The director of Foyle Women’s Aid (FWA), Marie Brown, has sought political and financial backing from Derry City and Strabane District Council for a proposed new multi-agency family justice centre in Pump Street that she believes will save lives in the long run.
The veteran domestic abuse campaigner told members of the council’s Health and Community Committee that its ‘One Safe Place’ family justice centre at the old Convent of Mercy in the city centre will eventually provide a wide range of co-ordinated services under one roof, putting victims and their families front and centre of agencies’ focus.
Mrs. Brown told members that the rate of domestic and sexual violence across the North was now at a ten year high and that the demand for Foyle Women’s Aid’s services had risen accordingly.
She said the new inter-agency hub would improve services for victims and witnesses through co-location.
“It will definitely save lives,” she told the committee.
“We’ve already spoken to service users and survivors and they’ve said the centre would have made a real difference for them if it had been up and running,” added the FWA director.
Mrs. Brown admitted being reluctant to discuss the cost of domestic violence in financial terms but revealed that each domestic violence murder locally costs roughly £1.8 million to the public purse.
She pointed out that there were five such murders across the North last year.
“Unfortunately, we have to think in terms of cost and realise that we should invest in prevention to stops things reaching crisis point,” she said.
Mrs. Brown said the prevention of just one domestic violence murder annually would fund the family justice centre for a year.
Asking the committee for the council’s support for the project, Mrs. Brown said: ”Currently, I’m moving women out of the city to Coleraine and Omagh because there’s a shortage of accommodation.”