Victims of domestic violence in Wicklow have said they “are left in limbo” after support service Sonas confirmed it’s withdrawing their services within the next 12 months.
The Dublin-based company said they are phasing out their support service in Wicklow due to operational and logistical reasons.
In a statement Chief Executive of Sonas, Fiona Ryan said “As a relatively small organisation all of whose services are based in Dublin, with the exception of Wicklow, we have found it increasingly difficult to maintain the service operationally.
“The decision to phase out our Wicklow service was not taken lightly but we are doing it in a responsible and appropriate manner over a timescale.”
The building opened to women and children in Wicklow seeking refuge from domestic violence in April 2013 — the service is now expected to be phased out by early to mid 2019.
Sonas provides services to women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
Fiona Ryan continued: “We understand how anxiety provoking and stressful change can be which is why we are taking a phased approach to our withdrawal of services.
“It is also why we prioritised communications with clients and met with them to discuss the decision. They also have the ongoing support by an on site support worker.
“In consideration of individuals’ circumstances, we also waited to make our decision until the majority of clients had finished their 18 month support period with us and were due to move on through Wicklow County Council.”
It is explained to clients on taking up the supported housing programme that it is for a maximum 18 month period, according to Sonas.
The building in Wicklow, where clients live and receive support, is provided to Sonas through a local authority capital assistance scheme mortgage – the facility will transfer back to the local authority once Sonas’ services are phased out.
Sonas stated they are proud of the work they have been able to do supporting women and children, and will ensure existing clients are supported around any domestic violence-related needs they may have as they move on to other accommodation.
“Deeply unsettling” for residents
Residents of the Wicklow facility have said they feel left “out of the loop” in the process.
Speaking on East Coast FM’s The Morning Show, one resident named Rebecca said the situation was “deeply unsettling”:
“Initially we were under the impression the place would be tendered and Sonas hoped to be leaving between December  to early 2019.
“We were told it was due to funding initially. [The facility] is funded by the local authority and unfortunately there wasn’t enough funding to support the services anymore.
“As of this morning we’ve been told it’s nothing to do with funding and actually to do with logistics, so we’re very much out of the loop as much as anyone.”
“It’s incredibly unsettling. All of the women here are coming from horrible situations all varying from financial abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse.”
To know that we are in the unknown again is just terrifying.
“Residents of the building rely heavily on the services provided,” Rebecca continued.
“[Our support worker] is absolutely amazing. To lose these services is absolutely huge for us. A lot of us have been out of work and education due to our situations and with the help of our support worker we felt back on our feet again.
“Now to feel back under someone else’s control, by decisions being made by someone else’s hands is deeply unsettling.
“We’re very much open to communication and we understand [Sonas’] position, this is not an attack on them, they’ve been a great support to us.”
“They’re in a difficult position but it’s just not good enough that a service like this is being pulled from County Wicklow, and nothing is replacing it.”
No alternative for residents
Residents are being offered no alternative to replace the current service provided by Sonas, according to Rebecca.
“We have been touch with the County Council and are trying to work with them as well, but unfortunately no answers are being given.
“I’ve been living in the accommodation for two years here, but it’s not like I’m just waiting for something to turn up — I’m actively looking for property daily to no avail.
“We’re entitled to HAP but there’s a housing crisis that everyone understands and receiving HAP isn’t as easy as it once was.
“I use the services here every day, I need to talk to my support worker every day and things like that. It’s the unknown and not knowing where we’re going to go, and nobody can seem to give us a definite answer — it’s absolutely terrifying.”
You can listen to Rebecca’s interview in full below, courtesy of East Coast FM: