Budget cuts could leave up to 200,000 child victims of domestic violence at risk of long-term mental health problems and some at risk of death, sector leaders have warned.
Diana Barran, chief executive of Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse, has estimated that cuts in council funding could leave up to 100,000 women and up to 200,000 children without services.
“Domestic abuse is to children’s mental health what smoking is to lung cancer,” she warned.
“Child deaths are a definite possibility,” said Fiona Dwyer, Women’s Aid national children and young people officer, who backed Barran’s concerns. “If we look into any serious case review of a child who has been killed, domestic violence is a factor in almost all the deaths.”
“Cuts will mean people will put up with indescribable amounts of abuse and their children will grow up with indescribable amounts of abuse before getting help,” said Barran.
Services across the country have reported losing therapeutic posts. Maddy Coy, deputy director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, said: “One of the most critical things about the cuts will be the lack of experienced specialist workers to address the complex ways that children experience domestic violence. Voluntary organisations have decades of accumulated expertise that few statutory services have.”
Councils have traditionally funded domestic violence through their Supporting People budgets, which have not been ring-fenced since 2009, leaving such services particularly vulnerable to the impact of large cuts in central government funding for councils this year.
Nicola Harwin, chief executive of Women’s Aid said: “There have always been cuts of about 4% [since the ring fence was removed] but if you are looking at cuts of 25%, that’s a different ball game.”
However, the government has stressed that its central allocation for Supporting People has only fallen by 0.7% this year, and that it has set up a dedicated £28m fund to support domestic violence services from 2011-15.
“There is no excuse for councils to be targeting any disproportionate spending reductions on programmes that support the most vulnerable people in their communities,” said a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government.
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