Friday, 06 March 2015

Charities have to turn away women seeking refuge

Women’s Aid turned away 230 women seeking refuge from domestic violence on a typical day last year due to lack of space, a report on the impact of welfare reform has found.

Interim findings from a Labour Party commission on women’s safety suggest the problem is getting worse in 2012, with some organisations reporting they are turning away as many as half the women who approach them.

The report, by former solicitor general Vera Baird, calls for the government to ensure that funding for refuges is not threatened by reforms to the benefit system.

Local authority funding has already been cut 31 per cent between the 2010/11 financial year and 2011/12, the report says. Refuges are typically funded by a combination of local authority support and rent.

Shadow minister for women and equalities Yvette Cooper, who commissioned the report, said: ‘The prime minister should commit to a full audit of the impact of his government’s decisions on women’s safety, with new safeguards to prevent vital services being badly hit.’

London-based Eaves Housing told the commission: ‘In the past it was rare that we could not find a refuge or hostel place for women calling us – maybe once every three to six months. Now it can be as often as three or four times a week when our staff, instead of getting a woman into a safe space can do no more than advise a young woman how to minimise the risk of harm if she has to sleep rough.

‘She is advised to hang around places that are open late and quite busy and visible as long as she can – fast food joints, internet cafes, then to head for police stations or accident and emergency departments.’

The report is based on 14 evidence sessions and 160 submissions, and includes a major section on housing. This records refuges’ fears that changes to housing benefit and the move to the universal credit could affect their financial viability, particularly concerns over whether refuges will continue to receive service charges – which they use to fund services such as counselling and security.

The commission heard evidence that homeless person’s units in local authorities are under financial pressure to ‘ration’ access to support by refusing to assess people.

‘Women’s organisations told us that a further issue is that this change in attitude from HPUs has compelled them to resort frequently to getting solicitors to write letters threatening court action in order to force them to support women fleeing violence,’ the report says.

Among the other issues raised in the report, the commission also heard concerns about the impact of payment of the universal credit to one partner in a couple, that ‘this will increase women’s financial dependency on their male partners and reduce women’s independent access to economic resources’.

It states: ‘Not only is that of general concern for women’s equality but women find it harder to leave violent households if they cannot access cash to facilitate the immediate costs.’

Readers' comments (5)

  • Rick Campbell


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  • Joe Halewood

    Rick - guess what - Yes I wrote about this back in August! ( And in a few updates since including how because of HB reform that a paedophile has a better chance of accessing housing than some women fleeing domestic abuse. Just shows the ineptitude of DWP, IDS, Grayling, Pickles, Shapps and the rest of them!

    But thats what you get when you make policy with spin and then only after the fact look at the impact. Crass and dangerous

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  • I moved over to Oz to work in Housing, we are one of the first to create a separate team within our Housing structure to work with DV, using properties from our portfolio and recruiting specialist staff. Proves to be a great success.

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  • This does not surprise me we can put up immigrants but we can`t help our own in plight, we can help a criminal but not someone in risk of their lives.

    My friends told me that her parents are having to take care of their 40 year old son who normally goes to day care he cannot walk or speak and the day care as been privatised and they only take him 3 out of the 5 days, my friends dad as developed a severe hernia through having no help to lift his son so as been booked in for an operation this was cancelled on the day he was having it done, the son was booked in for rest bite and now they won`t have him so the poor mans hernia as been put under more strain what a sad country this is becoming

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  • Broken Rainbow UK's national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender domestic violence helpline took more than 2,000 calls in 2009.   They spoke to callers for over 35hrs on LGBT DV, signposting, listening, talking through issues.   Surveys show that at least 1 in 4 LGBT people experience domestic violence.   

    Domestic violence is not always physical, and that means that the signs may not be obvious. DV can involve controlling a person's contact with their friends and family (isolating them), destroying property, verbal threats in private or public, etc.  Such as your living book experience.

    One main point is the lack of support services available to LGBT DV sufferers. Another is having to out yourself to report the domestic violence. Add to that, the services needed to support LGBT people often create problems by classing domestic violence as common assault, or mistaking/not being able to identify the primary perpetrator. This all means LGBT people have added problems when trying to get help.


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