Stormont progress report on new domestic and sexual abuse measures
A progress report on Northern Ireland’s seven-year domestic and sexual abuse strategy has been published by Stormont ministers.
As well as highlighting what has been achieved during year five of the initiative, the report also sets out a number of priorities for year six, including the implementation of the new domestic abuse and civil proceedings bill, a new advocacy support service and support for emergency refuge provision.
Commenting on the cross-department strategy, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “As we look back at 2020, I am encouraged by what we have achieved together. Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by Covid-19, essential support services have remained fully available and new initiatives, such as the ‘Ask for Ani’ pharmacy code word scheme, have been introduced to provide additional routes for victims and survivors to access support.”
Mr Swann added: “The IRIS programme has also been running across two GP federations with some practices now fully trained to use the IRIS referral pathway to provide specialist advocacy support for both women and men experiencing domestic and sexual abuse.”
Justice Minister Naomi Long has also welcomed the progress.
She said: “Tackling domestic abuse is extremely important to me. Despite Covid-19 my department has driven forward important work. Legislation for a new domestic abuse offence has been enacted.”
Mrs Long said it was a positive development that free public transport is available for those fleeing domestic abuse to emergency accommodation,” and added: “A range of media campaigns have raised awareness around how to get help and support. A domestic homicide review process has been also been introduced to learn from tragedies where tragically an individual loses their life.”
Other priorities for the next year include commissioning research to consider the extension of the Sanctuary Scheme, and carrying out preparatory work on developing legislation on Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said she wanted to ensure the Sanctuary scheme is “fully utilised to provide victims with the choice to remain safely in their homes or seek re-housing,” while Education Minister Peter Weir highlighted work that has been undertaken to establish a pilot programme to notify schools of domestic abuse incidents.
He said: “This will commence in the south Down area in the next financial year, assisting schools to provide support. We have also welcomed the publication of guidelines for responsible media reporting on domestic abuse regionally”.