Protecting Childhood: Motion on the Marriage Age

Wednesday, 25th June 2014

“That Seanad Éireann:

– notes the need to ensure adequate protection of children and of children’s rights in our laws, and in particular to ensure that children are not coerced or forced into ‘arranged’ marriages;
– notes that sections 31 and 33 of the Family Law Act 1995 allow exemptions from the normal rule that parties to a legal marriage must be over 18; and that the possibility of seeking this exemption by way of court order was retained in section 2(2) of the Civil Registration Act 2004;
– notes further that this exemption was criticised by the High Court in a judgment in June 2013 in a case concerning an ‘arranged’ marriage; and
– proposes that the Government would consider whether to remove or amend the statutory provision allowing minors to marry on the basis of a court exemption.”

Senator Jillian van Turnhout:

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I would like to thank Senator Bacik, who like me has worked on this issue, for initiating the motion before us. I am very happy to second the motion and thank her for her co-operation.

I raised this issue back in May during the Seanad debate on the abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria that Boko Haram had threatened to sell into forced marriage. Like many people, I felt helpless looking on at the situation and it made me wonder if there was anything we could do. For me, this is one area that we can do something about. We can send the clear message that the age for marriage is 18. That is something that we must take responsibility for doing. During the debate I made the worrying correlation between Nigeria and Ireland because, in certain court ordered special circumstances, exemptions to the ordinary legal age for marriage of 18 years can be made. That means Ireland does not currently prohibit all child marriages.

It is important to note that Ireland is bound by a number of international human rights laws and standards, the provisions of which are profoundly incompatible with child marriage, for example, the International Bill of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW, the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the slave trade, and institutions and practices similar to slavery.

In September 2013, Ireland, with its fellow EU member states, supported the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution, Strengthening Efforts to Prevent and Eliminate Child, Early and Forced Marriage: challenges, achievements, best practice, and implementation gaps. The European Union as a negotiating block at the international fora condemns the prevalence of child marriages yet makes provision for it in a number of its own jurisdictions, for example, in Germany and Italy. In Germany, if one of the parties to be wed is at least 16 years old, but not yet 18 years old, the German age of emancipation, that party needs to seek approval from the family court in order to be wed. Consent of the concerned party’s parents is not sufficient. In Italy, a sworn statement of consent to the marriage is required by the parents or legal guardian if the child is under the age of 18.

Exploitation of young girls through violence and abuse, including forced and arranged marriages, is a global problem. According to Girls not Brides, every year, approximately 14 million girls are married before they turn 18 across countries, cultures and religions. They are robbed of their childhood and denied their rights to health, education and security. According to UNFPA, by 2030, the number of child brides marrying each year will have grown from 14.2 million in 2010 to 15.1 million, a 14% rise if the current trend continue.

In March 2014, the Iraqi Justice Minister tabled a Bill to allow girls as young as nine years old to marry. While reports have indicated that it is unlikely that the law will pass, it represents a worrying trend toward religious tendencies usurping girls’ human rights. In response to the Bill, prominent Iraqi human rights activist Hana Adwar said: “The law represents a crime against humanity and childhood. Married underage girls are subjected to physical and psychological suffering.” This contention is known to be true. The more than 60 million girls married under the age of 18 worldwide have a higher risk of death and injury during childbirth, fewer marketable skills, lower lifetime income, a higher rate of HIV, exposure to domestic violence, and illness for themselves and their families than their unwed peers.

It is inappropriate and, frankly, contradictory that we in Ireland speak out against child marriage in countries such as India, Nigeria, Malawi, Iraq, Nepal, Ethiopia and Bangladesh while our Statute Book still allows for exemptions to the normal marriage age, and fails to specify a minimum age for such exemptions. As outlined by Senator Ivana Bacik in 2012, some 28 marriages were registered under the exemption. As stated by the Senator, the exemption threshold is very broad and it uses standard language giving the court wide discretion. This means that decisions pertaining to allowing children to marry are made behind closed doors, often subject to the in camera rule since the parties to the application are children. Yet, from the moment they are married, they become adults and are outside all the child protection laws. We never hear about those decisions and those vulnerable children. In this regard, the Family Law Reporting Project has come across many of these cases, and may be able to shine a light on the prevalence and general circumstances in which they occur.

There is no written judgment in the High Court case referenced in this motion. The case concerns the annulment of a 16 year old girl’s marriage to a 29 year old man on the basis of the girl’s lack of capacity to give true consent. How can a 16 year old girl give consent to a marriage to a 29 year old man? I am not speaking of a case in Iraq but in Ireland. This happened in Ireland. However, Mr. Justice MacMenamin felt the case raised concerns of such a magnitude that it warranted his making a general comment about the danger of the legal loophole to children. We are faced with a choice. As the Legislature, we must provide guidance for the courts to implement the statutory provisions as intended or, and this would be my preference, we can lead by example and remove or amend the statutory provision currently allowing minors to marry. I believe Ireland should send a clear signal to children here that we protect childhood and that the age for marriage is 18 years. We have had excellent debates here on protecting childhood. We are talking about consent, the age for which should be set at 18 years. That would mean that Ireland, as part of the European Union as a negotiating block, is not saying that it can understand cultural differences and our courts can adjudicate, but we do not trust the courts in other countries. We need to send out a message that we are setting the age at 18 years without exemption.

Link to full debate here.

Mother and Baby Homes: Statements

Wednesday, 11th June 2014

I warmly welcome the Minister to the House. Everyone in the Chamber will agree that the recent revelations are yet another deplorable stain on our collective conscience. In preparing for my statement, my personal shame as a member of the collective that turned a blind eye to the abuse and suffering of women and children, out of fear and deference to the powerful, is as acute as ever before. It is the same shame I felt reading each of the reports – Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne – into the systematic abuse and exploitation of vulnerable children in State and church institutions in Ireland. It is the same shame I felt reading the harrowing testimony from survivors of the Magdalen laundries and symphysiotomy procedures performed by medical professionals in Irish hospitals.

