'There's a need for safe homes, which is different to a refuge...'
Tusla - the State's Child and Family Agency - don't believe there is a need for a women's refuge in Carlow, Council chief executive, Kathleen Holohan, has told members of Carlow County Council.
Cllr Andrea Dalton said Carlow Women's Aid recommends a refuge for women in Carlow and it is a "significant issue and women need such a service here".
She asked that the facility be expedited as progress was "intolerably slow".
A recent report called "Homelessness in Carlow 2018" found that Carlow women and children fleeing violent homes are accommodated in refuges in Kildare and Dublin, and that "some end up on the streets of Dublin".
The report was commissioned by the Carlow County Development Partnership and written by Dr Brendan O'Keeffe.
However, at this month's meeting of the Council, Ms Holohan said that Tusla's interpretation of a separate report on demand for such services in the South East is that there is no need for a refuge in Carlow.
"Their interpretation of the research is that there isn't a necessity in Carlow for a refuge but what's required are safe houses, which is different to a refuge," the CEO told members.
Ms Holohan called on Tusla to hold a meeting so officials can explain their position to the relevant stakeholders in the area.
"A refuge could be funded through the capital assistance scheme and the Council could assist through that process but the resources for the domestic violence centre and the operational costs would be a matter for Tusla," she said.
Councillors called for the report that Tusla is basing its decision on to be made public.
Cllr John Cassin said the HSE-owned Kelvin Grove site could be used for the refuge and called on Tusla to provide funding for support workers for the facility.
Cllr Ken Murnane said he did not agree that single safe houses were the answer and that women and children need a community support to rebuild confidence in their own lives like the services of the Amber Refuge in Kilkenny.
"I don't know where they're getting their information that Carlow doesn't require one (a refuge), that's really hard to understand," he added.
Cllr Will Paton asked for a copy of the research that suggests safe houses are better than a community house in Carlow and also asked that all councillors be given an invitation to the stakeholder meeting.
Cllr Dalton concluded the discussion and said: "I would welcome safe houses. Women I've dealt with I've had to send them to Tallaght, Kilkenny and Cork and some with children of school going age.
"I think our endgame should be a holistic centre to take care of these women."
She added that Tusla's current position is "not congruent" to their role as Child and Family Agency.