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

Share
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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial