Airbnb has today announced that it will provide free temporary accommodation through its hotel partners when specialist emergency accommodation is not available.
Working with Safe Ireland and Women's Aid, the accommodation giant set forth the partnership at a crucial time as incidents of domestic violence have seen a sharp increase since COVID-19 lockdown measures began.
The initiative will see domestic violence services in Ireland assess the safety needs of survivors before facilitating bookings into the temporary hotel accommodation.
All those accommodated will continue to be closely linked in and supported by domestic violence specialists.
Capacity in domestic violence specialist accommodation is down approximately 25% since COVID-19 measures began, something Safe Ireland Co-CEO Mary McDermott says has forced victims to choose between the threat of infection and the threat of abuse.
Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 domestic abuse member services. It plans to coordinate the initiative with its frontline services and support from the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline.
All accommodation costs are sourced and paid for by Airbnb and HotelTonight, part of the Airbnb family.
The timely partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid has received the backing of Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who has been a leading advocate on domestic violence issues in Ireland.
“We want victims of this horrific crime to know that they are a priority for us and that support is always available," Madigan said.
"I welcome this valuable new initiative which complements the important work that the Government has undertaken in this area since the start of the pandemic. We are doing everything we can to protect and support all victims of domestic violence, especially now as Ireland re-opens after COVID-19.”
Similar initiatives were recently launched by Airbnb in the US.
“In recent months throughout the pandemic, most of us have been confined to the safety of our homes," said Jean Hoey, Public Policy Lead for Airbnb in Ireland, ahead of the launch.
"For those in abusive situations, however, that environment can feel more like a prison. We are proud to support the heroic efforts of Women’s Aid, Safe Ireland and local frontline services by offering temporary safe havens for survivors right across the country.”
The new Domestic Violence Act – which came into force on 2 January 2019 – set out a number of notable improvements to increase protection for victims under both civil and criminal law.
One such improvement is that the law will now help to protect victims against psychological and emotional abuse.
Also known as coercive control and/or gaslighting, this sort of abuse centres on psychological manipulation and abuse that can cause extreme distress or fear or violence.
Ireland is the third country in the world to make it an offence, following England and, more recently, Scotland.
Other improvements under the new laws include safety orders for those who are in intimate relationships but not co-habiting, and emergency eight-day barring orders where there is an immediate risk of harm.
With the new act, Ireland has also moved a step closer to ratifying a Council of Europe Convention on combating domestic violence and violence against women.
If you have been affected by domestic abuse;
Women’s Aid operates a 24hr National Freephone Helpline: 1800 341 900
A feared increase in domestic violence has also been prioritised in the Garda’s planning for COVID-19, to contact their Crime Victim's Helpline call 116 006.
An interactive map is also now live here where you can find details of the local community service providers who are available to take your call.
If you are in immediate danger call An Garda Síochána on 999/112.