Th, 1.06.2023
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Shelters for women faced with serious court dispute

Liis Velsker
, reporter
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Photo: ENVL

Tartu Women's Shelter in Tähtvere which saw its financial support from social ministry shrink is intent on contesting the procurement in court.  As assessed by Estonian Women`s Shelters Union, this would spell closure of support centres in 12 counties.  

Where money is moved, tensions tend to be stirred. With the Norwegian support to our social sphere running out, the sparks fly the higher. This year, Tartu Women’s Shelter received nearly four times less of social ministry support year-on-year – €10,000 for all of 2016.

In December, social protection minister Margus Tsahkna proclaimed a competition to support shelters for women suffering from violence and their children. The pot to be distributed was half a million euros.

Posting a joint offer, Estonian Women’s Shelters Union (WSU) representing ten shelters in various counties including a branch to be opened in Lasnamäe this year and the centre in Tartu got €400,000 with the rest split between shelters in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu.

According to the Tähtvere Tartu Women’s Shelter, the social ministry has not followed its own procedure for the competition. They have also raised the issue that while dividing the money, the ministry failed to regard the capacity of the shelters and the work load, nor the actual numbers of people helped in a year.  

«I am getting the impression that the officials do not know what we are actually doing daily,» said Tähtvere Tartu Centre head Pille Rives.

She explained their shelter had up to now been largely financed by various projects. The last Norwegian project ends on March 31st.

«What has been the essence of the Norwegian and other projects: develop the service, build up the centres on condition that as the support period ends the state would assume financing of the service. But the state isn’t essentially assuming the service. We may say that our partner in the public sector has not taken seriously neither us nor themselves,» said Ms Rives.

Good will support

Last year, for instance, Tallinn Women’s Crisis Home got €40,000 of support and a shelter in Võru County supposed to also service Põlva County received €45,000. At that, the Võru centre serviced a total of 143 women last year while the Tallinn one dealt with 533.

«With this in mind, we cannot claim the service is covered equally all over Estonia,» observed Ms Rives.

Pursuant to advice from European Parliament, there ought to be a shelter per 10,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, the isle of Hiiumaa with its population of only 8,500 is supporting opening a shelter this year.

«Pursuant that logic we might as well have shelters in the islands of Ruhnu, Kihnu and Vormsi – if violence happens in the nights, would the Kihnu row a boat to Saaremaa?» continued Ms Rives.

«This isn’t quite adequate and in the interests of the target groups. In small communities, people often prefer to seek shelter in other counties. With domestic violence, this will help with anonymity,» she added.

As underlined by Ms Rives: if they provide the service, they want fair pay. «We were sent the contract where the financing is cut but they still want the same volume of service,» she said.

Ms Rives says the ministry has been talking about «continuing the service» for the money awarded. The ministry would underline that the state has assumed no legal obligation of providing such service but has supported it out of good will according to equal rights specialist Katri Eespere while stressing the importance of covering entire territory despite the population density.  

WSU chairwoman Eha Reitelmann thinks the whole argument is because of the lack of money for all and says she wishes the court could be avoided – the money would be late in reaching the destinations.

Going to court

According to Tartu Shelter head Ms going to court should be the customary practice with cases like this.

«I see northing awful in it, rather it will clear things up. Among other things, non-governmental organisations serve as watchdogs for democracy,» said Ms Rives.

Social ministry basically says so be it. In the future, they envision a legal basis created next year whereby the state will be obliged to provide the service within Victim Service Act. Thereby, accommodation and counselling for victims of domestic violence will become a state service to be purchase for multiple years on basis of public procurement.

State budget support, in euros

County / centre 2014 2015 2016

Ida-Virumaa NTK 41,896 45,000 40,000

Jõgevamaa NTK 33,000 34,000 

Järvamaa NTK 35,060 35,000 51,000 -In 2016 with Raplamaa

Läänemaa NTK 34,000 45,990 -In 2016 with Hiiumaa

Pärnumaa NTK 37,753 37,000 50,000 -In 2016 with Saaremaa

Raplamaa NTK 35,128 34,000

Harjumaa, Tallinna Naiste Kriisikodu

55,924 40,000 40,000

Harjumaa, second Tallinn centre*

17,000 34,000

Tartumaa, Tähtvere Women’s Centre

40,391 37,000 10,000

Tartumaa, Tartu Naiste Varjupaik 31,214 34,000 46,000

Valgamaa NTK 35,210 36,000 34,000

Viljandimaa NTK 35,570 37,000 35,000

Virumaa NTK 40,182 36,000 35,000

Võrumaa NTK 41,838 45,000 45,010 -In 2016 with Põlvamaa 

Total 430,166 500,000 500,000

* In Lasnamäe to be opened on February 1st

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