Refuges face fresh threats under new funding plans
by Felicity Collier
DOMESTIC violence help charities are calling for ringfenced funding for women’s refuges which will no longer be protected under new Tory plans, they warned yesterday.
The national charity Women’s Aid urged the government to have a rethink on plans that would see refuges grouped in with supported housing, such as hostels and sheltered housing.
It said that this would mean refuges would come under a “one-size fits all” funding model, and it ignores their specialist nature — which could lead many of them to close.
Women’s Aid added: “The government gave assurances on the safety of refuges in the future — but without a separate system to protect them, the investment since 2014 will go to waste.”
The charity says that since 2010, Britain has lost 17 per cent of specialist refuges in England. A third of all referrals to refuges are turned away usually due to a lack of space.
The government’s proposed funding model would also see local authorities issued with a “top-up” fund for all supported housing, which they could divide between different services as they saw fit.
But the charity warned that many councils are refusing to fund refuges — partly because women from outside the local area can access services.
Many women and their children are forced to travel across the country to seek safety from abuse, it added.
Women’s Aid chief executive Polly Neate said: “We are deeply concerned at the destruction of refuges that the new funding model could cause.
“If a specific long-term funding model for refuges is not found, many more will be forced to close. This could be a matter of life and death.”
Wearside Women in Need charity director Clare Phillipson described the plans as “very worrying.”
The Sunderland-based organisation has been assisting vulnerable women and men for 35 years.
But as reported in the Star last month, Sunderland City Council said there would be no more funding beyond its current contract which ends in June.
Cuts of £74 million were voted through by the council last week, which could result in the closure of all Wearside Women in Need refuges.
Ms Phillipson said: “The problem all along is that there has been no ringfenced funding. If refuges are not a priority, then services can be lost.”
We need your support to keep running. If you like what you read please donate by clicking here