Dedicated State Agency to Oversee Dramatic Increase in Refuge Accommodation
The Minister for Justice Simon Harris has secured government approval for the drafting of legislation to create a state agency dedicated to tackling and reducing domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and by increasing refuge accommodation.
It follows the government’s decision last June that an agency should be established under the remit of the Department of Justice to deliver on commitments under Zero Tolerance, the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence.
One of its key responsibilities will be overseeing and supporting the provision of refuge accommodation for victims to help deliver on the government’s commitment to double the number of refuge places and increase the number of safe homes and other accommodation over the duration of the Zero Tolerance plan.
However, the establishment of the agency will also ensure that there is permanent structure to help deliver further refuge accommodation over the long term.
To assist with this, the new agency will prepare and publish standards for service provision and governance in respect of the DSGBV services and accommodation, and monitor adherence to those standards.
Minister Harris said, “this new agency will be tasked with ensuring the delivery of services to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and with driving and coordinating the implementation of the Third National Strategy across Government. It will bring the dedicated and expert focus that is needed to tackle this serious and complex societal issue.”
“The agency will be up and running by next January. Publishing the General Scheme is a significant milestone on that path, and I wish to thank colleagues and the sector for their support for this important work. This sends a clear message from Government that domestic and gender based violence will never be tolerated. I want to thank my colleague Minister McEntee for leading on this as part of the Zero Tolerance strategy.”
The core functions of the agency as set out in the newly-published General Scheme include:
- Planning, commissioning and funding DSGBV services.
- Overseeing and supporting the provision of refuge accommodation for victims.
- Setting standards for services and refuges, and monitoring adherence.
- Disseminating information on DSGBV, and leading and supporting awareness-raising campaigns.
- Conducting, commissioning and supporting research.
- Supporting, co-ordinating and reporting on the implementation of the Strategy.
- Assisting the Minister in developing future DSGBV strategies.
The agency will have a key role in engaging and consulting with stakeholders in the DSGBV area.
Minister of State for Law Reform James Browne added, “securing government approval to start drafting this legislation demonstrates our determination to tackle the scourge of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and to meet the ambitious commitments and timeframes as set out in the Strategy.”
“I firmly believe this dedicated agency will make a positive difference to the many lives blighted by violence and abuse, and that it will be instrumental in driving forward the whole-of-government ‘zero tolerance’ approach that informs the Third National Strategy.”
The new legislation – including the core statutory functions set out for the agency – has been guided by the Strategy, and by positive engagement with relevant government departments and State bodies, including the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and Tusla, from whom the new Agency will take over the provision of services to DSGBV victims.
There has also been significant consultation with the non-governmental DSGBV sector under an agreed principle of ‘co-design’ with those delivering frontline services.
The work of the Agency will be overseen by a non-executive board which will oversee the internal governance of the agency, adopt strategic and annual business plans for the Minister’s approval, and manage and appraise the performance of the Chief Executive of the Agency.
The General Scheme of the Bill will now be referred to the Justice Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny and once their report is received, work on finalising the Bill will be prioritised so that it can be published and begin its progression through the Houses with a view to enactment before the end of the year.