I share the overwhelming sense of shame and compunction over the unthinkable fate suffered by our sisters, cousins, friends and daughters labelled “fallen women” by church and community for becoming pregnant out of marriage and sent to these homes for their sins and rehabilitation. The isolation, hardship and suffering to which these young women were subjected in the name of honour and respectability is almost unthinkable in contemporary Ireland. How many of these young women fell pregnant against their will, by way of rape, incest and familial abuse, and found themselves arbitrarily and extra-judicially detained in these homes? It is the worst injustice imaginable when the victim is punished. It reminds me of punishment by stoning for adultery under Sharia law for women who have been raped.

Due to the time limit, I will limit my main observations to the issue of adoption, including the legality of adoptions prior to the Adoption Act 1952. Although the national adoption contact preference register contains data on only a small number of adoptions, the 2011 Adoption Authority of Ireland audit of the records found 50 cases of illegal adoptions. Given that the vast majority of adoption records are held by the Health Service Executive, HSE, and Child and Family Agency, CFA, we have seen only the tip of the iceberg of illegal adoptions. The area of adoption legality is extremely complex and technical and the commission will need an expert on adoption law to deal with what is likely to be a huge body of work. The Mahon tribunal had two to three experts working together.

So many of the issues thrown up by the mother and baby homes are not just legacies of the past but prevailing issues today, from which an examination of the past can yield lessons for legislation and policy today. Earlier today, I met several survivor groups, and we must ensure any inquiry, and the process to establish it, will hear their voices and involve them. The latest revelations have once again brought to the fore the trauma and suffering of many of the survivors. We must ensure we care for the living. I welcome, so early in the Minister’s new term of office, his speedy and committed response to establish a statutory commission of investigation. We are all waiting to find out the scope of the inquiry and which homes and what period will be included. Will the State take responsibility for collating all the records or will it do the same as in the report into the Magdalen laundries, namely, receive the records and then return them to the church-run institutions?

The inquiry must deal with many inter-related matters. The prevailing issues are adoption, the right to identity, lone parents, the role of women, poverty, social strata, and the rights of unmarried fathers, whose names are still not necessarily recorded on birth certificates. Will the investigation have the resources it needs and the appropriate expertise to deal with the myriad issues I have outlined? We must find a way to prioritise the truths from which there can be learning. We have recently seen the role social historians and archivists have played and can continue to play in investigative teams. Can we learn from the Murphy report experience? Should the inquiry find a way to do its work by sampling to find the appropriate balance between truth, expediency, bearing witness, and establishing and identifying causal and contributing factors, thereby maximising the scope to learn lessons?

Lest we forget, each and every one of these children had a name, and to ensure they get the memorial they deserve, their names must be listed in their honour. They are the children we promised, at the formation of the State, to cherish equally.

Making the Case For a Right to a Home: Joyce Loughnan

 story-kevinIt is over 75 years since the Irish people approved a new Constitution in 1937 with Bunreacht na hÉireann replacing the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State. The Constitution is of course a vital, living document which seeks to reflect the values at the heart of Irish society.

As we all know, societies develop and change over the years and it is important for a Constitution to reflect this. Indeed, over the past 75 years our Constitution has been amended a number of times by the people, to reflect historical and societal change. The current Programme for Government included a commitment to establish a Constitutional Convention and this work is underway.

This year already, the members have voted in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 and to amend the clause in the Constitution which emphasises the central role of women in the home. Some of the other key issues for the Convention to examine in the first stage of its review this year include: reform of the Dáil electoral system; giving Irish citizens abroad the right to vote in presidential elections and the provision for same-sex marriage.

 

EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO A PLACE THEY CAN CALL HOME

Focus Ireland has always believed in a rights based approach to tackling housing need. Our vision is that “Everyone has a right to a place that they can call home.” We work through our support services and housing programmes to help people to secure a home and to prevent many others from losing theirs in the first place.

Housing is a basic human right and Ireland should honour its international obligations that guarantee a right to housing and act to remove the inequalities in the Irish housing system. We believe that if a right to housing was enshrined in our Constitution, this would help to ensure a more effective response by the State in dealing with the issues of homelessness and housing need.

Unlike other EU countries, Ireland has no established right to housing or accommodation for its citizens. Indeed housing rights in Ireland are historically weak by way of comparison to our European neighbours. Homelessness on the other hand is perhaps the most extreme denial of housing rights in society. It is a phenomenon directly resulting from poverty and social exclusion.


Without a right to housing the extent, nature and experience of homelessness in society is deepened, exacerbated and prolonged. Focus Ireland believes that the absence of a right to housing in Irish society means that previous governments, officials and administrators have responded in a lesser way to the challenge of homelessness and housing need.

Focus Ireland has called for a legal right to housing for all citizens in need of a home and for this right to be enshrined in our Constitution many times over the years. This belief is supported by the public as a survey carried out for our charity found that a massive 80% of the public support a Constitutional right to housing for Irish Citizens.

 

 

CAMPAIGN FOR A RIGHT TO A HOME

Focus Ireland launched a fresh campaign last year calling for a Right to a Home which included writing to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on this matter. We believe it was a mistake by the government not to include the right to a home as one of the issues for the Convention to examine as part of its first phase of work.

The finding of our survey show the public wants action on this issue. However, we welcome the Taoiseach’s commitment to add further topics to the second stage of this process and strongly believe that the Right to a Home should be one of these issues.

There has been good work carried out across housing and homeless services for many years – yet Ireland is still failing to provide adequate housing for some of our most marginalised citizens. If we are to effectively tackle major problems in society it must be impossible to view housing as a stand-alone issue. Failure by the State to provide housing leads to people becoming homeless or remaining trapped in low standard, insecure accommodation. We have sadly seen this in recent years as the previous government failed to meet the agreed deadline to end long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough by 2010.

