaces’ provide a much-needed and welcome community-based location for people to reach out safely for vital professional advice and support.”

 “If we want safe homes, we need to have safe communities. Communities that are intolerant of domestic abuse, have the courage to name it, believe women when they speak about it, and have the capacity to provide expert prevention and response  supports and services,” McDermott said.  “We are not all experts, but we can all play a role in looking out for women and children, in helping to keep them safe and in standing against the crime of domestic violence in our communities. This practical initiative gives women who are experiencing abuse another avenue to reach out safely for protection, if they can.”

Bernadette Lavery, Managing Director of Boots Ireland commented: “Now, more than ever, people need safety and security in their lives, and we are very proud that our eighty-eight stores are seen as a place where people can turn to for help during this time. We hope that by making our consultation rooms ‘Safe Spaces’, people will be able to find the support they need during this difficult time in their lives. This initiative is something our pharmacy and store teams feel very passionate about and I would like to praise them for the amazing job they are doing, at a time when they too are under immense pressure.”

 

#PrescribeKindness

 

ENDS

 

For further information please contact:

Wilson Hartnell PR                                                                         

Clodagh Hogan                                                                                                          

Mob: +353 87 774 6128                                                       

Email: clodagh.hogan@ogilvy.com                                

Sally McLoughlin     

Mob: +353 87 972 2549

Email: Sally.mcloughlin@ogilvy.com

NOTES TO EDITOR:

ABOUT BOOTS IRELAND

Boots Ireland is a leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer with 88 Boots stores and just over 2,000 employees. Boots Ireland’s purpose is to help customers look and feel better than they ever thought possible. Customers are at the heart of the Boots Ireland business. We are committed to providing exceptional customer and patient care, being the first choice for pharmacy and healthcare and offering innovative products ‘only at Boots‘, such as No7 – all delivered with the great value our customers love. Figures as of 31 August 2019

In 2020, Boots was recognised as the most reputable retailer and pharmacy in Ireland according to the 2020 Ireland RepTrak® study. The company has moved up the leader board ten places from last year and is now rated the 3rd most reputable organisation overall in Ireland.

The Ireland RepTrak® study is the largest and longest running study of reputation in Ireland, now in its eleventh year. Based on the perceptions of over 7,000 members of the public who completed the survey in Q1 2020, the survey measures the level of trust, respect, admiration and esteem the public has for 100 of the largest, most familiar, and most important organisations in Ireland, along with close to 100 other reputation, brand and CSR indicators.

 ABOUT SAFE IRELAND

Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 frontline domestic violence services throughout the country.  We are leading a nationwide movement to end domestic abuse and coercive control – and to make Ireland the safest country in the world for women and children. We want to transform the culture in Ireland so that coercive control and domestic abuse is no longer tolerated in our communities, in our mindsets, in our systems and in our societal structures. 

 

Domestic violence services preparing for increase in need as the country opens

The “new normal” of combined work-home could mean ongoing prisons for women and children living with abusers says Safe Ireland.  

Services say they “cannot go back” to the old way of doing things.

Safe Ireland, the national policy and services hub for 38 frontline domestic violence services, said that it was preparing for what it anticipates could be a further surge in calls and needs by women and children who have been contained with their abusers for the past nine weeks and who may now finally find the space and freedom to reach out for help.

Sharon O’Halloran, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that services throughout the country were reconfiguring to ensure that they can provide the best levels of safe, professional support for women and children.  As a network of services, they have started to put in place a united recovery plan to respond to what will be a “new normal” she said.

She said that while many services within the network had seen an increase in calls and needs, others were not as busy as they might have expected, which was most concerning. Over the lock-down period, many services reported that they were seeing a higher proportion of more serious cases of physical and sexual assault within intimate partner relationships. They had also seen an increase in abuse of older women by adult male children. Many reported that they were working with more single women, with lower numbers than usual of women with children. O’Halloran said that this raised a red flag that women with children may have been tolerating abuse and coercive control through the weeks of strict containment for the sake of the children.  With more space and freedom, she said, these women would hopefully have more opportunity now to look for the safety and protection they need.

“Our services have been open and have been operating throughout this crisis,” she said. “As we begin to open up our country, they are available, now more than ever.  Many women may have been living with intolerable control and abuse over the past two months.  It is important that they know that we are here in their communities and that we can support them to be safe in their own homes, or help re-home them if this is what is needed.”

