Department of Justice to lead new whole of government national strategy to tackle Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence 

14 July 2021

The Government today published an independent audit conducted on how responsibility for Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) is segmented across different government departments and agencies. 

On foot of the audit, Minister of State for Civil and Criminal Law Hildegarde Naughton and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman agreed that the Department of Justice will continue to have lead policy responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

The Department of Justice will now lead the development across government of the new strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, which will be published by the end of the year.

The third national Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence will outline how the Government will radically improve services and supports for victims and will be the most ambitious plan to date.

Ministers Naughton and O’Gorman believe that genuine engagement and partnership with organisations working on the ground in this sector is vital to the success of the new national strategy.

The recommendations of the audit, commissioned by the Department of Justice, will be considered by Ministers Naughton and O’Gorman as part of the development of the new national strategy.

The publication of the audit is a commitment in the Programme for Government and is part of range of actions undertaken by the Government tackle the scourge of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

The actions include: 

·        A €30m allocation by Minister O’Gorman to Tusla in 2021; the highest allocation for DSGBV services made to date. This includes €28m in core funding and €2m to address Covid-19 challenges.

·        Tusla’s accommodation review, currently being finalised, which has examined the current level of refuge provision, evidence of demand for services and unmet need, and analysis of proximity to refuge by local communities.

·         Additional supports provided throughout the pandemic, such as supporting victims of DSGBV access rent supplement via the Department of Social Protection

·         Reforms to our Criminal Justice System such as the introduction of preliminary trial hearings

·         More specialised training and extra staff in An Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions

·         Improved policing through Operation Faoiseamh and other proactive initiatives

·         Funding of €4.1 million from the Department of Justice to support victims of crime and some €3 million for raising awareness of domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

·         The development of paid domestic violence leave and benefit 

Among the audit’s recommendations are: 

·       A Ministerial Committee and/or Cabinet Committee to oversee the implementation of the next national Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Strategy

·       Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence should be a specific theme within existing local community and policing structures, and be incorporated in the pilot Community Safety Partnerships underway in Longford, Waterford and Dublin’s north east inner city

·       A dedicated Domestic, Sexual Gender Based Violence Office to be established within the Department of Justice, reporting directly to the Secretary General, and supported by an advisory group of senior officials, experts and service providers

·       The funding and commissioning of all Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Services should be the responsibility of the Department of Justice

The new national strategy will take account of the audit and other developments, such as the implementation of Supporting a Victim’s Journey: A plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases, which was published by Minister Helen McEntee last year, and Tusla’s Strategic Review of Emergency Accommodation needs.

Commenting on the findings of the audit, Minister of State for Criminal and Civil Justice Hildegarde Naughton TD said:

“The Government is determined to tackle the scourge of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, and we have already taken significant action in that regard.

“However, we must always seek to improve the policies we pursue and the services we provide to support people who find themselves in the most vulnerable situations.

“The Programme for Government committed to an audit of how responsibility for domestic sexual and gender-based violence is segmented across different government agencies.

“We are publishing the results of that audit today and we will now work towards a new national strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence – which will be the most ambitious to date.

“The recommendations from the audit will be considered as we work towards the new strategy. Any substantial changes to how services are structured would require careful consideration and consultation and Minister O’Gorman and I will work with the sector and organisations which do vital work in this area.”

Minister O’Gorman added,

“The Programme for Government identifies an epidemic of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence, and this has been compounded by Covid-19 restrictions. The Government has responded, supporting service providers with €30m funding through Tusla. We are now looking to support victims and service providers through the longer term.

“Minister Naughton and I have agreed that the recommendations in the audit should be considered later as part of the development of the new national strategy to prevent domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and in the light of further public consultation. This ensures that our consideration of how they are advanced is undertaken in full consultation with the sector.

“Significant change will need significant planning and the publication of this audit marks the beginning of that process.”

ENDS…//

 

Note to editors

The audit is titled Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence: An Audit of Structures (Link to report – http://justice.ie/en/JELR/DSGBV_Audit_Report.pdf/Files/DSGBV_Audit_Report.pdf)

The Programme for Government commits to an audit of how responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is segmented across different government agencies. This commitment is also reflected in Supporting a Victim’s Journey - the implementation plan for the O’Malley Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences.

Following a competitive process, Mary Higgins and Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop were commissioned to undertake the audit on 18 December 2020. Prior to this, a consultation meeting was held with the Monitoring Committee of the DSGBV strategy on 13 November 2020 where NGOs broadly welcomed the audit and endorsed the terms of reference which had been drafted collaboratively by the Department of Justice and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Government actions to date on DSGBV include:

·        A €30m allocation by Minister O’Gorman to Tusla in 2021; the highest allocation for DSGBV services made to date. This includes €28m in core funding and €2m to address Covid-19 challenges.

·         Tusla’s accommodation review, currently being finalised, which has examined the current level of refuge provision, evidence of demand for services and unmet need, and analysis of proximity to refuge by local communities.

·         Minister O’Gorman is also currently undertaking consultations with to the introduction paid domestic violence leave and benefit, with a view to bringing forward final proposals to Cabinet in the Autumn.