Violence at home risedemands urgent action

The NI Executive has been urged to allocate government resources and adequate funding for organisations tackling domestic violence, child abuse and family breakdown.
SDLP Foyleside Councillor Mary Durkan.SDLP Foyleside Councillor Mary Durkan.
SDLP Foyleside Councillor Mary Durkan.

SDLP Councillor Mary Durkan’s comments follow recent police figures indicating that over 32,000 incidents of domestic violence were reported in the North last year.

Colr. Durkan said: “We are aware that domestic violence figures were rising prior to the pandemic. During lockdown we were hearing that charities and support groups across the board were struggling to meet demand for help. This is the tip of the iceberg as many incidents remain unreported. Some victims are still suffering in silence. Domestic violence affects men and women of all ages and in all walks of life.

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“Domestic abuse is not confined to marriages and co-habiting couples. Siblings and parents, including the elderly, can suffer domestic abuse at the hands of family members. Children who witness violence perpetrated by one parent to another are vulnerable and unsafe in their home.”

Colr. Durkan also highlighted a report published by NSPCC NI last month showing an increase in reports of child abuse.

“Indications from workers in children’s services suggest that we are looking towards a sharp rise in child protection referrals. This will inevitably add pressure to already stretched Social Services,” she said, adding:

“A collective, cross-departmental approach from the Executive is warranted to ensure that practical help and therapeutic support will be available to victims and families in need.

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“This calls for joined-up action from the social care sector, justice system, schools, mental health services and communities.

“The sad reality of the past six months is that many vulnerable adults and children were living with hidden harm, missing the safety afforded by workplaces, schools and other social settings. Charities and other groups in the community have stepped up and adapted support services, but not all victims have been in a position to access support or advice.”

She added: “The Department of Justice and the wider Executive must start preparing now for further increases in domestic violence, child abuse and family breakdown cases and the inherent strain on our social care system and family justice system.”