Two-thirds of domestic violence shelters facing closure due to welfare cuts, research suggests

A drop in income will put refuges 'in an untenable financial position,' charity warns

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The Independent Online

Two-thirds of domestic violence shelters in England and Wales are facing closure due to welfare reforms, research has found.

Many of the refuges will be severely affected by the housing benefit cap, which the Government is committed to introducing. The cap sets a limit on the benefits that working-age people can claim, thereby reducing the funds available to shelters.

Domestic violence charity Women’s Aid says this means the average income of refuges will drop from around £300 to £60 per room per week, “putting them in an untenable financial position”. The group says that, as a result, it expects 67 per cent of refuges in England will be forced to close, and 87 per cent will not be able to provide the same level of support as they currently do. 

The charity has called on the Government to urgently make domestic violence refuges exempt from the housing benefit cap, saying the lives of women and children will be at risk unless the policy is scrapped.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Women who flee to a refuge are running for their lives. Refuges provide specialist support to help women and their children truly recover from domestic abuse and rebuild their lives with a view to long-term independence. 

“We urgently call on the Government to exempt refuges, and other forms of supported accommodation, from these welfare reforms.”

Actress and Women’s Aid patron Julie Walters said: “Refuges save lives; it's as simple as that. The Government must exempt them from these welfare reforms, or live with the consequences of more women being killed and more families traumatised by domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a human rights issue, and women and children need the specialist support that refuges provide to reclaim their dignity and strength.” 

It is estimated that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. On average, two women in England and Wales are killed by current or former male partners every week.

Research suggests that around 91 per cent of victims of domestic violence are women. 

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