‘The Government’s Decision To Save Refuges Will Save Lives’: Polly Neate on our SOS Success

Monday 19th September 2016

We did it! Refuges are exempted from housing benefit changes that would have seen two thirds of them close – and the Government has promised to work with us on a new funding system for the future.

We said women would die if the Government didn’t act, and we weren’t scaremongering. So, the decision announced today will save lives. Fact.

Have I still got a long list of what domestic abuse survivors, and the specialist services that support them, still need from the Government? You bet. Women’s Aid is on a mission, working with and for survivors, and every success just makes us more ambitious. Now we know Theresa May’s government is listening, and we’ve got plenty more to say.

But for now it’s all about saying thank you – to the ministers and officials across government who were prepared to stick their necks out for refuges; to the MPs who have been with us every step of the way (you know who you are, Jess Phillips, Maria Miller and many others); to journalists on television and in the press who helped us make a noise. And, most of all to the incredible women who run and use refuge services – you made a case that couldn’t be ignored.

Now, the work begins to ensure the long-term solution we are promised is the one we need.

And at local level, today’s announcement is critical: not only for what it directly promises, but also because it says loud and clear that the Government firmly believes refuges must stay open. Local authorities, please note: that means specialist domestic abuse refuges that provide specialist support. It doesn’t mean a bed in a hostel or B&B – get it? It would be fantastic if ministers now broke out of the self-imposed box they call “localism”, to say this loud and clear. Local authorities must now fall in line and keep these life-saving services alive. If the Government can say refuges are too important to be destroyed in the quest to save money, so can they.

Is there more to do? Yes. Are we proud of our success so far? You bet, and the thousands who have backed the SOS campaign should be proud too.

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