Community groups have been asking for a dedicated domestic violence worker for Ballyfermot since 2017 – and look finally set to get one.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has set aside funding for the post, which is being advertised at the moment.
“There has always been a very pronounced gap in services,” said Nadine O’Brien, outreach and prevention officer for Saoirse Refuge in Tallaght.
The closest domestic violence services to Ballyfermot were in Inchicore, Tallaght or the city centre, she says.
O’Brien says she is hopeful that the worker will be able to start in August of this year.
Why It’s Needed
Between April and July 2019, within a ten-week period, eight women aged in their early twenties to mid-thirties died by suspected suicide in the Ballyfermot area, says O’Brien.
“Many of them had young children, they were young mothers,” she said. “There were a lot of similarities between the cohorts of women that died.”
Sunniva Finlay, manager of Ballyfermot STAR, a drug-user support service, says usually children are a protective factor against suicides among mothers – so this was unusual.
“You can imagine the community was, and still is, absolutely distraught,” said Finlay.
A report commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) said that, while “There is a perception among some local stakeholders that the rates of domestic violence are high … there is a lack of evidenced-based data at area level in Ballyfermot.”
The report recommended further research into the relationship between domestic violence and suicide. And it suggested engaging young women who may be at risk in the area, including support for domestic violence.
O’Brien says the Ballyfermot Traveller Action Project and Ballyfermot STAR, among others, were also there to put pressure on the state to allocate resources, she says.
Finlay says her organisation had been connected with some of the suspected suicide cases, and was very concerned with the lack of dedicated support.
Hazel de Nortúin, a People Before Profit councillor, says she met with local groups to discuss what was needed to help with domestic violence the area, based on the findings of the HSE report
O’Brien then put in an application to Tusla to ask for a domestic violence outreach worker in the Ballyfermot area, she says.
But a domestic violence worker for the area wasn’t hired until now because of a lack of funding, says O’Brien.
“It’s always got to do with money. Allocating the correct funding to the correct organisation that could correctly meet the needs of the community,” she says.
O’Brien is from Ballyfermot, and says the issue was personal for her. “I was acutely aware of the needs in Ballyfermot for quite a while now.”
Before 2019, she worked in other areas, such as Coolock. But she says she still tried to provide interim support in Ballyfermot, when it was needed.
After taking up her current post with Saoirse Refuge in Tallaght, she says she felt pleased to finally be close enough to Ballyfermot to make a strong case to Tusla.
“It was something I was always advocating to Tusla, but I was just never in a position where I could strongly advocate. Now I can do it,” she says.
Connecting Women with Services
O’Brien says the new domestic violence worker in Ballyfermot will be connected to the Saoirse Refuge, and will primarily be involved in outreach in the community.
“The worker will reach out to the community, to the different networks and locals, letting people know that support is there,” she said.
Working with Saoirse Refuge, the domestic violence worker will be able to connect women they meet with the services on offer, says O’Brien, such as child support and legal support.
The worker will be “helping them deal with abuse in relationships, or coercive control or helping them understand what it is they’re experiencing”, she says.
Eleven families can stay in Saoirse’s refuges, and there are also two safe houses for families that need long-term support, says O’Brien.
The worker can work out of different buildings in Ballyfermot, says Finlay, of Ballyfermot STAR, which would offer privacy and protection to the women going in.
In addition to the hiring of the domestic violence worker, De Nortúin, the councillor, says she also envisages local campaigning to combat domestic violence.
“I think it’d be good to work with younger adults and possibly teenagers, in connection with the youth services. If you could educate people around the signs and proper, acceptable behaviour,” she says.
Finlay says that getting a domestic violence worker will be great for the community. “It will be fantastic when that gets going.”