Question on the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence

-   Alan Farrell TD

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update on the progress of the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence on the implementation of its strategy and evidence of the impact it is making on the recent figures showing an increase in domestic abuse against children; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Answered by Minister Alan Shatter.

Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence is an executive office of my Department.  Cosc’s key task is to ensure the delivery of a well coordinated “whole-of-government” response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence against women and men. Cosc carries out its co-ordination functions primarily within the framework of the first National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. The strategy was published in March 2010 and covers the period 2010 to 2014.  

Monitoring of the implementation of the strategy is achieved through a six monthly exercise to establish progress to date on the activities in the Strategy. Cosc undertakes the regular monitoring. The process is overseen by the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Men and a high-level group of officials known as the Strategy Oversight Committee. Each six monthly monitoring exercise is published on the Cosc website.

In addition, a mid-term review of the implementation of the strategy was completed in 2012 and published on the Cosc website following consideration by the National Steering Committees and the Oversight Committee.     The Deputy will appreciate that this is a complex plan involving four objectives and 59 activities. The mid-term review of the National Strategy noted, in broad terms, that good progress had been made in relation to around a quarter of the planned activities, that a further fifty per cent of the activities were making progress with some delays and that approximately a fifth of the planned activities had limited or poor progress. The review resulted in a re-prioritisation of many of the actions of the strategy and an update of the time-frames for delivery of the actions.  An updated  table of the actions with the priority and time-frame associated has been published on the Cosc website.  

In terms of domestic abuse against children, I assume that the Deputy is referring to statistics recently published by Women’s Aid in its annual report for 2012. There are a number of possible reasons for this increase. It is not, for instance, clear whether this represents a greater willingness of people who ring the Women’s Aid helpline to discuss the emotional and other impacts of domestic abuse on their children, improved recording of this aspect of domestic abuse by the helpline, or an actual increase in  the targeting of children in domestic situations. As one of the strategy’s key aims  is to increase awareness among the general public of the incidence of domestic violence and among victims of the services available to them, increases in reporting are to be expected and indeed welcomed. There  has been an increase in public debate and a range of policy initiatives in relation to children experiencing abuse,  violence, neglect and bullying, which may lead to a greater willingness to discuss the impact of domestic violence on children.

I would also like to state that front-line community and voluntary domestic violence services for those suffering from domestic violence are funded at present by the Health Service Executive for which the Minister for Health has responsibility.  I understand that responsibility for these services will transfer to the Child and Family Support Agency when established and that agency will come under the remit of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

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