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Need for women's refuge is now a ‘matter of urgency'

October 3rd, 2016 7:10 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

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A WEST Cork women’s refuge is now a ‘matter of urgency’, a report revealed last week.

The report, commissioned by a local service for female victims of violence, was unveiled last Thursday at the Uillinn Arts Centre in Skibbereen.

West Cork Women Against Violence (WCWAV) ordered the report into its own services, to gauge its relevance and assess how its services were received, in order to create a strategic plan for the next few years.

A survey into the service had a 53% response rate and one of the biggest revelations was the regular reference to the need for secure emergency accommodation for women in fear.

There is currently no women’s refuge in West Cork and the closest facility is in Cork city. However, the city service is almost constantly over-subscribed and the beds cannot be accessed, the report revealed.

‘There is never space in the facility in Cork city when we need it, and our only other option is to use B&Bs in West Cork,’ WCWAV co-ordinator Marie Mulholland told The Southern Star, adding that in West Cork the access to B&Bs is very difficult in the summer period – due to low vacancy rates and increased prices.

WCWAV began as a project in 1998 in Bantry, but in 2000 it was officially launched when it received HSE funding and added an outreach service in Skibbereen. 

Researcher Dr Caroline Crowley said she was surprised by some of the survey results, as she had made her ‘own assumptions’ about the demographics of the women involved. She discovered that the service was mostly used by women in the 36-45 year-old age group and most of the women had a degree level of education, or higher. 

A total of 33% of respondents had children under the age of 18, and 71% of them made their first contact with the service by phone.

‘This means the phone is crucial to them,’ she said, but added that there was a gap in the phone service as it is not manned 24/7. One woman said she had tried a few times to make contact in the evenings, ‘when things were worse at home’, not realising it was only a daytime service.

There was a unanimously positive response when the women surveyed were asked if the service had ‘made a difference’ to them, and 94% of them said the support worker they were put in contact with had ‘helped a lot’.

But the report says the ‘lack of proper emergency accommodation for women and children needs to be addressed urgently’.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Mulholland said despite the fact the service is already stretched, she now believes the service has to find a way of establishing emergency accommodation.

She said she hoped the clients of the service – other government and voluntary bodies – would bring back the message to the County Council and to the local TDs that money is urgently needed to fund such a facility.

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