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Domestic violence services ‘at breaking point’ due to pandemic


Áine Ryan

MAYO Women’s Support Services (MWSS) may have ‘pulled out all the stops’ to help women and children living in violent domestic situations but ‘decades of underfunding’ has now left such services at breaking point.
That is according to Josephine McGourty, Manager of MWSS, who whilst welcoming Government’s expressed prioritisation of these services, it now needs to prove this conviction by resourcing the sector properly.     
“Since the start of Covid-19 the Government has prioritised domestic violence and we have always welcomed this. But calling something a priority means that it also has to be name-checked in the national budget, and funded and resourced as a priority,” Josephine McGourty said.
Continuing, she said: “Almost overnight, we had to completely change the way we work to ensure that women and children trapped in abusive homes could find safety and professional support.
“We have pulled out all the stops to respond to the increasing and complex needs of women and children since March.
“But this huge effort is coming on top of decades of coping with an inadequate national support and historic under-funding.
“Services like ours are now at breaking point. The system is broken, the infrastructure is antiquated, the money is not clear and the promises have run dry.”
Speaking last week, Ms McGourty said that ‘while Government has continuously name-checked domestic violence as a Covid-19 priority this has not yet been backed up by the resources and infrastructural modernisation needed by services throughout the country’.
She confirmed that MWSS planned to contact the county’s politicians to highlight the challenges faced by the service.

Report on prevalence of abuse
LAST week Safe Ireland, the national agency for domestic violence, published ‘Tracking the Shadow Pandemic’, a new report outlining the prevalence of abuse and coercive control over the first six months of the pandemic, from March to August.  
It reveals that almost 2,000 women and over 400 children received support from a domestic violence service every month during the six-month period.
It also states that 3,450 women and 589 children who had never, as far as is known, contacted a domestic violence service before, looked for support and safety from March to August.
Moreover, 33,941 helpline calls were answered across the country over the six-month period – an average of 184 calls every day.
This huge increase was all unfolding as the services were forced to reconfigure their operations almost overnight, Ms McGourty said.  
Safe Ireland recommended that €7.5 million was needed for services in Budget 2021 to ensure that they can meet the current and growing demands they are facing. To date, McGourty says, there has been no clarity from Government on additional funding or on how it is going to transform the out-of-date infrastructure.