Since September 2014, we have been calling on the government to Save Our Services by committing to preserving the national network of specialist refuges through exploring and securing a new model of national refuge funding and commissioning.
On just one day in 2017, 94 women and 90 children were turned away from refuge. 60% of all referrals to refuges were declined in 2016-17, normally due to a lack of available space.
Our world-leading network of specialist refuges is at risk when still two women a week, on average, are killed in England and Wales by a partner or former partner. Women’s Aid is leading the SOS Campaign to secure a long term funding solution for life-saving services.
The campaign so far
The campaign has not only fought off disastrous planned funding reforms, but successfully secured a further investment of £55 million until 2020.
This increased funding has supported many refuges to stay open and bolstered provision at many others. But sadly refuges are still lurching from crisis to crisis.
Since 2016, Women’s Aid has been opposing risky proposals to the future of funding for rent in refuges. The government proposed to withdraw housing benefit – the last secure form of funding for our services – and replace it with a system that we warned would dismantle the national network of refuges and put the lives of women and children trying to escape domestic abuse at risk.
With the support of survivors, our member services and hundreds of thousands of people we have fought off these changes.
In August 2018, the government committed to keep refuges in housing benefit, and keep the doors of these life-saving services open for the women and children who so desperately need them.
Women’s Aid also commissioned expert consultants to work with us to design a funding model that will protect the future of these life saving services. You can read the report detailing the funding approach here.
Following this continued pressure, in May 2019 the government published a proposal to establish the first ever legal duty placed on local authorities to deliver support to survivors of domestic abuse in accommodation-based services, backed by funding to place services on a sustainable footing, which we warmly welcome.
But the campaign is far from over.
A sustainable future, that ensures services with the expertise to meet women’s needs are resourced to meet demand, remains an urgent priority. This new legal framework is a significant step in the right direction, and should help to ensure consistent refuge provision across the country to end the post-code lottery that survivors currently face when seeking safety. If the right safeguards are not in place, though, women’s refuges could still face threats from generic, ‘one size fits all’ services that don’t provide the safety and expert support that women and children need.
Our SOS campaign will now be pushing to ensure the needs of all survivors are met through this new legal framework, and that a sustainable funding model is finally delivered to save refuges, save lives.
Why refuges are so important: Real stories
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