Women’s Aid Annual Report

The publication by Women’s Aid of their 2012 Annual Report indicates an increase of 55% in the number of reports of child abuse it received last year compared to 2011.
These figures are distressing and very worrying, But they do reflect the grim reality of child abuse in Ireland and the threats posed to families by domestic violence.
The most recent figures for referrals of child abuse to the HSE show that there were 19,044 referrals in 2012. This represents a doubling in referrals in seven years from 9,503 in 2005
These figures do not include referrals relating to child welfare and neglect.
Too many children are suffering as a result of abuse. However addressing this requires a cross-societal response.
I welcome the increased awareness across all sectors of society of the threats that are out there and the need to report child protection concerns.

As Minister I will continue to support this required cultural shift by implementing the Government’s comprehensive reform programme in the area of child protection. This includes the establishment of the dedicated new Child and Family Agency, legislation for which is due to published imminently.

Key points made by Minister Shatter during Topical Issues:
Domestic violence continues to be a blight on the life of many women, children and men in Ireland
The report also shows the importance of the community and voluntary sector in the provision of appropriate responses to social problems in Ireland.
The community and voluntary sector, which includes organisations such as Women’s Aid, comprises no fewer than sixty domestic violence services in this country offering helplines, emotional support, information, court accompaniment, onward referral and refuges.
The domestic violence sector in Ireland spent €31.2m according to annual accounts for 2011. The sexual violence sector spent an additional €7.8m in that year. In 2012, the HSE, the main state funder of the sector contributed €14.5m. to the domestic violence sector, and granted a further €4m to the sexual violence sector.
The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government also provides significant state funding, primarily to fund voluntary sector refuges.
The issue of domestic violence is one that this Government takes very seriously.
Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, is continuing to co-ordinate the implementation of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014.
Since coming into office I have been able to bring through important amendments to the Domestic Violence Acts 1996 and 2002 through the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011. The net effect of these changes has been to extend the protections of this legislation to a wider number of people and circumstances
The first amendment allows for a parent to apply for a safety order against the other parent of their child, even where those parents do not live together and may never have lived together.
The second amendment extends the protections of the Acts to same-sex couples who have not registered a civil partnership, on the same basis as had previously been available to unmarried opposite-sex couples “living together as husband and wife”. These same-sex couples are no longer required to have lived together for at least six of the last twelve months before one of them can obtain a safety order against the other.
In addition during our Presidency of the EU, Ireland successfully negotiated an agreement with the European Parliament on the European Protection Order, a civil law measure which will ensure that victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence, harassment and intimidation can avail of national protections when they travel to other EU Member States.
Work to develop further responses to help children affected by domestic violence are expected in the context of the new Child and Family Support Agency, which will replace the HSE as the core funders of domestic and sexual violence services, and which will fall under the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.