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Cuts in refuge services putting vulnerable women and children at risk

Tue, 27th Nov 12

An estimated 27,900* women have had to be turned away by the first refuge service that they approached, in the last year, because there was no space, according to new figures from Women’s Aid.

Despite this huge demand, almost one in five Women’s Aid member services has reported severe funding difficulties, leading to the closure of vital services for vulnerable women and children.

In the last financial year, Women’s Aid saw 14 independent services close as their domestic and sexual services were put out to tender. Of these, two services were not replaced and six were taken over by housing associations.

Nicki Norman, Deputy Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
"It is devastating to see that decisions on domestic and sexual violence services have been short term financial decisions, not what is the safest option.

Already, nearly 30,000 women were turned away from refuge services last year because there was no bed space at the service they contacted and now 1 in 5 of our members are being forced to reduce their level of provision, with some being forced to close completely.

A domestic homicide costs the government £1 million and despite other government initiatives, two women are still being killed every week by a current or former partner - it doesn't take much to realise that cutting domestic violence services is a false economy.

The most dangerous time for a woman experiencing domestic violence is when she is trying to leave her abusive partner, so funding refuge services that keep women safe during this time are not just saving lives but saving the government money."


Further pressure will also be placed on services if the proposed benefit cap comes into force without proper consideration about how it will affect women using refuges services.

The current proposals could limit the ability of women to pay rent to service providers, resulting in a loss of revenue and ultimately a further reduction in provision of services.

Women's Aid is calling on the government to reconsider these proposals to ensure that survivors can pay the rent and services can recoup the costs of providing safety and support to adult and child survivors who are seeking help and protection.


* Advance statistics taken from the Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2012 (to be released Dec 2012) Based on a partial response of 18,135, an estimated full response would be 27,900


Notes to editors

1.    About Women’s Aid
Women's Aid is the national charity that co-ordinates and supports an England-wide network of over 370 local organisations which provide over 500 services working to end violence against women and children. Keeping the voices of survivors at the heart of its work, Women's Aid campaigns for better legal protection and services, providing a strategic "expert view" to government on laws, policy and practice affecting abused women and children. In partnership with its national network, Women's Aid runs public awareness and education campaigns, bringing together national and local action, and developing new training and resources.

Women's Aid provides a package of vital 24 hour lifeline services through its publications (available in 11 languages), website www.womensaid.org.uk, and runs the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Refuge.  Women’s Aid is a registered charity no 1054154.