With small changes, Domestic Violence Bill could improve protections for children experiencing domestic abuse
Barnardos welcomes that the Domestic Violence Bill will be discussed in the Seanad today. Barnardos believes that with a number of small changes this Bill could improve the protections available to both children and adults experiencing domestic abuse.
This new Domestic Violence Bill aims to fill many of the gaps that exist in the current domestic violence legislation. Among a number of improvements, the new Bill explicitly provides for the voices of children to be heard in court proceedings that relate to them.
June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said, “Children are too often forgotten in situations of domestic abuse and steps must be taken to better protect them. Bearing witness to domestic abuse leaves children with deep emotional scars. Living in an abusive environment often results in deep anxiety or aggressive outbursts, never mind the impact on their health, schooling, peer relationships and other developmental aspects. It is, simply, a form of child abuse. We know that without appropriate support there is a huge risk of irreparable damage to the child, and frighteningly, the cycle of abuse continuing.”
“Barnardos welcomes that the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has taken a holistic view of domestic abuse and has recognised the impact that domestic abuse has on the entire family. With a number of amendments the Bill could now be strengthened to more fully protect the people it aims to protect.”
“For instance, Barnardos seeks the systematic inclusion of the impact of domestic abuse of children in all risk assessments that are undertaken. Also in acknowledgement that crises do not just happen in office hours, an on-call judge system that Gardai can utilise to grant emergency barring orders should be introduced. There is also a need to establish a dedicated family court and child court welfare service, and a full roll out of child contact centres across the country to facilitate court ordered supervised access visits. With practical amendments like these, this Bill could greatly improve the protections available to children and adults experiencing domestic abuse.”
“Overall, this Bill is a very positive step forward and will improve the protections available to people experiencing domestic abuse. We just urge a more child centred approach to be included in the Bill in recognition of the lifelong effects living with domestic abuse has on children.”
Note to editors
Read our policy report Read What's the Harm: A child centred response to domestic abuse
See our short video uncovering six things you might not know about the impact of domestic abuse on children