Belfast Telegraph

Lack of cash will hit new bid to tackle domestic violence: MLA

By Mark Edwards

A new plan to tackle domestic and sexual violence in Northern Ireland will be undermined due to a lack of funding, an MLA has warned.

The Department of Health and Department of Justice jointly published the strategy under the Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Strategy yesterday.

The plan will see the implementation of a domestic homicide review process to promote good practice in responding to domestic abuse.

A sanctuary scheme for victims will be implemented to enable them to stay safe in their own homes.

The Department of Justice will also commence a Crown Court observers' study to gather information on victims' and witnesses' experiences of the court system in sexual offence cases.

However, SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly cast doubt over the plans, saying they will not be properly implemented because of a lack of funding.

"This new plan based on cross-departmental partnership is, on paper, a welcome step towards tackling domestic and sexual violence," she said.

"In particular, the domestic homicide review process.

"However, in reality, the lack of funding is going to make it impossible to implement the plan in its entirety.

"Speaking with management and board members from Women's Aid on a regular basis, I am acutely aware that year-on-year, they are left to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get the funds needed to maintain their refuges and programmes."

The MLA for Upper Bann said it was unacceptable that the new plan could not be brought into legislation in the absence of an Executive at Stormont.

The Department of Justice said: "The action plan will directly contribute to the delivery of the 2016 Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Strategy's vision to have a society in Northern Ireland in which domestic and sexual violence is not tolerated in any form, effective tailored preventative and responsive services are provided, all victims are supported, and perpetrators are held to account."

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