Tuesday 12 December 2017

Lack of money may lead to closure of women's refuge

Margaret Roddy

THE difficulties facing Dundalk Women's Aid because of reduced funding may result in the closure of the women's refuge, members of Dundalk Town Council heard at a specially convened meeting last Tuesday.

A deputation from Women's Aid told councillors that even with the additional €15,000 funding pledged by both Louth County Council and Dundalk Town Council, there was no guarantee that the organisation will be able to keep the refuge open.

The cuts in funding from the local authority, which resulted from a government directive, came at a time when an increased number of women and children were being turned away from the Dundalk refuge. Lisa Marmion, outlined how Women's Aid provides a wide range of services for women and children experiencing domestic violence including crisis accommodation, a 24 hour helpline, supported housing, court accompaniment, eduation and training, and counselling.

Last year, they had to turn away 293 requests at the refuge and the figure was projected to rise to 408 this year.

'This year, in our opinion, is not a good time to reduce refuge accommodation,' she stated.

There are no refuge places for victims of domestic violence in Cavan or Monaghan, so if the Dundalk refuge closes, there would be less than one third the European recommended number of places in the region.

She said that their funding from Louth County Council had been slashed by 78% from 2008 to just €20,000 this year, which wouldn't pay for the basics like heat, lighting and bins.

While there were other funding streams for different projects, they might ow have no alternative but to close the refuge, even after a year of negotiations.

Ann Larkin said that they 'very much appreciaed the support we've been shown' by local councillors.

She stressed that they had been in negotiations with Louth County Council for a year but they had seen their funding go from €90,000 to €20,000 which was something no service could survive.

'There is increased demand around the country and if we reduce or eliminate spaces,where are the women and children going to go?'

They couldn't 'in good conscience' sign the service level agreement knowing that they didn't have enough funding to keep the refuge open 'til the end of the year.

The refuge will close on June 27th unless a decision is taken to reverse the directive limiting funding to 4.4% of the allocation for domestic violence.

'Our greatest fear is that once that's closed, it will never reopen,' she told councillors.

Even with the €30,000 from Louth County and Dundalk Town councils, instead of closing on June 27th, they would be closing on December 31st unless there was a guarantee of proper funding in future.

'Our greatest fear is that once that's closed, it will never reopen,' she told councillors.

The Argus

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