Supported housing plan puts victims of domestic violence at risk

The lives of victims of domestic violence and their children could be put at risk as a result of the government’s plan for supported housing, Women’s Aid has warned.

Over half of refuges for victims of domestic abuse said they would be forced to close or reduce the services they offer if the government presses ahead with its plans.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “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.”

Women’s Aid carried out the survey following the government’s announcement that it plans to change the way it funds short-term supported housing. The charity warns that 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”.

Yet 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.

The survey found:

  • Over one third of refuge services who responded fear they will be forced to close down
  • A further 13% 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

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, the Women’s Aid annual survey found.

The findings are released as the government is due to launch its consultation on the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.

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.

“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,” she added.

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.

 

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