By Mark O’Brien
A WOMEN’S REFUGE in Tallaght is to close next month after it failed to secure government funding to keep it open next year.
Staff at Cuan Álainn Women and Children’s Refuge were officially told on Tuesday that they would be made redundant and the centre will be closed just before Christmas.
Cuan Álainn had been funded by the housing agency Respond for the past three and a half years but they are no longer in a position to keep funding the refuge.
Respond had applied to South Dublin County Council and the Child and Family Agency, Tusla to secure the €350,000 that would be required to keep the centre open next year but they were turned down.
Last month, Tusla told the Irish Times that the reason funding was denied was because: “Tusla has not at any stage funded this service, which was established by Respond independent of the State sectors. As matters stand there is no funding available in the Tusla 2015 budget to allocate to this service.”
This means that women currently staying in the refuge who can’t secure housing will be faced with a choice between homelessness or returning to their violent partner.
Cuan Álain is a second stage a second stage housing unit for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
It consists of nine units – two single units and seven family units.
Since it opened three and a half years ago, 71 women and 96 children have been housed in the refuge, where they are given time and support to make decisions for themselves about their future.
Cuan Álain also link in with community agencies in the area, including counselling services, legal assistance and schools for the children.
Residents can stay for up to six months and Centre Manager Elaine Burnett explains that this time is the vital next step after a woman fleeing domestic violence enters an emergency shelter, which is where most of Cuan Álainn’s referrals come from.
“If you’re in a marriage for one year or ten years where the control has been taken away from you, where you’ve no control over what you wear, what you do, who you speak to,” she says.
“You’ve been isolated, your confidence has been knocked, your self-esteem has been knocked and then you go to live in a refuge, whether it’s emergency second stage or anything like that, it’s not going to be fixed in a month.
“It’s going to take a long, long time.”
Ms Burnett speaks with admirable passion about her job and having worked for Respond for the past 12 years, it is clear that she is devastated at the loss of such a vital service.
She also feels that spending money on a service such as Cuan Álainn would save the government in the long run.
Citing the fact that 20 families pass through the centre in a three month period, she explains that:
For 20 families to be given support and then to move on and to be using the services of the community rather than the residential services is saving money in the long term.
Cuan Álainn stopped taking referrals two months ago and are working on finding suitable housing for the women and children who are currently living in the centre but Ms Burnett explains that this can prove difficult, especially in cases where there is a mortgage on the family home as this involves a lengthy court process.
Ms Burnett feels that the centre shouldn’t be closing and that there is money available that could be used to fund the centre.
“We’re a first world country,” she says. “We have the resources there, we just choose to spend it in the wrong places.”
An Uplift campaign to petition Minister James Reilly to keep the centre open has already received over 5,000 signatures but unless there is a last minute reprieve, it seems that the centre will close and women suffering from domestic violence in the area will lose a vital service.