Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
154. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the extent to which his Department has noted various experiences of women and children who may be under threat from domestic, sexual and gender-based violence including those in the care of the State and or by orders of courts; his plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59747/21]
Domestic sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) is a stain on society. I am determined to work with Government colleagues on our commitment to address this issue.
The Minister for Justice is co-ordinating the development of the Third National Strategy on DSGBV which will have a greater focus on prevention. My Department and the Child and Family Agency, Tusla are working with the Department of Justice in the development of this strategy to focus on the needs of victims and to recognise the experiences of men, women and children who may under threat from DSGBV.
My Department has a broad remit in its responsibilities towards children and families. Child Protection is a key concern. Children First provides a strong statutory framework for reporting concerns that a child might be at risk of abuse or neglect. Tusla works closely with the Garda Síochána in responding to reported concerns, including those relating to women and children at risk from DSGBV.
Tusla has a statutory role to support victims of DSGBV. Tusla funds 60 organisations that deliver services for these victims, including 21 services that provide emergency refuge and non-refuge accommodation. Other funded organisations provide community-based domestic violence services and rape crisis services. In 2021, Tusla's funding of DSGBV services amounted to €28 million, with an additional €2 million of one-off contingency funding being made available to help services cope with the ongoing effects of COVID-19.
My Department has provided once off funding in 2021 under the "What Works" initiative to organisations for projects and programmes to support children and adults affected by DSGBV. The funded projects included professional development and training for staff, development of a resource pack to enhance awareness for frontline practitioners and strengthening data to build targeted prevention and early intervention strategies.
With regard to children in care of the State, the Deputy may be familiar with the Child Care Law Report Project (CCLRP) that assists the State in our learning from the experiences of children and families in child care proceedings. In a recent report titled 'Ripe for Reform', which was commissioned by my Department, amongst other themes, the report considered the impact of domestic violence and domestic homicide on those children subject to child care proceedings. These findings, and other recommendations in the report, span the remit of a number of Government Departments. For example, the authors highlight concerns in respect of guardianship matters in cases where one parent kills the other. In such cases the surviving parent is the sole remaining legal guardian until a full care order is made. I will ensure that the report is brought to the attention of the relevant authorities, and will follow up as required.
Tusla carefully monitors all referrals to the Agency. The risk of DSGBV may not be evident at the time of referral and is not easily captured as a statistic. The most recently available data shows a rise in the proportion of all child protection and welfare referrals relating to emotional abuse. Looking to annual trends (Table 1), emotional abuse increased from 33% of all child protection referrals, in 2014 to 43% in 2020, and is notably the largest proportion of all four abuse types. (see table 2 below).
Table 1: Breakdown of child protection referrals by year, 2014-2020
|Category of abuse||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020|
|Physical abuse||4,066 (22%)||3,991 (22%)||4,450 (23%)||4,942 (24%)||6,137 (25%)||6,488 (26%)||5,511 (25%)|
|Emotional abuse||6,233 (33%)||6,535 (36%)||6,871 (36%)||7,615 (37%)||10,130 (41%)||10,722 (42%)||9,546 (43%)|
|Sexual abuse||3,114 (17%)||2,940 (16%)||3,042 (16%)||3,170 (15%)||3,548 (14%)||3,909 (15%)||3,653 (17%)|
|Neglect||5,263 (28%)||4,769 (26%)||4,724 (25%)||4,810 (23%)||5,000 (20%)||4,308 (17%)||3,340 (15%)|