Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“The Government’s proposed reforms to supported housing will dismantle our national network of lifesaving refuges and put the lives of women and children trying to escape domestic abuse at risk. This is a matter of life or death. On average, two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. If pursued, the reforms will result in a postcode lottery of domestic abuse support services with further refuges being forced to close their doors and more women and children being turned away from the lifesaving support they offer. Without a safe space to escape to, more women and children’s lives will be lost to domestic abuse.
“These proposed reforms completely undermine the Government’s promise to transform the national approach to tackling domestic abuse through their landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, which outlined that the state “will do everything it can to both support them and their children.” Over one in ten specialist domestic abuse services currently operate without any local authority funding, while 94 women and 90 children were turned away from a refuge on just one day this year. By devolving this funding to local authorities, the Government will remove a woman’s individual entitlement to support with her housing costs when she flees domestic abuse to a refuge and refuges’ last secure form of funding. This will compound the devastating impact of localism on specialist services, forcing refuges who are currently operating on short-term, shoestring budgets to close and leave more women and children trying to escape abuse with nowhere to turn.
“Women’s Aid is ready and willing to work with the Government to ensure the future of refuge provision for every survivor who needs a place. We urge the Government to change course and work with us to protect refuges by creating a long-term and sustainable funding model for a national network of refuges, which increases the number of bed spaces and support provision available to match the level of need, to ensure that every woman and child can escape domestic abuse.”