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Free public transport for Northern Ireland domestic abuse victims

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Free travel will be provided for domestic abuse victims

Free travel will be provided for domestic abuse victims

Free travel will be provided for domestic abuse victims

Free public transport has become available to those fleeing domestic abuse, it was announced on Monday.

It will be available where refuge or emergency accommodation has been arranged through the 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or Women’s Aid.

The move was announced by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Justice Minister Naomi Long, who said victims of domestic abuse should not have to worry about how they can find shelter when fleeing a violent situation.

PSNI figures recently revealed domestic violence in Northern Ireland has risen considerably during the coronavirus lockdown.

Between March and June there were 1,200 extra cases reported to police compared to the same period last year.

Ms Mallon said said access to travel is a small thing but it could "make an enormous difference" to those affected.

"This is particularly the case where, as a result of the abuse, individuals have no, or limited money, and who have been forced by their abuser to cut off contact with friends and family," she said.

The move enables access to free train or Ulsterbus travel across Northern Ireland for men, women and their children once accommodation has been offered by Women's Aid or emergency housing by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Mrs Long said the initiative was secured through cross-government partnership working with the voluntary and community sector.

"Through this, we can offer support to men, women and children, who through no fault of their own find themselves in a difficult and potentially dangerous situation," she said.

“We know that leaving an abusive relationship can be one of the most dangerous times for individuals. Where possible we would encourage all affected by domestic abuse to contact support organisations, or the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline, to seek help and support. In an emergency always contact the police.”

SDLP Infrastructure Spokesperson Dolores Kelly said it's a positive move which will bring comfort to those in despair.

"While this is a small step, if it helps even one victim to leave and get to a place of safety, this move will have helped to make a big difference.

“Ministers should continue working together to find ways to support our most vulnerable, throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

Translink Group Chief Executive, Chris Conway said the organisation places a strong focus on serving local communities.

"We know we are a lifeline for many and so we are pleased to be working with our partners on this new scheme to offer this vital service across our rail and Ulsterbus network to help support some of the most vulnerable people within the communities we serve."

Belfast Telegraph