Mary McDermott, Co- CEO of Safe Ireland, said services throughout the country had become more united in their resolve that the sector “cannot go back” to the way things were operating. 

She said that Covid-19 had exposed the fragility of the sector and the deep fault lines that have existed for decades in the state’s response to domestic violence.  She pointed to the fact that services have been advocating for women fleeing from domestic violence during Covid-19 to be able to receive rent supplement, for example, which has so far been denied by the Government.

She also said that Covid 19 could mean that the ‘work-home divide’ will be reconfigured in the long-term, raising serious issues for the risk and invisibility of domestic violence.

“What we now regard as ‘the private’ may be radically changed with technology likely to reconfigure our lives utterly,” McDermott said. “We have to seriously consider if the future will make an absolute prison of these combined spaces for many women and children?  We have to be prepared to respond to this new normal. The fractured and piece-meal state response to domestic violence that we had for decades simply won’t do this.  We have to radically overhaul the infrastructure that is in place so that we can transform the way we respond to the needs of women today. ”

Safe Ireland established an Emergency Covid-19 Fund to support the emergency needs of women and children throughout the crisis, distributed through their member service. So far, the fund has directly supported 130 women and 264 children with practical but much needed emergency financing to help them find safety. The fund has provided for practical but essential items like food, heating oil, utility bills, transport costs or materials and appliances needed for new accommodation.  The fund remains open for donations and will continue to be used, now more than ever, as the country opens up.

For more information contact:

Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Safe Ireland welcomes new awareness campaign on domestic violence

Safe Ireland, the national social change agency working with 38 member domestic services across the county, welcomed the timely, new Government awareness and information campaign on domestic violence, which was announced today, Friday April 10th

Sharon O’Halloran, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that the campaign comes at a critical time for women and children who may be confined and isolated with their abuser. It is understood that TV and radio ads will broadcast next week.

Safe Ireland has been one of the specialist frontline partners involved in the initiative, which she said was creative and strong in its message to survivors and communities that professional frontline supports are open and operating. 

She said, from regular zoom meetings with all members over the past few weeks, that there was clear evidence that abusers were using Covid-19 as a weapon of control.  While some services are reporting that they are very busy, many others are also noticing that helplines are quieter than they would expect. 

“The silence is ominous,” O’Halloran said.  “Our greatest concern, four weeks into this pandemic, is that women are finding it much more difficult to make contact for support. Previously women may have contacted services when they or their partners were at work or out of the house, or when children were in school. Those little windows of freedom are being cut down.” 

She said that in these stressful circumstances that it was more important than ever that there was a strong community response to domestic violence. 

“During Covid-19 we are being reminded that we are all in this together. The response to domestic violence can be no different. We are asking people to be vigilant, to keep in touch with friends and family, to be aware that homes may not be safe and to be her voice in looking for support at a time when she may not be able to use her voice.” 

She also stressed that a strong awareness campaign must matched with solid and reliable State funding so that services can be resourced to continue to re-home women or keep them safe in their homes.  Safe Ireland has made a case to Government on behalf of its member services for €1.6 million to enable the sector to manage this crisis adequately. 

For more information contact:

Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Safe Ireland mourns loss of dedicated campaigner for women and children

Safe Ireland, the social change agency collaborating with 38 domestic violence services around the country working to prevent and reduce domestic violence, express their condolences on the passing of Norah Gibbons, former Chair of Tusla, the national Child and Family Agency. 

Ireland has lost a tireless campaigner for the safety and rights of women and children with her untimely death, it said.

Mary McDermott, Co-CEO of Safe Ireland, said that Norah’s dogged pursuit of the need for both state and society to recognise that disadvantaged and vulnerable families and children need high-level dedicated resources and specialised responses was a key contribution to the development of vital support infrastructures in this country.  

She commended Norah’s leadership on the ongoing study on domestic homicide reviews and her commitment to this work to the very end. 

“Norah understood the vital importance of safe and supported homes, for adults and children, as key to a stable, free and progressive society. Her intolerance for the way in which Ireland has, in the past, mistreated and abandoned so many women and children, particularly because they were poor or vulnerable, was exemplary.” 

Safe Ireland extends its sympathies to Norah’s immediate family and her wider family circle as well as her colleagues and many friends. 

For more information contact: 

Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207