Just a year after a campaign led by Women's Lives Matter saved South Yorkshire Women's Aid, funding cuts could kill it off again, finds FELICITY COLLIER
THE only women’s aid in South Yorkshire is set to shut its doors — a mere year after securing a grant from the council which is now cutting its funding.
South Yorkshire Women’s Aid (SYWA) said staff were made aware at the weekend that there was no cash available to it to continue paying staff or rent.
The vital specialist service, which supports women who suffer domestic violence, successfully campaigned last year to secure a grant from Doncaster Council when it was on the brink of closure.
Campaigners from Women’s Lives Matter told the Star that the £30,000 grant pays just for the wages for three part-time staff members. They've had to find the rent themselves.
The service, which offers safe temporary accommodation for women and their children fleeing abuse, is heavily supported by volunteers as well as paid staff.
It says its work is “life-saving and life-changing,” offering advice and therapy.
Since late March, SYWA has received over 100 referrals for its programmes.
Lou Harrison, who works at the charity, told the Star: “There is a massive need for the service. Referral numbers have been going through the roof.
“But the council said last April that if Doncaster Women's Aid closed they could support the town with their domestic violence services , however, they lost funding last December and their domestic violence services have been depleting ever since” she said.
Ms Harrison slammed the “astronomical” six-figure wages still being paid at the council at a time when such services are under threat.
She said that Doncaster has some of the highest repeat rates of domestic violence and a higher proportion of high-risk cases — meaning a danger of murder.
She added: “Without specialist violence against women’s services women die.
“A woman committed suicide after she lost contact with SYWA when the service closed last year. This is not an uncommon situation.
“Two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners and a further five attempt suicide to escape the effects of abuse.”
Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union president Ian Hodson has lent his support, tweeting: “I’m with my sisters.”
Cllr Chris McGuinness said that SWYA’s work is “invaluable,” and that the grant would run until the end of the year after which they would need to “raise funds and become self-sustaining.
“We are looking to see if there are alternative opportunities for premises in the town centre which are more affordable and suitable in the longer term.”
The Women’s Lives Matter campaign group are fighting to keep the service open and will take action at Clock Corner in Doncaster this Saturday from 11am.
Last week, a former service user posted reworked version of labour movement anthem Which Side Are You On? in support of the charity: mstar.link/2vYBBSS