Ministers announce free public transport for those fleeing domestic abuse

Date published: 06 July 2020

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Justice Minister Naomi Long have announced that free public transport travel will be available from today for those fleeing domestic abuse.

This will be available in cases where refuge or emergency accommodation has been arranged through the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or Women’s Aid.

Minister Mallon said:  “Victims of domestic abuse should not have to worry about how they can get to shelter, when fleeing a violent situation.  I want to do anything I can to make it easier for people who need to flee their home to get to a place of safety.  While access to travel may be a small thing this could potentially make an enormous difference to those that are most affected by domestic abuse.  This is particularly the case where, as a result of the abuse, individuals have no, or limited money, and who have been forced by their abuser to cut off contact with friends and family.

“I am pleased that working in partnership with Minister Long, Translink and other agencies we are able to provide free public transport for victims of domestic abuse.  This will remove the financial barrier for victims by enabling access to free train or Ulsterbus travel across Northern Ireland.  If it helps even one victim to leave and get to a place of safety, this move will have helped to make a big difference.

“The free travel will be available for women or men, and their children, to travel to a refuge run by Women’s Aid or emergency housing provided by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive once that accommodation has been offered.  This could potentially offer a lifeline for these individuals.  I will continue to work with my Executive colleagues to support the most vulnerable in our community.”  

Minister Long said:  “This scheme means that victims of domestic abuse, going to pre-arranged emergency accommodation, will not have to worry about the associated travel cost.  We have been able to secure this through cross government partnership working and by collaborating with our partners in the voluntary and community sector.  Through this, we can offer support to men, women and children, who through no fault of their own find themselves in a difficult and potentially dangerous situation.

“We know that leaving an abusive relationship can be one of the most dangerous times for individuals.  Where possible we would encourage all affected by domestic abuse to contact support organisations, or the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline, to seek help and support.   In an emergency always contact the police.”

Translink Group Chief Executive, Chris Conway said: “Translink places a strong focus on serving local communities and connecting people and places.  We know we are a lifeline for many and so we are pleased to be working with our partners on this new scheme to offer this vital service across our rail and Ulsterbus network to help support some of the most vulnerable people within the communities we serve”.

Notes to editors: 

1.  Help available includes the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline on 0808 802 1414 and there are also non-verbal ways for victims to reach out through the Helpline, for example via web and instant message. Further information and support is also available on the following websites:

https://www.womensaidni.org/get-help/local-groups/

http://www.mapni.co.uk/

https://dsahelpline.org/

2.  If you need to ring the PSNI but are too scared to speak, the ‘silent solution’ means you can call 999 and press 55 when prompted. This lets police know it is a genuine emergency.

3.  The free travel scheme will apply where an individual has refuge or emergency accommodation being provided through Women’s Aid or the NI Housing Executive.  Verification of this, and the travel needed, will need to be provided by these organisations or the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline ahead of travel.  Travel will be by Ulsterbus or NI Railways, between stated Translink stations, with tickets to be obtained by individuals presenting a completed profoma from one of the three organisations.

4.  Media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office at: press.office@infrastructure-ni..gov.uk or the Department of Justice Press Office at Press.Office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk 

5.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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