The establishment of a US-style Family Justice Centre in Derry took a step closer this week.
A Memorandum of Understanding and Intent was signed between Foyle Women’s Aid and the European Family Justice Centre Alliance.
Both organisations have joined forces to work towards the creation of a radical and innovative way of supporting victims of domestic violence.
A Family Justice Centre, pioneered in the United States, brings a full range of agencies under one roof to work together to support victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Jill Maddison, the Executive Director of the European Family Justice Centre Alliance, said the signing of the agreement with Foyle Women’s Aid was an important development to address the issue of violence in families.
“This is a landmark partnership that will make a difference to thousands of families living with violence, not only in Northern Ireland but in Europe,” she said.
“Family Justice Centres aim to reduce violence and death by giving victims immediate access to a diverse range of professionals in a safe place,” said Ms Maddison, Director of the EU Alliance-Justice for Families.
Foyle Women’s Aid Director Marie Brown said that the signing of the agreement was a significant and exciting development for all agencies working with victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“The Family Justice Centre is revolutionary in that, for the first time, women and men who want to leave an abusive relationship can access legal protection and other kinds of support instantaneously,” she said.
“We are hoping that the Family Justice Centre in Foyle can become a Centre of Excellence exploring new developments in family and social justice and will set new standards for working with victims.”
It is proposed to locate the Family Justice Centre in the former Sisters of Mercy Convent building in Pump Street.
A social enterprise company, set up by Foyle Women’s Aid and backed by a team of high profile Trustees, has drawn up plans to restore the former convent into office and exhibition space.