10 Aug 2022

Offaly Domestic Violence Service and Tusla launch new project after completion of two-year pilot programme

Offaly Domestic Violence Service launches new project completing after two-year pilot programme

Offaly Domestic Violence Service launches new project completing after two-year pilot programme

Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service (ODVSS) and Tusla have launched the Ethnic Minority Community Development project last week, completing a two-year pilot programme.

The project was established to identify the barriers and gaps that prevent women from the ethnic community in seeking help and support.

In the report, former Chairperson of ODVSS, Molly Buckley said that the ODVSS was delighted to be part of this project. “It is without doubt that there has been a significant amount of work completed to identify the barriers and gaps that prevent women from the ethnic community in coming forward for help over the last two years.”

“Barriers such as language, finding the right service, shame stigma, racism, immigration status, culture and religion, need defined strategies if we are to break down and address the complexities of abuse. Inter-agency support and partnerships with key stakeholders is key to this success,” she continued.

Later, she wrote: “We have experienced challenging times over the last few months with Covid-19 and very quickly like all services we had to adapt and meet increasing needs of victims of abuse. Despite, Covid-19, Anna Heagney continued to implement strategies that advanced the project along and achieved results. Anna is a valuable member of the ODVSS team and her work and dedication to the project has been outstanding.”

Ms Buckley then expressed her thanks to all the ethnic minority groups, who met with Anna Heagney, Ethnic Minority Community Development worker, provided information, engaged with surveys, focus groups, and one to one network meetings. Without this support, the project would not have been possible. “We would not have been able to identify the concerns and recommendations outlined in this report. Thank you to the domestic violence support services in the midlands, who cooperated with the project providing valuable information from each county.”

Ms Buckley congratulated Anna on a very informative piece of work that will address barriers for victims of abuse within the ethnic community. She also thanked Varlier Everard, Tusla for "trusting and believing in ODVSS carry out such an important project.

The Chairperson then went on to further thank Anne Clarke, the Manager of ODVSS, who guided the project's development and supported Anna in her role as an ethnic minority community development worker.

“It is imperative that we continue the excellent work that has been achieved by Anna and this project and build the capacity within the ethnic minority community to make women aware that support is available and that there shall be no barriers in front of them in seeking a life away from abuse,” she concluded.

Anna outlined how it was an “amazing journey and a great learning curve” for her over the last two years and there's no doubt that there's an urgent need for more awareness and support for ethnic minority women and men, as well as structural improvements on a national level for breaking down barriers that are facing minority victims of domestic abuse.

Anna also thanked all the groups that had contributed to the project and expressed she was delighted that Tusla had acknowledged the benefits of the recommendations and had agreed to continue to provide funding for the next stage of the project.

Meanwhile, the background to the report is that in 2017, Tusla Child and Family agency commissioned a needs analysis of needs and gaps in domestic violence support service delivery in the midlands (Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Longford and Roscommon. One of the key findings of this report identified that women from ethnic minority backgrounds, who were experiencing domestic abuse weren't disclosing abuse or seeking support from domestic violence support services. It was evident that significant barriers were preventing women from seeking help. The conception of this project aimed to address these barriers and examine and provide recommendations to support women in the ethnic minority communities, who were experiencing domestic abuse.

An advisory group was established to include Tusla, the Manager of ODVSS and Laois Domestic Abuse Service, Snr Child and Family Support Network co-ordinator, Tulsa Roscommon, AkiDwA and the Manager of EROC, Ballaghaderreen. ODVSS was delegated to host the project and create the role of Ethnic Minority Development Project Worker.

To gain more knowledge around the issues, the project worker also established contacts with and started networking with ethnic minority support organisations in other areas of Ireland, predominantly Dublin. An initial survey went out to services and organisations in late 2019. 70 surveys were circulated in various guises and this generated 60 responses and identified three barriers including language, lack of childcare and lack of awareness of services offered.

A second survey aimed at women from any ethnic minority background opened in early 2020 and 227 completed surveys were received from 34 different minority backgrounds, the largest group of respondents were from Pakistan, Lithuania and Latvia. This survey then identified six large barriers, which included language and communication, difficult to find the right service to use and not aware of what DV services can offer, shame and stigma and fear of being rejected by their own community, fear of racism or prejudice, immigration status issues and cultural or religious issues.

Networking with stakeholders needed to continue and in early 2020, the process of building trust and making contacts with minority groups and individuals progressed at a steady pace. However, as strategies were beginning to form, Covid-19 arrived and dramatically changed the dynamics of the approach as the whole country went into lockdown in March. New strategies were adapted on raising awareness of the project by engaging with local newspapers, radio and across social media platforms, while other opportunities such as webinars and training were utilised as well as the formation of new partnerships with the Russian and Muslim community.

Following two years of research, a number of findings and actions have been made including that the EMDP continues into a second phase to build capacity, engage with stakeholders and work with ethnic minority groups to encourage them to set out community champions that can help to address some of the barriers, which have been identified in this report.

Actions include developing a training road map and tool kit for other front line services that encounter and work with ethnic minority communities, provision of adequate resources of trained and accredited translators and interpreters for frontline services, addressing language barriers, adequate search engine profiling of DV services online, diversity in volunteers and staff in DV services, training and awareness for frontline DV services around culturally harmful practices such as FGM, HBV and forced married, continued co-partners awareness campaigns to ethnic minority groups and faith communities to raise awareness of signs of domestic violence, ethnic minority victims of domestic abuse, regardless of immigration/visa status, should be allowed to access refuge and other protective services while waiting for the process of their independent visa application, development of a strategised 'best practice' approach by the Gardai when supporting ethnic minority victims of abuse where a language barrier is present, full access to trained and accredited interpreters in family law courts, the development of a national educational learning programme on domestic abuse and the ethnic minority communities, for all domestic violence support service to be adequately resourced to provide specialised support to meet the need within the ethnic minority communities and via for DV victim dependents should be fast tracked or given a temporary visa to be able to access funds.

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