Belfast Telegraph

Ten babies born at Northern Ireland refuge shelters in a year

By Brett Campbell

Ten babies were born to women living in refuge shelters here within a 12-month period, new figures have revealed.

The Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland annual report states that 43 of the 717 women who were given refuge between April 2017 and March 2018 were pregnant upon arrival.

It also reveals that 485 children were admitted during the same period, but 285 women were turned away from existing facilities which were full to capacity.

The figures have been revealed as the charity prepares to mark 40 years of supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence with a fundraising gala in Belfast on Thursday.

Regional policy and information co-ordinator, Louise Kennedy, said the charity is seeking corporate backing, which has proved difficult in the past.

"We are not a cats charity," she said.

"But when we had our children's conference in February, we got corporate backing from Allstate and Bank of Ireland.

"It showed us the time is right for that corporate social responsibility and those type of partnerships to be developed."

The charity helps a wide range of people, including teenagers and the over-85s.

Women aged under 25 account for 25% of service users, with 16% aged over 55.

The Women's Aid-managed Domestic and Sexual Violence helpline (0808-8021414) handled a total of 26,547 calls during 2017/18.

Ms Kennedy said the nature of the calls and the needs of women are "becoming more and more complex" as time goes on.

The latest report also shows that ethnic minorities accounted for 182 of the women who were admitted to shelters, with 30 identifying as members of the Traveller community.

A further 6,385 women and 6,784 children accessed outreach support while staying in their own homes. Some 161 of these women were pregnant when they participated in various programmes.

Almost 55% of women in shelters said they had a disability or complex, whereas only 34% of women in outreach identified the same way.

Belfast Telegraph

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