Aoibhneas, an organisation that supports women and children affected by domestic abuse, is calling for critical supports to be put in place for domestic abuse agencies as they struggle to cope with the increased demand for services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As self-isolation and social distancing become the new norm for families across Ireland, Aoibhneas is concerned about the impact that the pandemic is having on some of the most vulnerable in society. As the figures indicate, more time spent at home puts women and children at an increased risk from abusive partners.
As a frontline support service, over the last number of weeks, Aoibhneas has experienced a notable rise in demand for helpline support and emergency accommodation. While the organisation is maintaining continuity of service and also following strict guidelines from the Department of Health and the HSE in relation to COVID-19, due to current restrictions, the service is unable to operate at full capacity. This is something that a number of other services are also currently experiencing, at a time when cases of domestic abuse are on the rise. Undersupply of crisis accommodation for those affected by domestic abuse is already well documented. The COVID-19 pandemic will invariably see undersupply worsen and women and children put at increased risk.
Aoibhneas is calling on the Government to ensure that throughout this crisis, women and children experiencing domestic abuse are protected. More specifically, Aoibhneas is calling for a co-ordinated effort among services, funders and relevant government departments to ensure services can maintain operations to best serve families in their time of need.
Emma Reidy, CEO of Aoibhneas commented: “This has been a very difficult few weeks across the service as we dealt with our first case of self-isolation in the refuge. While self-isolation was purely a precautionary measure, it demonstrated the lack of support available to a service like ours at this trying time, as we look to provide a continuity of service for women and children while also ensuring the safety of our staff and service users.
As a frontline service provider, we are already seeing and responding to the impact of curtailed service provision to women and children experiencing domestic abuse. We are doing our best to ensure we abide by all relevant guidelines and understand our role in combatting COVID-19 but women and children’s safety in their homes must also continue to be a priority. We are calling on the Government to increase support to the sector as we strive to protect women and children”.
Melanie Farrell, Chairperson of Aoibhneas added: “We understand that this is a difficult time for so many but as a result of restrictions around COVID-19, it is evident that domestic abuse cases are on the rise. We have seen an increase in the demand for both refuge spaces and support via our helpline over the last number of weeks and we are concerned for the health and safety of women and children during this unprecedented time. We want to ensure that we are enabled to continue to do all that we can to support women and children”.