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Government plans to revamp supported housing funding puts women’s refuges at risk of closure

Anti-abuse charities have warned that the proposals could see the lives of countless women and children put at risk

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By Kuba Shand-Baptiste on

There’s devastating irony in the government’s quiet announcement of plans to remove short-term supported housing from the welfare system just weeks before the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women last Saturday.

Should the proposals go ahead, charities have warned, scores of women and children fleeing domestic violence and abuse will be left to pay for placements without the assistance of housing benefit, which currently provides 53 per cent of refuge funding. Surrey’s Reigate & Banstead Women’s Aid refuge chief executive, Charlotte Kneer, warned that refuge-funding reform could see “every single refuge close", meaning “every woman who presents herself to a refuge is at risk of murder”.

Two women a week on average are killed at the hands of abusive partners or ex-partners, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). And, as Shelter Scotland’s Repeat Homelessness and Domestic Abuse study showed in 2002, domestic violence was the “single most quoted reason for becoming homeless” among all homeless women.

Over one in 10 specialist domestic-abuse services currently operate without any local authority funding, while 94 women and 90 children were turned away from a refuge on just one day this year

Responding to the government’s supported housing reform announcement, which would see services already at the point of crisis stretched even further, Women’s Aid chief executive Katie Ghose said: “Over one in 10 specialist domestic-abuse services currently operate without any local authority funding, while 94 women and 90 children were turned away from a refuge on just one day this year.”

Highlighting plans to introduce a “draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill to protect and support victims” on Friday, the government said that it was dedicated to “support[ing] victims” and “recognise[ing] the life-long impact domestic abuse has on children”. But unless it heeds calls to scrap the latest supported housing proposals, both from MPs and wider efforts tied to the UN’s global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, it’s unlikely that promises to “ensure anyone facing the threat of domestic abuse has somewhere to turn to” will materialise. Until then, all we can do is continue to draw attention to the gravity of the increasing likelihood that women’s refuges – and the women relying on them – could be in imminent danger.

@kubared

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Photo: Kate Williams
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