Domestic Violence: Why Women's Lives Are Even More At Risk

07/04/2011 13:35 | Updated 22 May 2015

The figures are shocking.

Two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. Just under half of the 3,249 women murdered in the past 16 years were killed by a current or former partner. More than one in five women report experiencing domestic violence at some point in their lives.

Which makes it disturbing in the extreme that the services designed to protect women and children from domestic and sexual violence - and in many cases save their lives - are at risk.

The domestic violence charity Women's Aid surveyed 85 organisations running 420 refuge and outreach services to find out how they are being affected by cuts in government spending.

They found that 60 per cent of refuges and 72 per cent of services offering support in people's homes have no funding agreed from this month. More than a third of services are at risk of closure, 40 per cent will have to cut staff numbers and 20 per cent will have to reduce the number of clients they take on.

Most domestic violence services are run by the voluntary sector. They rely on grants from local councils, which in turn rely on funding from central government. But the government has cut the amount of money it provides to local authorities by £1.2 billion this financial year, and councils are having to choose where those savings will come from.

Women's Aid estimates that, as a result, 70,000 women and their children will be left without support to escape their violent homes. The number of refuge places across the UK will be cut from 400 to 160. As things stood before the cuts, charities estimated that 200 women a day were already unable to access a refuge place. That figure will rise and keep rising.

This is a tragedy for those who need help and can't get it: it is no exaggeration to say that women's lives will be put at risk. It is also a false economy, since women will look elsewhere for help – to the overstretched health system, social services, the police. And if the worst happens...the Home Office estimates that each domestic homicide costs the government £1 million.

In November last year, the government committed itself to providing £28 million over the next four years for national domestic violence helplines and specialist advisors. The home secretary Theresa May described ending violence against women as a "priority".

But government rhetoric doesn't match the reality on the ground.

While campaigners have welcomed this new funding, they say government actions are undermining the grassroots services that support women at home or protect them and their children from violent partners by taking them out of their area.

Alongside the cuts, the government has also removed ring-fencing from £1.7 billion of council grants, leaving local authorities free to plunder money which kept many domestic violence services (and other services for vulnerable people) afloat.

Local authorities are being put in an almost impossible position. I wouldn't want to have to decide where these unprecedented savings should come from. But women and children who are at risk from a dangerous partner or parent are being asked to pay a disproportionate price. They deserve better.

Women's Aid is running a Save Survivors' Services campaign. Click here to get involved. You can also sign this petition.


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