Refuges send out SOS in response to government’s proposed supported housing funding plans
Wednesday 29th November 2017
Over half of refuges could be forced to close their doors or reduce life-saving services if government goes ahead with plans for supported housing funding
The lives of thousands of women and children could be put at risk if the government’s proposed plans for supported housing funding go ahead, a survey has found.
In response to an emergency Women’s Aid survey of refuge services in England, carried out following the announcement of the government’s plans to change the way they fund short-term supported housing, 39% of refuge services who responded said they would have to close their doors for good. A further 13% said they would be forced to reduce the number of bed spaces available.
Women’s Aid has estimated that would mean the loss of more than 588 refuge spaces for women and children fleeing abusive homes in the refuge services who responded to the survey. This would result in an estimated 2,058 more women and 2,202 more children trying to escape domestic abuse being turned away from the lifesaving services they desperately need. One third of refuges in England responded to the survey, therefore this loss of provision is likely to just be the tip of the iceberg. This comes on top of the thousands who are already unable to access a refuge service due to lack of available spaces. On just one day this year, 94 women and 90 children were turned away from refuge, while 60% of all referrals to refuges in 2016/17 were declined (Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2017).
The findings are released as the government is due to launch its consultation on the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.
The government’s proposed supported housing reforms will mean:
- Over one third (39%, 30 out of 78) of refuge services who responded fear they will be forced to close down
- A further 13% (10 out of 78) of refuge services who responded said they would be forced to reduce the number of bed spaces available
- An estimated 588 bed spaces in refuge services who responded will be lost
- An estimated 2,058 more women and 2,202 more children will be unable to access a place in the refuge services who responded
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“The landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make sure survivors and their children get the support they need to escape domestic abuse and rebuild their lives, but the government’s plans for supported housing funding risk undermining the Bill’s good intentions.
“Demand for refuges already far outstrips supply and the proposed funding model could be the breaking point. Refuges will be faced with the awful reality of either turning more women and children away or closing their doors forever.
“On average, two women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. A refuge is not just a bed for a night; it is a lifeline for thousands of women and children. To ignore the advice of experts and put these vital services at risk would be a dangerous, and a potentially fatal move. Only by creating a long-term and sustainable funding model for a national network of refuges can we ensure that every woman and child can safely escape domestic abuse.”
The government’s proposed supported housing funding model will remove refuges’ last secure form of funding – housing benefit – and devolve housing costs to local authorities to “fund services that meet the needs of their local areas”. Refuges operate as a national network though and cannot be provided based on an assessment of local need alone: when women and their children flee domestic abuse, over two thirds flee to a refuge outside of their local authority so they can live without fear of being hunted down by the perpetrator (Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2017). While 15% (12 out of 78) of refuge services who responded to our survey revealed that they currently receive no local authority funding; this is backed up from data in our 2016 Annual Survey which shows that one in ten of all domestic abuse services, including refuges and other community-based services, received no local authority funding. This model will leave the refuges that can survive subsisting on shoe-string budgets, with no long-term guarantee of funding. This proposed funding model could mean the loss of specialist domestic abuse services, which are vital to women and children’s recovery, in favour of cheaper, generic short-term accommodation.
The government has promised to transform the national approach to tackling domestic abuse through their landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, and declared that the state “will do everything it can to both support [survivors] and their children.” Women’s Aid calls on the government to follow through on its commitment by working with us to protect refuges. Women’s Aid wants to work with the government to create a long-term and sustainable funding model for a national network of refuges, which will increase the number of bed spaces and support provision available to match the level of need, to ensure that every woman and child can escape domestic abuse.
Quotes from responding refuge services:
“Our safety net would be taken away (in the form of housing benefit) which is paramount for us to continue to survive as a service and to be able to continue to support all women.”
“I believe if these plans get implemented it will be the end of domestic violence refuges. Central government will ultimately put so much pressure on local authorities that they will have to look for the cheapest housing solution – this will be generic housing, or they may even get rid of specialist providers like Women’s Aid organisations and take the service ‘in house’ managing their ‘single pot’ as they see fit. The plans will significantly impact movement of women into new safe areas.”
“The refuge will be at high risk of closure. As a specialist refuge for women fleeing from family and community our clients have to move away from the areas where any perpetrators are and so cannot remain in the local area.”
Join us in protecting women’s refuges and stop dangerous planned changes to their funding, which would put women & children’s lives at risk, by signing our petition here.
For more information, please contact the Women’s Aid press office on: 020 7490 8330 / [email protected]
Notes to editors:
1) This emergency survey was sent to all refuge services listed on Routes to Support on 1st November 2017 following the government’s announcement to change the way supported housing is funded on 31st October 2017. This was a total of 270 local refuge services (entries) in England run by a total of 159 organisations. Between them they were responsible for providing 3,760 refuge spaces across the country. We received 61 responses (38%) to our survey from providers running 78 refuge services with a total 1,149 refuge spaces between them. In all this accounts for 31% of the refuge spaces available and 29% of the refuge services in England.
Women’s Aid has estimated that the loss of more than 588 refuge spaces will mean that 2,058 women and 2,202 children will be unable to access refuge each year. This estimate is based on the ratio of average women per refuge space (3.5) during the year 2016/17 for annual survey respondents and the average number of children with each woman in refuge (1.07) on the Day to Count, 4th July 2017.
2) Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. Over the past 40 years, Women’s Aid has been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic violence and abuse through practice. We empower survivors by keeping their voices at the heart of our work, working with and for women and children by listening to them and responding to their needs. We are a federation of over 220 organisations who provide more than 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country. We provide expert training, qualifications and consultancy to a range of agencies and professionals working with survivors or commissioning domestic abuse services, and award a National Quality Mark for services which meet our quality standards. Our campaigns achieve change in policy, practice and awareness, encouraging healthy relationships and helping to build a future where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated. The 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership with Refuge) and our range of online services, which include the Survivors’ Forum, help hundreds of thousands of women and children every year.Further info: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/