However, there have been positive developments already this year as Minister Jan O’Sullivan has recently launched a new Homelessness Policy Statement which sets a new deadline of 2016 to end long-term homelessness. Focus Ireland fully supports this policy and will be working in partnership to implement it – but we also still firmly believe that a right to a home is required in our country.

We are still very much focused on working to secure the “Right to a Home” as one of these issues for the second phase of the Constitutional Review.

I hope readers of this piece will support this campaign as we look to continue it this year to keep this important issue on the agenda.

To find out more about the work of Focus Ireland and how you can support our work go to www.focusireland.ie

Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013. All Stages 5-7 November 2013

 Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Fifth Stage (7 Nov 2013)

I, too, thank the Minister and her officials for their co-operation in advance and during the debate and hope the co-operation will continue. I remain concerned about the cuts to the maternity benefit and the jobseeker’s allowance, a concern shared across the House.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to come here to discuss the Irish plan for the youth guarantee. She ably shared the information with us on how she showed leadership at European level on the issue. We are clear that she is committed to ensuring that the youth guarantee is a good plan.

Having listened to the debate, particularly on section 9, some good ideas were expressed from all across the House. We could add and give our support to the youth guarantee in order to ensure that it is successful for young Irish people.

 

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Report Stage (7 Nov 2013)

They are actually from the Department of Social Protection.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I remind the Senator that we are speaking on the amendment. I have given her a bit of latitude in her response but we have had quite an extensive debate on this issue.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

We are speaking on the amendment. I have given the Senator an extreme amount of latitude on this.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

To the amendment.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I remind Senator Harte to speak to the amendments. We cannot revisit the discussion on section 9.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I remind Senator Harte that this amendment proposes that reports be laid before the House. I ask him to confine his remarks to that topic.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

Amendment No. 3 has been ruled out of order because it poses a potential charge on the Exchequer. Amendment No. 4 proposes the insertion of a new section. Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I ask the Senator to confine her comments to the amendment.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

Much of what the Senator is saying relates to the debate we had on section 9. I was listening very carefully and I am very involved and I ask the Senator to confine her comments to the amendments that have been tabled.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

Okay.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

Okay.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

Will the Senator keep to this section? In the first round there was a good deal of latitude on the sections, so can we keep to the section?

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I am encouraging the Senator to pursue that.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

Senator, let us keep to the section.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

The Senator should speak to section 9.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

Yesterday on Second Stage I highlighted the fact that this is a critical issue. I believe the cut is regressive and is likely to exacerbate the difficulties that these young people are already experiencing in getting back into employment and training. I noted yesterday that during the boom times young people were at the top of the list for getting into employment. Therefore, there is nothing to support the narrative being spun that young people are sitting on sofas at home or whatever. That is not the experience I have had.

I wrote directly to the Minister and I received replies. We did a follow-up overnight and I am awaiting the subsequent replies. I was talking to the Minister’s officials and I will take them at their word when they say they will come back to me with detailed replies in respect of the questions. Therefore, I will not use my time today to go through each of the questions. However, I am concerned about these cuts because of the overall message we are sending to young people. We are cutting the jobseeker’s allowance but not enough appropriate training places are available. I will discuss the youth guarantee shortly but we have cut funding successively to youth work organisations. We should consider all of these things as a cumulative package.

I welcomed the Minister’s commitment yesterday in the Seanad to the effect that she would come back for a debate on the youth guarantee. It is critical that we have the debate before the Irish plan is submitted to the European Commission.

 

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

According to the Department’s briefing note on the youth guarantee scheme, this will take place before the end of December. I seek clarification on the commitment made to have the debate by then. The timing of the debate should factor in when the plan becomes available to us and the plan should be the basis of the debate before it is submitted to the Commission. That would allow time for us to play a role in ensuring that we get buy-in and include all the people that need to be included in the plan. It is critical that we get this right.

This should be a joint initiative between the Department of Social Protection and the Departments of Education and Skills, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Children and Youth Affairs because labour and activation issues are not in a vacuum. From my own experience of youth work organisations I believe they can play a critical role.

I saw a little of the Oireachtas committee earlier today. We heard it eloquently described how youth work organisations were getting at some of the hard-to-reach young people and how the organisations were able to engage them into the workplace. Youth workers have a real insight and trust with young people. If we think about it, most adults in a young person’s life are not there by choice. We do not choose our parents, teachers or doctors. However, traditionally a youth worker or someone involved in a young person’s life in that way can have a significant role. I am conscious that there were excellent presentations made on the youth guarantee today and therefore I will not speak to it too much. However, I am concerned about the original or initial allocation of €14 million earmarked for it. In reality, and if we are serious, the figure should be approximately €100 million in the first year because a total of €66 million of that sum would be reimbursed from the EU. We have to spend the money first and then it is reimbursed. Therefore, the cost to the State will be €34 million. We need more clarity on the numbers, places and the budget available. Let us consider the €46 million figure. What are the costings for the 1,500 JobBridge places? What are the costings for JobsPlus for young jobseekers? What are the costings for the 1,000 extra places on Tús? What are the costings for the 750 new places on the momentum scheme?

My colleague, Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, cannot be here today, unfortunately, but he has asked me to raise with the Minister the situation for professional actors who are currently in receipt of the jobseeker’s allowance. They have been told they must go on Tús programmes for one year. The result of this will effectively mean that they must put their profession on hold for that time. The reason is they are not seeking full-time employment according to the Department of Social Protection. The Department sees their acting as a sideline hobby. Senator Mac Conghail sent me correspondence he received which detailed how a young actor was told that he cannot take up part-time work. By its very nature, acting is about short, part-time work. The person at the Intreo centre said everyone would like to be famous but that when an actor is not working he is not an actor, he is unemployed. The official insisted that the actor should go on a one-year training course with Tús if he wanted to continue to qualify for the jobseeker’s allowance. This individual has said he is happy to do part-time work to supplement his income and he is only seeking the half-time jobseeker’s allowance. There is something about understanding the nature of acting because it tends to be short work unless one gets a job in a soap opera. Even then, one is at the discretion of the writer.

