VICTIMS of domestic violence are being forced to choose between homelessness or living with their abuser because of closures to refuges, charities warned yesterday.
The crisis has brewed as refuges across the country closed or were under threat of closure thanks to competitive tendering processes adopted by local authorities for preventive work or housing association accommodation.
These include refuges int Gloucestershire, Cheshire, Dorset, Devon, Sheffield, Nottingham, Somerset, Leeds, Leicestershire and Coventry, according to a Guardian investigation.
Domestic violence charity Refuge’s chief executive Sandra Horley argued that specialist refuges offered more than alternative measures.
And her counterpart at Women’s Aid, Polly Neate, claimed the country faced a return to the 1970s in terms of a lack of provision for abuse victims.
The warnings came after figures compiled by the Labour Party revealed that police forces were using community resolutions — a non-criminal form of punishment — to deal with domestic violence cases.
“We are at crisis point,” Ms Horley said.
“Without adequate provision, women experiencing domestic violence will be faced with a stark choice — flee to live rough on the streets or remain with their abuser and risk further violence or even worse.”
Ms Neate pointed out that there were whole areas without any refuge, while other areas offered beds to local women only.
“We thought we had won the argument that refuges need to be a national network, but we are having arguments of 40 years ago all over again,” she added.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker responded: “Decisions regarding funding are matters for local councils. We are helping local councils by drawing together best practice on commissioning.”
According to data from 15 police forces, there were 3,305 community resolutions in domestic and sexual violence cases last year — up from 1,337 in 2009.
Ms Horley said the figures were “deeply disturbing” and called for a public inquiry into police and state responses to the issue.