Refuges ‘turn away more than 150 women a day because of budget cuts’

Help for victims of domestic violence in a state of crisis, warns national survey

More than 150 women a day are being turned away from domestic violence refuges as successive budget cuts push the system into “a state of crisis”, a new report indicates.

Increasing numbers of women fleeing violence in the home may be forced to return to their abusive partners or be pushed into homelessness because they cannot find shelters, the study suggests.

The Women’s Aid annual survey took a snapshot of refuges across England on a typical day earlier this year and found that 155 women with 103 children were turned away from the first refuge they approached for help.

Cuts to local authority budgets have depleted the help available at a time when demand is increasing, the report found. Almost a third of refuges that rely on local authority funding experienced budget cuts this year, according to research based on responses from almost 200 specialist victim services.

An estimated 1.2 million women and 800,000 men are victims of domestic abuse every year. Shelters which support them are now so short of money that almost half said they were running services without dedicated funding. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid said that specialist domestic violence services were “reaching a breaking point”. She added: “We cannot afford to lose the services we have spent 40 years building up; we cannot afford to lose the experience of those who work in the sector, and we cannot afford to lose the ties these services have to their communities.”

The charity said  the big cuts risked removing a safety net for some of the country’s most vulnerable women and children. Ms Neate said: “The Government has an opportunity to significantly reduce the number of women and children hurt and killed by violent partners by ensuring adequate funding for the sector.

“However, this opportunity must be taken in the immediate future. If it is not, the safety net for women experiencing domestic violence in England will fall through, leaving even more women and children to be harmed and killed.”

The research was based on responses from almost 200 specialist victim services across the country on a single day in June, meaning it is likely there will have been days where the numbers turned away were even higher.

At least 9,577 women and 10,117 children were given emergency homes in a refuge over the last year, according to figures from organisations which responded to the survey. The number of women staying in refuges who were affected by mental health issues was 47 per cent, an increase of more than 10 per cent on last year.

Nicola Graham-Kevan, an expert in partner violence at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “In the economic downturn... you’re going to have increased family stress and joblessness, so you’d expect there would be an increase in need. Yet undoubtedly there’s been a decrease in funding because local authorities have had their budgets cut.”

Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, said: “This report from Women’s Aid is a damning verdict on Theresa May’s lack of strategy for domestic violence victims, as specialist and community outreach services have been heavily cut back and Women’s Aid warn that more women are remaining in abusive situations as a result.”

Ann Lucas, the Local Government Association’s spokeswoman on domestic violence, said: “Council budgets will have reduced by 43 per cent by 2015-16 and with £20bn worth of savings having to be found. Despite this, two-thirds of councils have maintained funding services for victims of domestic abuse this year.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Domestic violence shatters lives and we need to do everything possible to prevent this dreadful crime.

"This government has ring-fenced nearly £40 million of funding for specialist local support services and national helplines to help people escape abusive situations. We have also rolled out Clare's Law, domestic violence protection orders and extended the definition of domestic abuse to include 16 and 17 year-olds.”

Case study: Jessica’s story

Jessica*, 30, and her four children from south Buckinghamshire, had to stay in a refuge in Birmingham after fleeing her violent husband as there were no places locally. It was New Year’s Eve two years ago,” she said. “I had broken up with my ex-husband but he used to hang around outside the house, almost stalking me. My friend’s boyfriend had taken me home. My ex-husband came in and tried to force me to take an overdose in front of the children. He had tried to strangle me before and I knew we needed to find a safe place.

“The nearest place was in Birmingham. It was amazing, but it was so far from home that I nearly lost my job. I was training to be a midwife and I had to stop my course and my children missed school for three weeks. Having to travel so far disrupts your life and means you’re completely cut off from your friends.”

* Her name has been changed to protect her identity

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power