The difficulty is that the Tús programme involves working for 19.5 hours per week, which is great when the employer will give actors the flexibility to do acting jobs. However, if not, ultimately, they cannot take up the work that they are keen to do. This applies not only in the case of actors. I have heard from many young people about the need for flexibility and the opportunity to take a chance when a chance comes upon them. A person could be offered a three-month placement. If a person takes a three-month work placement or a job it is fantastic but the transition to get back onto jobseeker’s allowance is so long that we must question whether it is worth it. Naturally, it is worth it to have a job but what if it represents a detrimental decision financially? We need to consider how people transfer in and out of jobs. We are in a far more flexible workplace now. If a person takes a three-month opportunity, often a job will come out of it. However, it is a leap of faith and it is a case of trying to find the flexibility and ensure that people can transition.

Yesterday in her speech on Second Stage the Minister referred to JobsPlus. She stated, “I want to tell Members here, many of whom are actively involved in employment or familiar with many employers, that on 1 January, young jobseekers aged under 26 will qualify for JobsPlus if they are without employment for more than six months”. My understanding was that this was for people aged under 25. Will the Minister clarify that she meant under 26 years? Was that correct? It would be welcome news if this was the case.

We have discussed flexibility and training places and the issues I have outlined in my questions. Let us consider the figures and leave aside the quality of the places, which is one of the arguments. Let us consider the increase in payments if a person goes back on an education programme and the differentials that arise. A person aged 25 years on jobseeeker’s allowance gets €144 up to a maximum of €160 per week if she goes on the back-to-education allowance scheme. The incentive in that case is €16 per week. Likewise, a young person aged 18 to 24 years will get €100 on schemes such as JobBridge with a maximum of €150. This is a low income to live on, especially if people have to pay the costs of getting to their place of internship, lunch, clothes and all the things that come with it. Can we consider working towards having a basic rate for all those in education or training and having the same rate across the board? It could be an allowance of €188 or something that would represent an incentive, something we could look at in time to work to such that not every scheme is different.

I agree that every young person is different and for some, the back to education programme or the JobBridge scheme is the right choice at present. For the sake of €10 or €20, I would not like young people to make a different choice that is not in their best interests on a purely monetary basis. Members do not want that as they want such people to get back on the pathway to the right place to which they wish to go. Consequently, streamlining should be considered and a way found to have all young people on the same rate. I will leave it there for the present but these are some of the issues I have with regard to the cuts.

 

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I endorse what the Minister said about surrogacy. The case I was citing to her is just one case, but we know there are other cases. I welcome the briefing note that we received on the Family Relationships and Children Bill 2013. I look forward to it being debated in this House.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I will not rehearse the discussion we had on section 5 but I endorse it and it is related to this issue. Has the Minister given consideration to providing surrogacy leave? The Equality Authority has advised on this; I refer to the Ms Z case. A teacher with a rare medical condition preventing her from carrying a pregnancy, although she had healthy ovaries, arranged for a surrogate to give birth to herself and her husband’s genetic child using IVF. The child was born in April 2010. The woman applied to the Department of Education and Skills for paid maternity leave and was refused. She was offered unpaid parental leave by her employers. She took a case to the Equality Tribunal and it ended up before the European Court of Justice. One of the court’s advocate generals suggested that since adoptive parents are entitled to maternity leave under EU law, the national courts could assess whether it is illegal to apply different rules to adoptive parents and parents through surrogacy while another advocate general said that where surrogacy is allowed in a country, the mother taking care of the baby was entitled to leave to ensure the unhindered development of the mother-child relationship. The Equality Authority has advised the Minister for Justice and Equality to provide support to the small number of families availing of surrogacy similar to that provided to adoptive parents. Has that been considered?

 

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

The Minister mentioned arrangements in other countries. I could provide a list of other countries in which there are preferential arrangements in relation to maternity and paternity benefits. I want the record to show that Ireland is not a leader in the world in respect of maternity benefits and leave.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Committee Stage (6 Nov 2013)

I echo and agree with everything Senator Power said. I spoke about this on Second Stage yesterday so I will not repeat myself but I am concerned because I know part of the narrative is that the payment is going up for some people while it is going down for others. The payment is going down for 95% while it is going up for 5%.

Ms Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council said a reduction of maternity benefit will force many women to go back to work earlier than they wish to. This is not in the best interests of women, their children or society as a whole. Senator Power has clearly outlined that some employers pay a top-up payment to women on maternity leave. In this case the employer may take a financial hit but some will not choose to take such a hit. We may see that significant classes and types of job will be directly cut by this reduction. Ms Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance has stated that Ireland is currently in the middle of a baby boom and to reduce maternity benefit at this time is economically counterproductive, counter-intuitive and will discourage women from having babies.

The difficulty is that the taxation measure came into effect from 1 July 2013, so it is beginning to hit now. That figure of €3,500 combined with this cut and the taxation measure sends out a damaging signal to women. I would like to see Ireland move to a combined system of maternity and paternity leave. In that way we could bring about greater gender equality because employers would regard men and women in the same way. However, it is a regressive step to reduce the amount.

It is not just NGOs who are warning about this. IBEC has also warned that some companies may have to review their maternity benefits as a result. Top-up payments to bring salaries up to normal levels during maternity leave are standard practice in most companies. For example, IBEC’s head of HR development, Ms Mary Connaughton, said the change could cost the typical large employer with 12 employees on maternity leave an extra €10,000 a year. That is something they would have to consider. That is why I have tabled an amendment to oppose these cuts.

 

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) (5 Nov 2013)

The Senator is taking time from his colleagues.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) (5 Nov 2013)

Senator Zappone, without interruption, please.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) (5 Nov 2013)

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Seanad: Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013: Second Stage (5 Nov 2013)

I welcome the Minister to the House. It is important to realise that this is the sixth in a series of cumulative cuts for many people. While we are discussing individual cuts in the Bill, I am very aware that many families and individuals have been hit six times in one way or another. It is my third time to discuss the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill in this House.

