Cuts to domestic abuse services may make short-term savings, but the long-term costs are too high

Refuge's bases for South Asian women in Derby close in March. Here, the charity's chief executive explains why protecting frontline services is a matter of life and death

Related Topics

Imagine what life would be like if you weren’t allowed to go to the local shop to buy a pint of milk. If your every move was controlled, to the point where you couldn’t even do something as simple as post a letter. If you didn’t know how to use a telephone.

When women and children flee to our South Asian refuges in Derby, this is how they describe the lives they have left behind. Many have lived in extreme isolation, cut off from everything and everyone beyond their violent partner. Many have not been allowed to learn English, making them even more isolated. Some have been forced into marriage, or endured so-called ‘honour’-based violence as a result of bringing so-called ‘shame’ on their family.  A small cluster of refuges in Derby, run by a band of dynamic women, have been helping these women, and their children, to find safety for over five years. But from 31st March this year, the doors to those houses will close for good - the latest services to fall foul of brutal austerity measures.

It takes enormous courage for isolated and vulnerable women to break free from violent partners. In the last six months, 50 per cent of the women we supported in Derby were at risk of ‘honour’-based violence, and 36 per cent faced the prospect of being forced to marry someone against their will. Almost 50 per cent had been threatened with murder. 

Women flee to our Derby shelters from across the country. Once they have escaped, these women can never go back to their old lives.  They rely on our support to help them find new paths. Our refuge workers come from the same ethnic backgrounds as the women they support. They speak the same languages.  They find creative solutions to help women stay safe, sometimes not just from their husbands, but from multiple family members who may have perpetrated, or colluded, in prolonged abuse. Our team go the extra mile to protect the women and children in their care.

It fills me with enormous sadness to think that this important work will be lost when our Derby services close in March. What will happen to women who desperately need this kind of specialist support? Where will they go? To whom will they turn?

Derby Council, like councils up and down the country, has been forced to find savings on an impossible scale. The axe has fallen hard on the pot of money which is reserved for the most vulnerable members of society, such as victims of domestic violence. An astonishing 83 per cent of this budget will be slashed – amounting to £6 million in cuts between 2012 and 2014. At present, we have no idea whether any specialist domestic violence services will exist in Derby at all in the near future.

Last year, Derby Council undertook a series of Equality Impact Assessment workshops in order to gauge the reaction of local people and organisations to their drastic proposals. The most alarming finding from these workshops is captured by a phrase at the bottom of a page towards the end of the report: “Possible fatalities”.

“Possible fatalities”. A two-word euphemism for murder. Because this is what will happen when life-saving services close. Abused women and children will have fewer escape routes. They will be forced to make a hopeless decision: take to the streets, or stay with violent partners. For some of those who choose the latter, those ugly threats to kill could become a tragic reality. 

The death toll taken by domestic violence is already astoundingly high – two women are killed every single week by current or former partners. How far will this figure rise if budget cuts continue to carve up the landscape of domestic violence support?

Each domestic homicide costs the state £1 million. Think about what this covers. The legal costs of investigating and prosecuting perpetrators. The costs to social services of caring for mother-less children. And the health costs of repairing the collateral damage to those who have been robbed of their loved one.

Protecting frontline services – like our small cluster of refuges in Derby – makes financial sense. These services save money, and they save lives. In this difficult financial climate, the need to find immediate savings is, of course, critical. But let’s not forget that short-term solutions may only increase costs – and human misery – further down the line. 

Refuge’s need for public support has never been more urgent. It is a well-worn phrase in charity fundraising, but every single pound you donate to our work will make a huge difference to women and children escaping domestic violence. Your support will be nothing less than life-saving.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform