Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
'Demand for our services has never been greater' – Women’s Aid ABCLN
Women's Aid in Ballymena
Women’s Aid ABCLN supported 2,040 women and children living with domestic abuse in Antrim, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey during 2021/22.
There were 2,380 incidents recorded in Antrim and Newtownabbey, a 7.9% increase on the previous 12 months. In Northern Ireland this figure was 33,186, a rise of 6.4%.
Women’s Aid says the PSNI responds to one incident of domestic abuse every 16 minutes and one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.
Women’s Aid ABCLN specialises in providing confidential support, information and emergency accommodation for women and children affected by domestic abuse.
The charity is seeking to create a “visible and accessible” drop-in centre to provide services and support, a wellness hub for those providing one-to-one support, training and events and children and young people’s facility.
It has had a financial offer accepted on a premises at Ballyclare Road, Glengormley and requires £200k funding for renovation plans.
In a presentation to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Community Planning Committee on Monday evening, Janice Hagan, vice-chair of Women’s Aid ABCLN, said:
“Demand for our services has never been greater. We have waiting lists of women for services. It is not ideal for those women who are in need of urgent care.
“There is real need for our services, particularly in Glengormley. Our premises at Carnmoney Road is not visible.
“We want to provide a visible, accessible drop-in centre right at the heart of the community and provide services and support to women affected by domestic abuse. We want to offer a wellness hub for women.”
Rosemary Magill, chief executive officer, told the committee there are 22 women in the charity’s refuge at present.
She has supported women who are experiencing “generational” violence. Recently, the daughter of a woman who was accommodated at the refuge returned with her own child seeking refuge.
Rosemary has warned against domestic violence becoming a “way of life” underlining the need for education about healthy relationships and prevention work.
She underlined the need for support services in Glengormley and to make Women’s Aid visible to everyone.
Macedon Alliance Councillor Billy Webb MBE, who selected Women’s Aid ABCLN as one of his chosen charities to support during his mayoral year, commented: “It is horrific to hear some of the situations there are out there and I do not think we appreciate the work that is needed in our community.”
Deputy Mayor Cllr Leah Smyth supported the charity through the recent Women’s Aid ABCLN’s Christmas Pyjama Appeal. All pyjamas donated to the appeal were distributed to families in refuge and in the community.