Marna Carroll, Manager of Laois Domestic Abuse Service, is calling on the new government to prioritise the development of a domestic violence refuge for women and children experiencing domestic abuse in Laois.
Women and children in these circumstances in Laois are forced to travel to refuges in Kildare, Kilkenny, Westmeath and as far as Mayo, because of the absence of such facilities locally, she says.
“It is not acceptable that women and children from Laois are forced to travel across the country to find a refuge at times of crisis – where is the justice and equality in that for some of our most vulnerable citizens?
“Women and children who are seeking refuge have already been exposed to a deeply traumatic experience.
“Forcing these families to relocate to a strange new town or city away from support networks, and in many circumstances, having to find new schools for their children only exacerbates the trauma that has already been experienced by these families”.
Marna Carroll explained that, “Former Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has acknowledged that the state needs to provide more emergency refuge spaces for women and children experiencing domestic violence and access to safe and secure accommodation needs to be improved”,
Marna added “I am now calling on the new government to ensure that funding is prioritised for a domestic violence refuge in Laois to cater for families in the County.
“Laois Domestic Abuse Service is already extremely overstretched and having to source, outside the county, safe and protected accommodation for women seeking refuge, makes an already very challenging job more difficult, and increases the burden on women already experiencing violent upheaval in their lives
“The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever, the absolute necessity of having a refuge located in Laois,” she adds.
“Six weeks into the COVID 19 crisis and this is what we know: there is no ‘new normal’, nothing is predictable, and we must think on our feet constantly; women and children experiencing domestic abuse are in even more intensely desperate and terrifying situations.”
“One certainty over the last 6 weeks is that the demand for domestic abuse accommodation is growing day on day.
We have experience of supporting women and children forced to sleep in their car because there is nowhere else to go, and this is not an isolated situation. It is starkly clear that the absence of appropriate and safe refuge in Laois is dangerous and unacceptable. Women and children in Laois deserve to have access to the same resources as those in other counties in Ireland.”
Laois Domestic Abuse Service have brought together a working group of interested and dedicated professionals from across the county last year, to campaign for and develop a refuge in the county.
At present, the closest refuge for women and children in our county is Teach Tearmainn in County Kildare – with only a 4-family capacity.
“This must beg the question – why should women and children in Laois have to leave the county to access safe accommodation? Despite Laois being an obvious choice for the development of domestic violence refuge for women and children experiencing domestic violence and abuse, from a socio-economic and geographical perspective, the government have offered no assurances re same.”
Marna further stated that “LDAS were pleased to hear Minister Charlie Flanagan’s announcement regarding €160,000 being made available to frontline services supporting victims of domestic abuse during the COVID 19 pandemic, but we were disappointed to learn that none of these funds would be allocated to Laois.”