I feel slightly disillusioned because of the way the budget process is handled in Ireland. No matter how we cut and slice the Bill, it is about how we make political decisions. There is a strong public perception that the decision has been made to target vulnerable groups and hit already stretched families and individuals. I look at countries such as Denmark which has an open and transparent budget system. The Danish Government lays out the budget targets, debates in which people will get involved ensue and then the budget decisions are made. I question our processes, including the way we can invite groups to appear before committees, such as the Joint Committee on Health and Children without any real influence on the decisions that are made in the budget process. This is an issue for a wider debate on another day.

Today, I wish to discuss the aspects of the Bill on which I have particular concerns and have tabled three amendments. First I will address section 5 dealing with maternity benefit. I understand the rationale for the cuts and the argument that it will bring the level of payment up for some and down for others, but it will decrease the payment by €32 per week for 95% of the recipients. This reduction will affect the vast majority of recipients. Any parent will be able to articulate the significant costs associated with newborn babies. The cuts have a cumulative impact and this comes on top of the cuts in the 2012 budget, in which the maternity benefit was taxed and reduced the real value of the payment even further. The National Women’s Council of Ireland has calculated that in less than one year the cut to maternity benefit is nearly €3,500 per mother. I have the details of that calculation. We know from studies conducted internationally and in Ireland and Government reports that the first year of a child’s life is very important. I have major concern that over two budgets we have cut that payment by €3,500 per child. That is a matter of concern. I have similar concerns on the adoptive leave and the rate of payments to a person adopting a child as the same arguments will apply.

As the Minister will be aware from my e-mail last Tuesday, to which she responded with detailed answers, I have substantive issues with section 9 which deals with jobseeker’s allowance. I am extremely concerned as are others about these cuts to the payments to young unemployed people. I think it is regressive and is likely to exacerbate the difficulties these young people are already experiencing trying to get into employment and training. I am also very concerned about an urban-rural divide on this issue. It is easier for those based in Dublin to go for an interview, but the young people who are based in rural areas may have great financial difficulty in getting to the interview. Some young people who are offered a three month job placement face obstacles when going on and off social welfare benefits. This is a major issue because it is difficult to have one’s allowance restored after a three month placement.

I refer to the availability and appropriateness of training places and to the youth guarantee. I do not believe we are investing enough ,nor do I believe enough has been announced. Over the years, there have been successive cuts to youth organisations. I am interconnecting these issues because it is all about young people and the message we are sending to them. I listen to the narrative which is saying to young people that it is to incentivise them to go to work but the figures do not support that. During the boom times, the take-up rate among young people was the highest across the EU. Young people want to go out to work and want to be in education and training.

I am concerned the OECD report, Getting Youth on the Job Track, which was only published this September, clearly stated:

A comprehensive national strategy to tackle the very high unemployment rates among young people is lacking. Youth policy is fragmented, with several Government departments taking individual action. A more co-ordinated and tailored approach to the youth unemployment problem is required.

It is talking about Ireland. That is probably at the heart of the issue. We can debate the cuts but it is about the alternatives for young people.

In 2011, 40% of our young people aged between 16 and 24 were at risk of poverty. That is the highest rate in the EU and that is the group whose payments we are choosing to cut. It is at the highest risk of poverty but we are saying we might cut the payments.

I asked for details on the €32 million in savings on the basis of the cuts to jobseeker’s allowance. I also asked for the estimated number of recipients affected and I was informed that it would be 13,767 for 2014, which does not tally with the figures I worked out. The reply to a parliamentary question asked in September showed there were 20,853 young jobseekers aged between 21 and 24, the two years affected by the cut in 2014. That does not take into account any new entrants. If I take the €72 million saving to be made and do a simple calculation of the €44 per week, it shows 31,468 persons are affected. I will go back to the Minister’s Department because the sums do not make sense and I cannot work out these figures. I am trying to understand how many places and how many young people we are looking at.

The Minister highlighted the back to education allowance scheme, but a person must be 21 years of age to qualify for that scheme. There were 25,000 people on that scheme in 2013, of which 6,500 were under 25 years of age. That is approximately 26% of the people on that scheme. The Department said it was not possible to be precise when giving a number for the total of education places available for young people. Part of the problem is that we do not know the number of places available. We are saying to young people that we want to encourage and incentivise them to take up appropriate training and work, but I am hearing from young people that the places are not available.

In regard to the savings from the cuts, the Department said the cuts will affect 13,767 people. I estimate the figure to be approximately 20,000, but even if we differ on that, the reality is that the answers I have received show there are 5,250 places available. Where is the incentive? Young people are told that for every job for which they apply, there are 32 applicants. We are sending mixed messages to young people.

I mentioned the youth guarantee. The Department said it held consultations. There was a briefing on the youth guarantee on 14 October last and there was a general presentation by the Minister’s Department and some discussion in smaller groups. Organisations were invited to make submissions to the Department. The plan is being finalised by an interdepartmental working group but nobody, including myself, as a Senator, and organisations working with young people, has any idea what is in that plan.

An Oireachtas committee will meet tomorrow at which organisations such as the National Youth Council of Ireland will be represented but they do not know the detail of the plan. Will the Minister come to the House for a debate on the youth guarantee and the plan the Government will submit to the European Commission on labour activation measures for young people? All of us regularly consult organisations that represent the group to whom I refer and a debate would be healthy.

 

Seanad: Order of Business (5 Nov 2013)

I thank the Leader for ensuring that the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013 will not be guillotined. We need to have a very important debate. I have put down three amendments to the Bill and I tried to be constructive. I have also been in touch with the Minister’s office over the past week with several questions, so I look forward to the debate over the coming days and will make my decisions based on what we hear on the floor of this House.

I echo the calls for a debate on water supply in the Dublin area, especially with regard to the quality of the water as well as the communications issues involved. Communications issues also apply to the local property tax and medical cards and I wonder whether the State should use organisations such as NALA in communicating to people in plain English exactly what is happening and when it is happening.

