THE BLOG

Today We Remember the Women's Services That Were Lost to Government Cuts - And the Women Who Didn't Survive

27/11/2015 17:44 GMT | Updated 27/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Today, Sisters Uncut are being forced once again to take to the streets to protest at the brutal cuts to domestic violence services. When the government makes cuts we bleed.

Since austerity began in 2010 over 30 specialist domestic violence services have closed. 30 services that provided a lifeline to women fleeing violence, services that offered specialist knowledge, empathy, hope, a future.

I've worked in addressing violence against women since before austerity - and even then it was tough. But that time seems like a dream utopia of women's equality compared to the picture now. Austerity has ripped away every safety net: cuts to legal aid have removed recourse to the law; localism and changes to benefits mean social housing is all but wiped out; the roll out of universal credit will mean benefit payments are made into one bank account, and understanding economic abuse I would wager that money will not be going into the account of a victim.

If it wasn't enough to cut services, it's very clear that the services losing out are specialist. The biggest cuts have been to BME, LGBTQ+ people and disabled women's services. The way in which the cuts have fallen can only lead us to conclude that these cuts are not about saving money but about rolling back equality - the hallmark of a sexist, racist and privileged elite.

Indeed, on 25 November, the international day to end violence against women, Mr Osborne brutally announced that things would only get worse. He slashed local authority budgets by a further £4.1 billion: that's a 56% reduction in the grants given by central government to local authorities. Make no mistake, cuts to local authority budgets are direct cuts to domestic violence services.

Local authorities fund domestic violence services. With budgets being squeezed services are procured on price not quality. More and more services are going to large, non-specialist organisations, they lack the skills, knowledge and experience to understand the needs of survivors of domestic violence.

During the same budget speech Osborne had the audacity to announce the tampon tax would fund domestic violence services. What a bloody mess - a tax on menstruation paying for cleaning up the consequences of violence. £15million dangled from the end of the bloody string is a drop in the ocean compared to the cuts since 2010.

We do not want token funding. The women's sector is in crisis: we want an end to austerity and a state that does its job. A state that enables an end to oppression, an end to violence, the safety and security we deserve.

Because make no mistake, austerity is a political choice. An unnecessary means to pay for a rich elite to continue a ludicrous system of profit. We too continue that message: never believe that there is not money to pay for services. It's a lie fed to us by those that wish to maintain their power and privilege. It's a lie that allows abuse to continue. Austerity is state violence.

So today Sisters Uncut will be holding a march in remembrance of all the the services we have lost. We have been forced to take to the streets in an effort to try and push back against the violence being enacted on us. We do this because our voices must be heard and will be heard. We do this because we firmly believe this is our only option left - and because it's the only way to make the government listen.

We demand long term, sustainable funding for vital domestic violence services. We demand an end to austerity. We will remember the services lost and we will remember the women who haven't survived and the women who are surviving despite the government's brutal austerity measures. Together we remember - together we will win.

Sisters Uncut's action is on Saturday 28 November at midday, Soho Square. It is open to all women (trans, intersex and cis), all those who experience oppression as women (including non-binary and gender non-conforming people) and all those who identify as women for the purpose of political organising. Self-definition is at the sole-discretion of that sister. We ask that our male allies support us on social media and by helping their sisters attend.