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Domestic Violence: Children’s Strategy

Office Of The First Minister And Deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 20th April 2009.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 2:30 pm, 20th April 2009

3. asked the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister what assessment it has made of the impact of domestic violence in the context of delivering the children’s strategy.          (AQO 2468/09)

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

The 10-year strategy for children and young people aims to deliver improved outcomes across six main areas. We recognise the potential impact that violence in the home may have on achieving the high-level outcomes of being healthy and living in safety and with stability. However, the strategy does not repeat or replicate actions that emerge from other cross-cutting strategies.

Through implementation of the strategy for children and young people, we will work to ensure that the rights and needs of children and young people in Northern Ireland are properly addressed in emerging action plans under cross-cutting strategies such as the tackling violence at home strategy, which has been published by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, and which addresses domestic violence and abuse. The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) chairs the inter-ministerial group on domestic and sexual violence, which was established to ensure the involvement of key service providers and voluntary and statutory partners in this area. The junior Ministers represent OFMDFM on that group because of the potential impact of domestic violence on children.

In addition, an inter-agency regional steering group, led by DHSSPS and the NIO, was established to examine the issues around prevention, protection and justice, support, and training and development for practitioners. Senior officials from OFMDFM’s gender and sexual orientation equality unit are represented on that forum. That strategic group feeds into the inter-ministerial group, working together on all the issues that are associated with domestic violence, sexual violence and abuse.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the First Minister for his response. Does he agree that the former SDLP Member for Lagan Valley and current Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People would be better advancing children’s interests in the home and with regard to domestic violence, rather than pursuing parents who care about their children?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

Everyone knows that resources are extremely limited and that the best use must be made of them. It is clear that the court case to which the Member alluded — and the appeal against that judgement — cost a considerable amount out of a budget that would otherwise have been available for other child support services.

Everyone can make their own judgement on whether that was good value for money. Both cases were lost; therefore, there was no positive outcome for the Children’s Commissioner.

Photo of Samuel Gardiner Samuel Gardiner UUP

Has the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister considered asking the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to consider the overall mental-health implications of incidents of domestic violence on women?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety leads the group that deals with those issues; therefore, it would be more appropriate to put any questions about the details of that to him. The responsibility of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is determined by two factors — the first is whether an issue relates to equality and the second is whether it relates to children. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has responsibility for dealing with issues that relate to domestic violence.

Photo of Jennifer McCann Jennifer McCann Sinn Féin

Given that OFMDFM has responsibility for the elimination of gender-based violence, and given that some people who experience such violence have no recourse to public funds, will the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister consider initiating a special fund for those families that have no access to public funds, so that they can access support services?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

I am quite happy to look at that issue in more detail. Such people might have access to legal aid and legal support in other circumstances. The deputy First Minister and I are happy to look at the issue in the first instance, to see how extensive it is and whether it can be dealt with under existing systems.

Photo of Mary Bradley Mary Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

What additional resources has OFMDFM provided for the children’s strategy? Does that Department intend to again bring into force a package of measures for children and young people?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

It is a mistake to think that the measures relating to children and young people were funded entirely by OFMDFM — a range of Departments has responsibility for the issues involved. The principle of removing the duplication of services — which is important because administering the duplicated services incurred a cost and so used up funds — and allowing Departments to take the lead responsibility in the areas involved has meant that money that would otherwise have been tied up in administration in OFMDFM is going to the Departments

Those issues are a priority for OFMDFM, because of the Department’s cross-cutting nature. However, every Department, by its nature, has some responsibility for those matters, whether it is the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety or the Department of Education, and Ministers must ensure that that those issues are prioritised in their Departments.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

I know that this is the first Question Time since before the recess, but I remind Members who want to ask a supplementary question that they need to rise in their places to get my attention.