The major issue I would like to raise is about what took place yesterday in the Hague in respect of child exploitation material. We have had some good debates in this House on the issue, and I have issued a report on it as well. I believe Ireland needs to bring in a system of filtering for child exploitation material. I do not believe that will be a panacea, but it has been proven to be a deterrent and that is what we need to do. I call on the Leader to ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to clarify to the House the steps he will take in transposing the European directive into Ireland. That was one of the recommendations in the directive. We have had a considerable debate in the House, but we should continue to play a role in leading the debate and calling for action on behalf of children in Ireland who are being exploited in order to have images to upload to these horrendous sites.

 

 

 

 

 

Address to Seanad Éireann by Mr. David Begg

Wednesday, 25th September 2013

I too wish to join in the welcome to David Begg and thank him for his very interesting address. Like all Members I have plenty to say about how present-day Ireland compares with the Ireland of the 1913 Lock-out. I refer to areas such as child poverty, socioeconomic disparities, the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights, sub-standard housing and accommodation – Priory Hall and the ghettoisation of direct provision – vested interests, property development and the relationship with banks. It is interesting to note that at the turn of the 20th century it was lawful to hit one’s dog, one’s wife and one’s child. Sadly, in 2013 it is still lawful to hit one’s child – and arguably, someone else’s child – in the absence of an explicit ban on corporal punishment of children in the home and in alternative day-care settings. This is, perhaps, a subject for a further discussion. However, it is interesting to highlight the rights of children.

Because of time constraints I will limit my contribution to the following comments. I commend the ICTU 1913 committee on the Dublin Tenement Experience: Living the Lockout project, which was delivered in collaboration with Dublin City Council and the Irish Heritage Trust. I met the Irish Heritage Trust this morning and I was informed that the project received a community grant and the trust is looking for a reinstatement of community grants. In August I had the pleasure of visiting 14 Henrietta Street. It is no exaggeration to say that I felt completely transported during that hour. The poverty, disease, desperation, pride, spirit and fight portrayed by the actors were tangible to all present. Will this become a permanent project, and how can we support it? The way in which the arts were brought together for such an experience is tremendously powerful, both for the people of Ireland and for visitors to the country.

I was delighted by the decision of Dublin City Council to name the Marlborough Street bridge after Rosie Hackett in recognition of her dedication to the trade union movement and her struggle for workers’ rights. It is very important to recognise the role of women.

It is also very important to recognise that Rosie Hackett was just a girl of 18 when she helped to organise the strike in protest against the poor working conditions in Jacob’s factory. To galvanise and lead as many as 300 women at such a young age is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the potential of the young to be the driving force behind positive change. We need to keep this firmly in mind when we speak of youth activism and we see organisations such as SpunOut, which has been in the news this week, the National Youth Council of Ireland and all its member organisations.

Mr. Begg mentioned the figures for those not in education, employment or training, NEETs, which is an obvious concern, as well as the youth guarantee, so what can we do to support this youth activism? Rosie Hackett was 18 when she was involved in that strike and there are many Rosie Hacketts today that we should support as we look to bring about positive change in Ireland.

The Politics of Direct Provision

 

My entry point into the issue of direct provision is from a children’s rights perspective. This perspective has been informed by my work on related issues as the former Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance; the recommendations of the Government appointed Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon; the concerns raised by advocacy groups; and my own recent visits to two direct provision asylum accommodation centres as an independent member of Seanad Éireann.

It has taken me a long time to wade through the mire that is the political discourse on direct provision. It has been difficult to establish which features of the system belong to the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs or indeed the Department of Social Protection. I have struggled to understand the distinction drawn between children “cared for by the State”, as is used to describe children in direct provision, and children “in the care of the State”. I have argued strenuously that firstly, children are children irrespective of status and secondly, that it is a stretch in credulity to claim that children in direct provision are in the care of their parents in circumstances where the parents’ autonomy to make even basic decisions about their children’s care, for example what and when to eat, is so limited as to render it absent.

My overwhelming concern is that the administrative system of direct provision, which has been operating in Ireland since April 2000, is detrimental to the welfare and development of asylum seekers, and in particular the 1,808 children currently residing in direct provision accommodation centres throughout Ireland . There are a plethora of difficulties, many of which I have raised under Adjournments of the Seanad including: the dubious legality of the direct provision system; the lack of an independent complaints mechanism for residents; the absence of independent inspections of direct provision centres where children reside; the decision by Ireland to opt-out of the EU Directive to allow asylum seekers to enter the work force if their application has not been processed after one year; the fact that there are no prospects for post-secondary education for young asylum seekers, which is like hitting a pause button for an uncertain and doubtlessly lengthy period of time; the fettering and erosion of normal family dynamics and functioning; and the lack of autonomous decision making.

But, the ultimate failing of direct provision is the length of time asylum seekers remain in the system waiting for their claims to be processed. It is important to remember that when first introduced 13 years ago, direct provision was viewed as a time limited system that would be for a maximum of six months. If this was the case, I could tolerate the inadequacies that would present in that time period rather than the outright failings that present in this system where the average length of stay is 4 years and a significant number have remained in the system for between 5-10 years.

And so, the long term solution has got to be a streamlined status determination system that will deliver a speedy, and robust, yet fair and transparent process. I hope this will be delivered through the Immigration, Residency and Protection Bill, which the Minister for Justice has committed to re-publish in revised form, but which ultimately been 8 years coming down the track.

In the interim, I call on the Government to take the following steps: conduct an examination to establish whether the system of direct provision itself is detrimental to the welfare and development of asylum seekers, in particular children, and whether, if appropriate, an alternative form of support and accommodation could be adopted which is more suitable for families and children; to establish an independent complaints mechanism; and to commence independent inspections of direct provision centres where children reside.

