David Drew MP joins Dame Julie Walters to deliver petition to Prime Minister to protect women’s refuges
January 25, 2018
David Drew, MP for Stroud, joined Dame Julie Walters to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday calling on the government to halt funding changes to domestic abuse refuges, which could put lives at risk.
Representatives of Women’s Aid and 38 Degrees joined the group of MPs and Dame Julie to deliver their petition which calls for a halt housing benefit changes which could lead to the closure of refuges. The petition has so far received 168,877 signatures.
David Drew, Labour MP for Stroud, said: “I have no doubt that the government’s proposed benefit changes will reduce the provision of domestic abuse refuges and put lives at risk. The reality is that women will be turned away.
The women’s refuge in Stroud, run by Beresford Group, is now the only one left in Gloucestershire. Yet last year saw almost half a million cases of domestic abuse recorded by police. There are still too many vulnerable women, and their children, who are not getting the support they need.”
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “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.”
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.”
Tuesday 23 January marked 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 government is proposing removing refuge’s last secure form of funding – housing benefit – and ask councils to “fund services that meet the needs of their local areas”.
But domestic abuse 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.
A survey by Women’s Aid found that 39% of refuge services said they could be forced to close their doors for good as a result of the funding changes, and a further 13% could be forced to reduce the number of bed spaces available, 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.
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 can be signed here.