The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has secured Government approval to publish the Bill to create a statutory agency dedicated to tackling and reducing domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) and supporting victims and survivors.
Government approval of the Bill is one of a series of steps of significant progress to meet Minister McEntee’s commitment of having the new agency up and running in January.
The Minister also announced today that the position of CEO of the new agency will be advertised by the end of the month. Candidates for the position will have three weeks to submit their application to the Public Appointments Service (PAS) following the opening of the competition.
The Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Agency Bill 2023 follows a Government decision that an agency should be established under the remit of the Department of Justice to deliver on commitments under Zero Tolerance, the Third National Strategy on DSGBV.
The Bill will be introduced in the Dáil Minister McEntee by the end of September.
Minister McEntee said,
“I am committed to our goal of having Zero Tolerance of domestic, sexual and gender based violence and am determined to deliver real reforms which last.
“Recent Garda figures show the majority of homicides in this country have had a domestic abuse motivation. Unfortunately, we are all sadly familiar with all too regular stories of abuse and violence against women.
“The Programme for Government rightly recognises this an epidemic – and I am determined to use my time as Minister for Justice to put in place reforms and structures that will tackle domestic, sexual and gender based violence and the attitudes which underpin it.
“We have responded strongly with the Zero Tolerance Strategy, which commits to an enhanced and joined-up Government response to tackling these crimes and to supporting victims and survivors. This will be done, as it is now, in close partnership with the organisations who work on the frontline. I’ve also passed tough new laws, such as increasing the maximum sentence for assault causing harm – one of the most common offences in domestic abuse – from five years to ten years.
“A key plank of the Zero Tolerance Strategy is the establishment of a dedicated statutory agency to drive and co-ordinate the Government’s response to DSGBV and ensure the delivery of excellent services to victims, survivors and persons at risk of DSGBV.
“The Bill to establish this agency is a top Government priority under the autumn legislative programme.”
The new agency will bring the dedicated and expert focus that is needed to tackle the serious and complex societal problem of DSGBV. Its main functions as set out in the Bill include:
· planning, coordinating and monitoring the development of refuge accommodation
· providing support, including financial assistance, for the delivery of services to victims and persons at risk of DSGBV
· developing standards for funded services, and monitoring compliance
· co-ordinating the delivery of relevant Government strategies and plans
· delivering public campaigns aimed at raising awareness of DSGBV and reducing its prevalence
· carrying out ongoing research to support the development of future policies and programmes
In carrying out its work, the agency will also be mandated to engage and consult appropriately with the DSGBV sector and other stakeholders.
The Minister said the Bill has benefited from constructive engagement with relevant Government Departments and State bodies, in particular with the Department of Children, Equality, Integration and Youth and the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the context of the transfer of responsibility for funding of DSGBV services from Tusla to the new agency.
Minister McEntee added,
“The work on preparing this Bill also benefited from detailed earlier engagement with the non-governmental DSGBV sector under an agreed principle of ‘co-design’ with those delivering services on the ground.
“The recommendations of the Justice Committee in its scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Bill have also been given close consideration and taken on board to the greatest extent practicable.
“We have listened, we have consulted, we have researched and I strongly believe this dedicated agency will be a success and will make a positive difference to the many lives devastated by these forms of violence and abuse.”
The agency will be led by a chief executive to be recruited by open competition, with strategic guidance and oversight from a non-executive board with expertise in relation to DSGBV, organisational management and governance, and other matters relevant to the functions of the agency. The chief executive will be responsible to the Minister for the performance of the agency.
The Bill will be published as soon as possible, after which the Minister will introduce it in the Oireachtas with the aim of securing enactment before the end of the year.