Council cuts leave most women’s refuges facing closure

More than 70,000 domestic violence victims may be at risk because cuts have left most refuges and outreach services facing closure, a Women's Aid survey has revealed. Picture: Rex Features

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More than 70,000 domestic violence victims may be at risk because cuts have left most refuges and outreach services facing closure, a Women’s Aid survey has revealed.

The domestic violence charity warned that the lives of women and children were at risk because of disproportionate council cuts to domestic and sexual violence services at a time when provision was already failing to meet demand.

Its survey, released on International Women’s Day, found that:

• 60% of refuge services have no funding agreed from 1 April.

• 72% of outreach services have no funding agreed from 1 April.

It estimated that 70,000 women and their children might be unable to access services as a result of the cuts, and said that specialist domestic abuse services had been cut more heavily than other services.

The findings reflect large-scale cuts to councils’ Supporting People budgets, which fund specialist domestic and sexual violence services.

The charity warned that the cuts would ultimately cost the state more. Home Office statistics show that two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a former or current partner at a cost to the government of £1m a person.

“Reducing specialist domestic violence services will inevitably result in increased demands on other shrinking services, such as health care, police and social services, as well as putting the lives of the most vulnerable women and children at risk,” said Nicola Harwin, chief executive of Women’s Aid.

“Even with the current level of service provision, we still only have three-quarters of the bedspaces we need, yet we are in a position where we could lose half our services.”

Last week communities secretary Eric Pickles said he expected councils to act reasonably when cutting the voluntary sector, and Women’s Aid urged authorities to pay heed to this message.

The charity has launched a campaign – Saving Survivors’ Services – against the cuts, which it is urging all MPs to support.

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