Stormont ministers have published a strategy for dealing with domestic and sexual abuse in Northern Ireland- including proposals to provide free public transport for those seeking refuge from abuse.
Justice Minister Naomi Long and Health Minister Robin Swann published a plan for year five of the seven-year domestic and sexual abuse strategy as well as a progress report for 2019/20.
The plan includes introducing multi-agency homicide reviews, introducing a pilot scheme to notify schools of domestic abuse incidents, the introduction of free public transport for those going to refuge or emergency accommodation because of domestic abuse, and developing the sanctuary scheme to enable victims to remain as safe as possible in their own homes.
Mrs Long said: “Now more than ever we need to focus on the positive progress being made across government to support victims of domestic and sexual abuse, while also clearly setting out the work still to be progressed over the coming year.
“A range of steps have been taken by my department in the last 12 months including the introduction of the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill to the Assembly."
“The bill will provide for a new domestic abuse offence and statutory aggravators, which includes the criminalisation of coercive and controlling behaviours. Work is also ongoing to develop a new streamlined advocacy support service and continue piloting behavioural change programmes across each of the health and social care trusts.
“A domestic abuse ‘See the Signs’ campaign and a TV and billboard advertising campaign around consent has also been jointly developed with the Department of Health.”
Health Minister Robin Swann added: “Health and justice continue to work closely together and a number of significant pieces of work have already been brought forward.
"My department is also piloting the IRIS programme which offers training for GPs and practice staff on how to identify and respond to domestic and sexual abuse along with a dedicated advocacy support service for victims identified, both male and female.
“As we continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, we know that for many home is not a safe place.
"For anyone who feels they are at risk of abuse, it is important to remember that there is help and support available to you. The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline is available 24/7 on 0808 802 1414 or in an emergency phone the police on 999.”