By Baroness Gould - 8th March 2012
Baroness Gould argues financial cuts are dramatically affecting the level of support refuges can offer victims of domestic violence.
Today I will ask Her Majesty’s Government what direct support it is giving to refuges providing protection for women fleeing from domestic violence.
The purpose for posing this question is that there is growing evidence that women’s refuges throughout the country are having to turn abuse victims away because of financial cuts to their income.
According to the response to a Freedom of Information question, locally commissioned services in the voluntary sector and many, small, specialist services that support women victims of rape, abuse or domestic violence are being heavily affected by the 27 per cent cut to local authorities. Some centres say they were set to lose half their funding. This is dramatically affecting the level of support they are able to provide for victims of domestic violence.
This is happening at the same time that there has been no Home Office in-depth analysis of whether support services for women are facing disproportionate cuts, or of the impact these cutbacks are having on women’s safety.
Examples include organisations that say they only have funding to support children’s accommodation in the refuge until next March. The question the government has to answer is, what is going to happen to these children and their mothers – are they going to spend the nights in police stations, accident and emergency departments or on the streets?
We are moving from a time when public services worked hand-in-hand to deliver a co-ordinated approach to tackling domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, to a time when many are subject to a radical shake-up arising from new commissioning structures removing that co-ordination.
There is anecdotal evidence of the loss or merger of many domestic violence co-ordinator posts at the local level, creating a situation without one person or body being responsible, and for ensuring there is adequate service provision.
This position is summed up by a statement from EAVES, a major London domestic violence charity, which is finding it increasingly difficult to find beds for vulnerable women. “We used to have a situation where we couldn’t quickly place someone in emergency accommodation once a month; now it is happening two or three times a week.”
Baroness Gould was raised to the peerage in 1993.