1Reception and Integration Agency, Monthly Status Report, February 2013: http://www.ria.gov.ie/en/RIA/RIAFeb(A4)2013.pdf/Files/RIAFeb(A4)2013.pdf

 

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Making the Case for a Right to a Home – Joyce Loughnan

Joyce Loughnan – CEO Focus Ireland

Making the Case for a Right to a Home:

It is over 75 years since the Irish people approved a new Constitution in 1937 with Bunreacht na hÉireann replacing the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State. The Constitution is of course a vital, living document which seeks to reflect the values at the heart of Irish society.

As we all know, societies develop and change over the years and it is important for a Constitution to reflect this. Indeed, over the past 75 years our Constitution has been amended a number of times by the people, to reflect historical and societal change. The current Programme for Government included a commitment to establish a Constitutional Convention and this work is underway.

This year already, the members have voted in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 and to amend the clause in the Constitution which emphasises the central role of women in the home.  Some of the other key issues for the Convention to examine in the first stage of its review this year include: reform of the Dáil electoral system; giving Irish citizens abroad the right to vote in presidential elections and the provision for same-sex marriage.

Everyone has a Right to a Place they can Call Home

Focus Ireland has always believed in a rights based approach to tackling housing need. Our vision is that “Everyone has a right to a place that they can call home.”  We work through our support services and housing programmes to help people to secure a home and to prevent many others from losing theirs in the first place.

Housing is a basic human right and Ireland should honour its international obligations that guarantee a right to housing and act to remove the inequalities in the Irish housing system.   We believe that if a right to housing was enshrined in our Constitution, this would help to ensure a more effective response by the State in dealing with the issues of homelessness and housing need.

 

Unlike other EU countries, Ireland has no established right to housing or accommodation for its citizens. Indeed housing rights in Ireland are historically weak by way of comparison to our European neighbours.  Homelessness on the other hand is perhaps the most extreme denial of housing rights in society. It is a phenomenon directly resulting from poverty and social exclusion.

 

Without a right to housing the extent, nature and experience of homelessness in society is deepened, exacerbated and prolonged. Focus Ireland believes that the absence of a right to housing in Irish society means that previous governments, officials and administrators have responded in a lesser way to the challenge of homelessness and housing need.

Focus Ireland has called for a legal right to housing for all citizens in need of a home and for this right to be enshrined in our Constitution many times over the years. This belief is supported by the public as a survey carried out for our charity found that a massive 80% of the public support a Constitutional right to housing for Irish Citizens.

CAMPAIGN FOR A RIGHT TO A HOME

Focus Ireland launched a fresh campaign last year calling for a Right to a Home which included writing to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on this matter. We believe it was a mistake by the government not to include the right to a home as one of the issues for the Convention to examine as part of its first phase of work.

The finding of our survey show the public wants action on this issue. However, we welcome the Taoiseach’s commitment to add further topics to the second stage of this process and strongly believe that the Right to a Home should be one of these issues.

There has been good work carried out across housing and homeless services for many years – yet Ireland is still failing to provide adequate housing for some of our most marginalised citizens.  If we are to effectively tackle major problems in society it must be impossible to view housing as a stand-alone issue.  Failure by the State to provide housing leads to people becoming homeless or remaining trapped in low standard, insecure accommodation. We have sadly seen this in recent years as the previous government failed to meet the agreed deadline to end long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough by 2010.

However, there have been positive developments already this year as Minister Jan O’Sullivan has recently launched a new Homelessness Policy Statement which sets a new deadline of 2016 to end long-term homelessness.  Focus Ireland fully supports this policy and will be working in partnership to implement it – but we also still firmly believe that a right to a home is required in our country.

We are still very much focused on working to secure the “Right to a Home” as one of these issues for the second phase of the Constitutional Review.

I hope readers of this piece will support this campaign as we look to continue it this year

to keep this important issue on the agenda.

To find out more about the work of Focus Ireland and how you can support our work go to www.focusireland.ie

 

 

Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013: Committee Stage

Thursday, 23rd May 2013

I wanted to speak on section 1 but I will move on.

On section 4, I was fully supportive of the amendments from Sinn Féin. The House has ruled them out of order but perhaps they could be examined by the Minister and brought in by the Government because they are important.

The administrative arrangements for the protection of victims of human trafficking are set out in the Department of Justice and Equality’s policy statement, Administrative Immigration Arrangements for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking. Since this is the first time forced labour will be defined in Irish law, there has been no formal identification of victims as victims of trafficking for forced labour, and no prosecutions have been brought forward. Currently, when a victim leaves their exploitative workplace they are known as a potential victim of human trafficking and are granted, if required, hostel accommodation in direct provision centres and a weekly allowance of €19.10.

I do not need to elaborate further on this point other than to say the Minister of State is well aware of my concerns about the legality of the direct provision system and the payments under the administrative scheme. Potentially, victims are given basic access to health care and access to counselling for trauma, if necessary. Until the victim is formally identified by the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, on the basis of reasonable grounds, which is a relatively low test, as a person suspected of being a victim of human trafficking they are not entitled to a reflection and recovery period or a temporary residence permit. A reflection and recovery period is critical because it allows an alleged victim to recover and ensures the victim is not subject to removal proceedings. That has not been granted in any of the recent cases that have been worked on by Migrants Rights Centre Ireland. The victim is left with a tolerated status in the State but there are no specific timeframes of security that a reflection and recovery period or residence permit would give.

The difficulty is that it can take up to two years to get a decision to establish whether a person is a suspected victim of human trafficking. During this time the person is left in virtual limbo in a direct provision centre. The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland is dealing with six cases in which potential victims have been waiting for more than 18 months for a decision. I am not speaking about theory; I am speaking about six real cases. S is the victim of forced labour and trafficking who made an official complaint to the GNIB in August 2011. She is still waiting for a decision in her case. She lives in a direct provision hostel and her undocumented immigration status is tolerated and she will not be removed from the State. She suffers from poor health and is unable to afford the many trips to the hospital she requires and her medication.

