A letter is being sent from Cork County Council to Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, asking for victims of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence to be given access to free psychological support and counselling.
The motion was brought by County Mayor Mary Linehan Foley, who said that these services are provided free to perpetrators while in prison.
Ms Linehan Foley, an Independent councillor, read an email from a lady within her own constituency who is seeking free psychological support following a court case.
The woman said that during the case all expenses are covered by the State — travel, accommodation — but once the case finishes, victims are left to find their own counselling services, many of which have waiting lists of 18 months. Meanwhile, the perpetrator has access to a range of individual- and group-based therapies in prison.
Ms Linehan Foley said that the victims are losing out.
“These people need help,” Ms Linehan Foley said. “I think we should highlight that there are cases out there that need help ASAP and the State is letting some of these victims down.”
Liam Quaide said it was an important motion and he commended the mayor for bringing it up. “I know that when counselling for survivors of institutional abuse was originally provided by the State, in the 1990s, the support was typically open-ended,” Mr Quaide said.
“This reflected the complexity of psychological difficulties experienced by survivors and the continuity of care required for many people to reach a point of stability and sustained well-being,” he said.
“In more recent years, counselling support provided by state services has become subject to more rigid session limits.
“There can also be a long wait-time for such supports, following an initial assessment interview. The services need, above all, much-increased investment in staff recruitment,” Mr Quaide said.
Mr Quaide suggested an amendment to the mayor’s motion, to include a clause requesting psychological supports and counselling that are tailored to each individual, both in terms of duration of support and the range of therapeutic options.
Independent councillor Ben Dalton O’Sullivan said that he had been told that victims don’t recover, they learn to live with it, and that the State needs to assist them more.
The council agreed to write to the minister.