10 Days Remaining

Wednesday 23rd
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

CUTTING funding for South Yorkshire Women’s Aid (SYWA) could see this specialist violence against women service close down entirely, with dire consequences for vulnerable women in the Doncaster area.

The news comes just a year after the service was reopened following an inspirational campaign led by Sisters Uncut and the local Women’s Lives Matter group.

True to form, the Doncaster sisters aren’t taking No Money for an answer, calling for action beginning this weekend to protect SYWA.

But the re-emergence of a threat to its very existence so shortly after victory exposes the calamitous effects of so-called austerity economics — and the lethal consequences of the cuts.

Organisations like the SYWA are not luxuries — a woman killed herself last year in between its closure and reopening once she lost the specialist support it provided.

Doncaster, as Women’s Lives Matter points out, has some of the highest repeat rates of domestic violence in the country — but this is not an isolated problem.

Two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Three domestic abuse victims will kill themselves in the same period. And funding is being slashed despite the problem getting worse, not better.

Reported incidents of domestic violence rose by 31 per cent in 2013-15 across England and Wales, while a smaller rise was reported in Scotland.

Metropolitan Police figures show in London there were 145,000 incidents of domestic abuse in 2014-15, a 72 per cent rise since the bankers’ crash of 2007-8.

These grim statistics were predictable. It has long been understood that rising poverty, which the Tories have presided over for the last seven years, leads to rising domestic abuse.

Family breakdown is accelerated by financial stresses, while money worries can trap women in abusive relationships if they are forced to choose between staying with a violent partner and being out on the street.

None of this mattered to David Cameron or his chancellor George Osborne when they embarked on their vicious attack on local authority funds — slashing council budgets by around 40 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

Council cuts make sense to the Tories: those on the receiving end blame the council, not the distant ministers who starved the council of funds, while genuine anger at overpaid council executives combines with a drip-feed of hostile coverage of councils in the press (on everything from free biscuits for councillors at meetings — what decadence — to yellow lines and harsh clampdowns on supposedly entrepreneurial infants) to make such cuts politically safer than direct attacks on the NHS or schools budgets.

But local authorities pay for a huge range of vital services, from libraries to youth clubs and to domestic violence services which have lost 38 per cent of their funding in London alone since 2010.

On top of direct cuts came the Tory benefit cap, placing an arbitrary limit on the benefits available to households regardless of need.

The massive reduction in housing benefit available was estimated by Women’s Aid to reduce income per room in a refuge from £300 to £60 a week — and the charity predicted that more than two-thirds of women’s refuges would be forced to close as a result.
Women’s Lives Matter deserves every support in its fight to make Doncaster Council change its mind on funds, but the battle is a national one.

Theresa May declared this year that “transforming” Britain’s handling of domestic abuse was a personal priority. She could live up to those words by reversing the devastating cuts to local authority budgets imposed by her and her predecessor’s governments and removing the unjustifiable benefits cap.