I understand the immigration arrangements for the protection of victims of human trafficking will be put on a statutory footing in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 which is stalled on Committee Stage in the Dáil. Will the Minister of State confirm this and indicate to the House when the Bill will proceed? Is it the Government’s intention to bring its practice in line with our legal obligations as set out in a Council framework decision of 19 July 2002 – 11 years ago – on combating trafficking in human beings and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2005? I asked these questions on Second Stage and I am asking them again because I am still waiting for an answer. The uncertainty of the timeframe for the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill is the reason I support Sinn Féin’s amendments to incorporate into the Bill the provisions of the anti-trafficking directive relevant to assisting, supporting and protecting victims of human trafficking. I will be interested to see the impact of the new definition of forced labour in Irish law on the forthcoming employment permits Bill which is in the legislative programme.

During the Second Stage debate I asked for the Minister of State’s assurance and the definition of forced labour as intended by the convention and as understood in international jurisprudence. With respect “offering oneself voluntarily” means fully informed and free consent throughout the worker’s service period. Will the Minister of State confirm that for the record? It is very important for those in the sector that this is the definition that is intended.

Domestic Violence: Motion

8th May 2013

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I also give my full support to this motion and thank the Labour Party group and Senators Maloney and O’Keeffe in particular, who have proposed and seconded it. I can wholeheartedly endorse everything they have said. The first point I wish to raise pertains to the Istanbul convention, that is, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. It has been open for signature since May 2011 and as Senator Moloney has stated, 29 Council of Europe member states have signed the convention but only four have ratified it to date and it requires ten ratifications to come into force. The convention is the first legally-binding instrument providing a legal framework to protect women against all forms of violence and includes obligations on the State with regard to prevention, protection and provisions of supports and assistance. It recognises violence against women as being gender-based violence and discrimination. It also recognises that equality between women and men is a prerequisite for prevention. Moreover, the convention obliges the State to address fully all forms of violence and to take adequate measures for prevention, protection and prosecution.

In preparing for today’s debate, I tried to work out the reason Ireland will not ratify this convention because these are all laudable and worthy aims, which everyone in this House has echoed thus far and which also are echoed within the counter-motion. My understanding is that Article 52 of the Istanbul convention, which is relevant to emergency barring orders, has some conflict with property rights under the Irish Constitution. I ask the Minister of State to elaborate on what precisely are the problems. As Ireland is part of the Council of Europe, why was this issue not raised when the convention was being drawn up? Can our laws be clarified to ensure its ratification because it is unacceptable to me that Ireland is not in a position either to sign or to ratify this convention? Consequently, I seek clarity and am all too tired of hearing that the Irish Constitution is a block to doing good things and to doing the right thing, as this is the right thing to do.

Previous speakers have mentioned the situation for women and for men. Given my background in children’s rights, I have all too often seen the direct effect of domestic violence on children, either directly or as witnesses to direct domestic violence. The Safe Ireland figures from last year showed that nearly 8,000 women and more than 3,000 children sought safety from domestic violence in Ireland. I will focus on that word, “safety”. I tried to put myself into that position in the context of looking the resources available and the laws in place in Ireland. Were one to be in a situation of domestic violence, the likelihood is it could be at a weekend. Addiction issues often are an intertwined problem, whether it be gambling, alcohol or drugs, and consequently they also can play a part. Where are the services and supports in respect of such issues? When one calls for the Garda to help, what can gardaí do? Members are aware of the pressures on Garda resources. Where are the refuges? Several previous speakers have mentioned the issue of refuges. There are none in many rural areas or where they do exist, they are being run by volunteers, that is, by dedicated women who have come together to provide a local support but who are receiving no support from the State. Moreover, the person concerned, who in the most usual case is a woman, must give a statement either there or within 24 hours. I refer to the facilities for so doing in an appropriate place where the children will not be a witness to that statement. What of all these intertwining issues, including psychological and counselling services or safe refuge? Moreover, this should not be limited to the city of Dublin, as such safety and places should be available nationwide for those in an abusive situation who pick up the telephone. Such situations are not planned and while people might say those involved have their wallets or could check in here or could do this or that, such situations can arise.

I will counter by noting that in 2007, the then Office of the Minister for Children, which has been incorporated into the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, produced an excellent report entitled, Listening to Children: Children’s Stories of Domestic Violence. What alarmed me in that report was that several mothers reported violent episodes while they were holding young children. This raises obvious concerns for their physical safety and child protection concerns. One mother of two children, who were aged four and six, outlined an incident in which she returned home from hospital with her newborn baby. As this State report notes, she stated:
He took to ranting and raving and screaming and shouting around the bed … I was holding [the baby] in my arms and I was feeding him … [The father] jumped out of the bed and he came over and he grabbed [the baby] and he had him out, like this, so that his little head was hanging down and his little legs were … [it] was very traumatic for me because I sort of felt that I am a mother now and I couldn’t protect my own child.

When such a woman seeks help, what are the resources the State has in place? How can such resources be ensured because it is known that domestic violence involves repeated victimisation? The woman does not necessarily pick up the telephone and get everything sorted out on the first call. Members are familiar with all the reports and the figures and it is a question of where will one will get help.

It also is a question of where should attitudes be changed. On that issue, I recently related a story on domestic violence to a colleague and am still stunned by the response. The colleague asked me whether they would not give the relationship a second go. This attitude must be challenged in society. I refer to suggestions that the woman should give the relationship a second go or perhaps was a little more complicit or perhaps had she the dinner on the table, it would not happen. As I stated, there are many countering factors and one must ensure the provision of adequate responses with both refuges and the wrap-around supports and services for the women and for the children. They also should be in place for the men whether they are victims or equally, are abusers. It is known that young children in particular have conflicting emotions. They love their dad and still want to be part of it. Is it safe that they are still there and will the dads be supported? This must be considered as a family issue and not simply in isolation. Consequently, I wholeheartedly endorse this motion.

The Lancet

In July 2021, Jillian co-authored an article in the world-renowned medical journal “The Lancet”