The Government will ignore pleas to ringfence money for black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) women and girls who have suffered violence when it unveils an updated domestic abuse strategy next month.
Theresa May was widely praised for introducing the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy in 2010. But campaigners have asked officials now to guarantee central government funding of around £10m to protect financially struggling organisations specialising in issues involving women from minority backgrounds. They advise on issues such as female genital mutilation and offer an Islamic perspective on a woman’s right to divorce if she is being beaten.
However, government sources have told The Independent on Sunday that money for BAME work won’t be ringfenced when the refreshed strategy is published on or around International Women’s Day on 8 March. But while the Government is keener on local councils choosing where the money is spent, there is a precedent for ringfencing: cash has been set aside for sexual violence victims’ support.
There are 34 organisations in Britain dedicated to BAME women’s services, but an additional 10 to 15 are thought to have shut down over the past 12 years. This has put a strain on small organisations that haven’t enough staff to cope with sudden surges in domestic abuse.
Sources said it will be “acknowledged” that more needs to be done to help BAME women, and local commissioners who dish out money to organisations will be told to look into whether enough funding has gone to specialist services.
Marai Larasi, executive director at Imkaan, which campaigns over violence against black women and girls, said there is a “strong possibility” that some of the nation’s 34 BAME organisations will be forced to close without central funding support because they face competition for local finance from other women’s services groups.
For example, Apna Haq, which helps Asian women and girls in Rotherham, lost a contract it had held for 11 years last year. Its founder, Zlakha Ahmed, told The IoS that her organisation is in a “frenzy” to secure money to get through the summer.
And Roshni Nottingham, which closed in 2012, said at the time that “women’s experiences of violence, racism and discrimination remain compounded by a lack of specialist provision”.
Ms Larasi said: “In the past 10 to 12 years, about a quarter of services for BAME women have gone. We were only looking for some ring-fenced money to keep them going, a starting point of maybe £10m. We know that local commissioning is not working for these organisations and despite repeated calls for centralised funding, and a workable funding strategy, the Government continues to drag its feet … We are being sent a message that our safety and well-being is not a priority.”
Sarah Green, acting director for the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Government will not act on the crisis facing ethnic minority women’s support services – which can literally make the difference between life and death for women and girls facing domestic and sexual violence, threatened forced marriages, and more. It is not enough to tell local councils and others that they should fund these helplines and centres – there is already a funding crisis at that level.
The Government has already announced £40m of funding for domestic abuse services for the next four years and a £2m grant to Women’s Aid and Safelives. Home Office minister Karen Bradley told Parliament last week that “improvements have been made to the police response to domestic abuse”.