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We urgently need Stormont ministers in post to assist agencies in fight against domestic violence

letter of the day: social concerns

The terrible murder of Connie Leonard and the attempted murder of her son, who has Down's Syndrome, highlighted yet again the impact of domestic abuse on victims, their families and the wider community.

In 2014/15, six homicides were recorded with a domestic abuse motivation, accounting for 40% of murders in Northern Ireland and 13,426 domestic abuse crimes were reported, representing 13% of all crime here. The need to stop domestic abuse is a major social issue.

Social workers support victims of domestic abuse, helping to safeguard them and their children. They help parents to see the world as their children do and support them to make what are often difficult decisions to change their situation.

Social workers also aid victims of domestic abuse who have associated mental health problems, helping them as they work towards recovery.

Social workers have worked closely with an array of agencies and professionals to establish systems to protect victims and prevent abuse occurring.

This has required a very high degree of co-ordination and co-operation involving the PSNI, social services, probation, the Prison Service, Women's Aid and a range of government departments.

Central to this has been the publication of the NI Domestic and Sexual Violence Strategy, produced by the Department of Health and Department of Justice.

However, the current absence of a Northern Ireland Executive to continue to drive the necessary inter-agency work is being felt in a lack of policy development. We could do so much more to continue to improve our systems and processes.

One such example would be the development of domestic homicide reviews to allow agencies to learn from such tragedies as happened recently in Fermanagh.

We have a clear and urgent need for local ministers to be in post to address this and other serious local problems.

It is the least we can do for victims.

COLIN REID

Chair, Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers

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