Refuge Services

Refuge Services

One of the hardest decisions for any woman who is experiencing abuse to make is to leave her home. For some women who have made that decision, it is not safe or appropriate for them to stay with family and friends, particularly if there is a possibility of their abuser causing trouble for their family or friend. It is therefore necessary for women to seek a place where they know they will be safe and supported. When a woman makes that decision to ensure the safety of her children and herself by coming into a refuge, she has taken a major step.

 

Meath Women’s Refuge provides a space for women to see their situation clearly and to try to make informed choices as to their future. As this can be a stressful and difficult time for the woman and any children, the staff try to make it as easy as possible by explaining how the Refuge operates and assuring clients that they have made the right decision.

 

Although the Refuge is first and foremost about providing a safe environment to the family, the dynamics of family life mean there are always other issues with which the woman has to deal: legal rights in relation to the abuse; custody and access to the children; maintenance; finances; housing, and perhaps medical matters. The Refuge staff provide information and support for women making decisions on these issues and encourage them to continue to ensure the safety of their family.

 

A key worker is assigned to each woman while the childcare staff help the children adjust to their new surroundings. The key worker will meet with the woman at least once a week to assist her in setting out a care plan to address her situation. This can range from taking legal action, to finding alternative safe housing and a school for the children. Where a woman is totally dependent on her husband financially, Refuge staff will assist her in making a claim for financial support from the Community Welfare Officer until she receives a social welfare allowance or a maintenance order through the courts (depending on what is relevant for her particular situation).

 

Ireland’s ever-growing multicultural society has meant that we come into contact with women from more diverse cultural backgrounds than in previous years. Problems can arise for some non-Irish national women where legal action taken against a spouse is not encouraged by family or church. Similarly, some Traveller women can also face this difficulty as they live in very tight knit communities, where problems are expected to be resolved internally within the family. Close links with statutory and non-statutory agencies have been established by the service to guarantee that women from other cultures receive support within an appropriate context.

 

While each woman has her own bedroom, the rest of the Refuge operates within communal areas, kitchen, living rooms, etc. Independent living is encouraged with tenants cooking their own meals and participating in house meetings to set rotas for housekeeping chores. While children are kept busy in the childcare programme, mothers are encouraged to attend the Arts and Crafts sessions, counselling and other educational classes. Refuge staff are always present to offer reassurance and support during this difficult time.

 

Once the immediate trauma of their situation has subsided, they are encouraged to give themselves time and space to look at the most appropriate option relevant to their particular situation. Having made the decision to leave home, women often then ask, “How long can I stay in the Refuge?” This really depends on the situation pertaining to the family and what decision the woman has decided to take. Women can stay from one day to a few months, particularly if they are trying to find alternative accommodation. Regardless, time spent at the Refuge will be in a safe, supportive and hopeful environment.