Women's Refuges September 2016
Thank you for contacting me regarding proposed funding cuts to specialist refuges [and the related Women’s Aid SOS campaign].
I share your concerns regarding the potential cuts and the effect they would have on specialist refuges for victims of domestic abuse. I agree that these irreplaceable refuges save lives and are vital for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. Specialist domestic abuse services add significant value to their local communities, not only through supporting some of the most vulnerable women and children, but also by providing locally focussed awareness raising, training and education.
As such I was very pleased to hear that the Government has listened and announced that domestic violence refuges will be fully exempt from the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap on housing benefit rates in supported accommodation.
Despite this good decision, which came about thanks to a lot of pressure from the Women’s Aid campaign and Labour MPs, the Government is not doing enough to tackle domestic abuse. The Women’s Aid SOS campaign found that that 17% of dedicated providers of specialist refuges stopped running between 2010 and 2014 during the Coalition government, and their 2015 survey found that 44% of responding services ran an area of work without dedicated funding during the previous financial year. Alarmingly, 19 refuge services in the sample are being run without dedicated funding, so are at risk of imminent closure. To put this into context, this is before the funding cuts that had been proposed. This is not good enough and the government must not let this happen.
Indeed, much more needs to be done to support victims of domestic abuse. Over 28% of women in the UK have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16, and domestic-abuse related crime makes up 8% of total crime in the UK. The 2015 Labour manifesto, on which I was elected, made stopping violence against women and girls a priority. We promised to publish a Violence against Women and Girl’s bill, appoint a commissioner responsible for reducing domestic violence, and provide more stable central funding for specialist refuges just like those which the government had put at risk. Victims of domestic violence need far better support. So we would also have widened access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence.
Thank you again for getting in touch, and I assure you I will continue to consider the views you’ve shared in the future.