Women’s Aid is joined by Dame Julie Walters to deliver petition to Prime Minister calling on government to protect refuges
Tuesday 23rd January 2018
Today, Women’s Aid and 38 Degrees were joined by Dame Julie Walters, Women’s Aid survivor ambassadors and a cross-party group of MPs to deliver their petition calling on the government to halt dangerous planned changes to the way domestic abuse refuges are funded to Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.
Dame Julie Walters, the British actress most notable for her award-winning role in Billy Elliot and for playing Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter films, is a long-standing patron of Women’s Aid. Charlotte Kneer, survivor and Chief Executive of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid refuge, escaped from domestic abuse with her children over a decade ago. Now she dedicates her life to helping other women to escape and recover from domestic abuse. She is a tireless campaigner for survivors’ rights and her and her team do extraordinary work supporting survivors at Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid refuge.
Women’s Aid’s petition, set up in partnership with 38 Degrees, calls for the government to immediately halt dangerous planned changes to the way that domestic abuse refuges are funded, as they could put women and children’s lives at risk. As of today, the petition received 168,877 signatures from the general public in support of the campaign.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“We are absolutely thrilled to be joined by our survivor ambassadors and patron Dame Julie Walters to deliver our petition calling on the government to give us a cast-iron guarantee that they will not go ahead with disastrous planned changes to the way refuges are funded.
“We have been overwhelmed by the response from the general public in support of our campaign. Domestic abuse is often hidden behind closed doors, but our petition clearly shows that it is an issue that the public cares deeply about. No-one wants to see refuges being faced with the awful reality of either turning more women and children away or closing their doors forever.
“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 short-term supported housing funding risk undermining the Bill’s good intentions. Only by creating a long-term and sustainable funding model so that refuges can operate as a national network will we ensure that every woman and child can safely escape domestic abuse.”
Dame Julie Walters, actress and Women’s Aid patron, said:
“For thousands of women and children across the country, home is the most dangerous place they can be. That’s why being able to escape to a refuge is a vital lifeline for women and children trying to escape domestic abuse. These shelters do extraordinary work on a shoestring budget, yet the government’s planned changes to the way they are funded threaten them with closure. These life-saving refuges must be protected so that every woman and child can escape domestic abuse.”
Rebecca Taylor, Campaigns Manager at 38 Degrees, said:
“38 Degrees members have come together to tell the government they want proper funding for women’s refuges.
“In a brilliant demonstration of people power campaigning, over 168,000 people have signed the petition calling on the government to scrap this dangerous policy.
“This huge petition demonstrates an outpouring of public support for victims of domestic abuse. We’re calling on the government to listen and to scrap these plans which could endanger thousands of women and children.”
Tuesday 23rd January marks the final day of the government’s consultation on planned changes to short-term supported housing funding, which spell disaster for domestic abuse refuges. The proposed model will remove refuge’s 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”. However, domestic abuse is a problem that needs a national response; over two thirds of women living in refuge escaped from outside of their local area, for fear that they would be hunted down by the perpetrator.
An emergency survey by Women’s Aid of refuge services in England found that 39% of refuge services who responded said they could be forced to close their doors for good as a result of the funding changes, and a further 13% said they could be forced to reduce the number of bed spaces available.
Women’s Aid estimated that this would mean the loss of more than 588 refuge spaces in the refuge services who responded to the survey, resulting 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.
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 calling off these planned changes to refuge funding immediately and to work with Women’s Aid to find a viable funding solution for refuges.
Women’s Aid wants to work alongside government to create a long-term and sustainable funding model for refuges, so that they can continue to operate as a national network as well as 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.
The petition hand in was attended by:
- Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid
- Dame Julie Walters, actress and patron of Women’s Aid
- Charlotte Kneer, survivor and Chief Executive of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid
- Sarah Stonedale, Women’s Aid supporter
- Rebecca Taylor, Campaign Manager at 38 Degrees
- Sara D’Arcy, Media Relations Officer at Women’s Aid
- Dawn Butler MP, Labour MP for Brent Central
- Dr David Drew MP, Labour MP for Stroud
- Kate Green MP, Labour MP for Stretford & Urmston
- Carolyn Harris MP, Labour MP for Swansea East
- Helen Hayes MP, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood
- Diana Johnson MP, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North
- Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion
- Tony Lloyd MP, Labour MP for Rochdale
- Alex Norris MP, Labour MP for Nottingham North
- Melanie Onn MP, Labour MP for Great Grimsby
- Jess Phillips MP, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley
- Alison Thewliss MP, Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow Central
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 7566 2511 / [email protected]