10/08/2018

New Domestic And Sexual Violence And Abuse Action Plan Published

A new Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Action Plan has been jointly published by the Department of Health and Department of Justice.

The 2018/19 action plan is the third to be issued under the Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Strategy and is based on a working partnership with the Department of Education, Department for Communities and other statutory, voluntary and community sector colleagues.

The plan aims to identify new initiatives to ensure a continued focus on sexual violence and abuse. A key area of work for the Department of Justice is the implementation of a Domestic Homicide Review process to capture learning, share good practice and improve the response to domestic violence and abuse. Actions for other partners include the development of policy proposals for a 'Sanctuary Scheme' for victims of domestic abuse and considering how relationships and sexuality education curriculum resources can support teachers in addressing domestic and sexual violence and abuse. Another key action will be the commencement of a Crown Court Observers' study to gather information on victims' and witnesses' experience of the court system in sexual offence cases.
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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.

SDLP Policing and Justice Spokesperson, Dolores Kelly, welcomed the publication of the new strategy, which she said was "of vital importance" but added that it is "impossible to ignore the glaringly obvious omission that without the proper resourcing it cannot be properly implemented".

Mrs Kelly said: "This new plan based on cross-departmental partnership is, on paper, a welcome step towards tackling domestic and sexual violence, 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. Likewise, it has been years since any of their staff have received a pay rise to acknowledge the very important, yet difficult job that they do, as well as not receiving any budgetry increase.

"It is unacceptable that due to the continuing political spat between Sinn Féin and DUP, that this 'New Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Action Plan' cannot be brought into legislation. Victims of domestic abuse should not be left to wait. Without functioning institutions and an Assembly and Executive to pass and implement legislation, victims of domestic abuse are being let down."

(MH/CM)

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