IRISH domestic abuse victims are being denied shelter at over-subscribed refuges as Government cuts continue to strain services.
In the past five months the Solace Women’s Aid organisation was forced to turn away 19 Irish Travellers who came looking for refuge from their abusive partners.
But for the charity’s Irish and Traveller Outreach and Resettlement Worker, Bernie O’Roarke this is only the tip of the iceberg for the at-risk community.
“We are seeing a huge increase in Traveller women turning up on our door looking for help, something they would not normally do,” she said.
“But with the cuts the Government is implementing this is only the start – we are going to see homelessness and destitution that we haven’t seen before, not even in the Thatcher year’s. Nobody is prepared for what we are about to see.”
Ms O’Roarke has worked for Solace Women’s Aid since 2005, originally as a refuge worker and now as a coordinator for the only domestic abuse service specific to the Irish Traveller community in London.
As funding for services dries up across the country, she expects worse to come for the women they serve.
“Between October and February we turned 19 women away,” she said. “Imagine that, we have 15 refuges but we didn’t have a place anywhere for them. That is a huge number for such a small period of time.”
She added: “Incidences of domestic abuse are definitely going up, but we also get extra referrals as the services that used to exist are being cut. Workers in Irish organisations across London with posts serving the Traveller community for years are all gone. These women are turning up on our door now and are tuning up in absolute destitution.
“In just three days last week I had 12 referrals from the Traveller community looking for refuge from domestic violence, no other culture has the situation they have. As an Irish Traveller Women they are victimised three times over and face the brunt of the cuts.”
The Co. Westmeath native, whose position is funded by the Irish Government and supported by Irish charities and community donations throughout the year, will accept a cheque for £18,000 from The Ireland Fund of Great Britain on Friday.