Since 2010, 32 refuges for domestic abuse victims have been shut down. Victims now outnumber refuge beds 3,262 to one. Refuge, one of the largest women and children's refuges in the UK, has reported an 80 per cent cut to their services since 2011. All of this has placed incredible strain upon these services and left victims with fewer options.
The new research into multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) by Manchester Metropolitan University makes sobering reading, as outlined in the Guardian on Tuesday. It confirms what Women's Aid has heard over and over again from women who have experienced domestic violence and the response of public agencies, and from local specialist services who struggle to advocate for women and support their long-term recovery and independence.
This is a different phenomenon from the carer who is overwhelmed by exhaustion and frustration, and takes it out on the cared-for partner. This is deliberate, coercive, controlling abuse: it is domestic violence. And it is vital to support professionals, particularly those working with vulnerable adults, to recognise and respond appropriately to both.
Refuges save lives. It's that simple. You will probably have seen the Women's Aid campaign with The Sun this week, 'Give Me Shelter', supporting Women's Aid's call to protect the national network of specialist domestic violence refuges. Our own campaign, SOS - 'Save Our Services' - was launched last June, informed by survivors of domestic violence and local Women's Aid Federation organisations. One of SOS's main achievements was a £10million fund from the government for refuges. But £10million is not enough. We have a new government, and we need this to be a priority, cutting through the rhetoric of austerity: we need the government to understand that leaving refuges to local decision-making is failing.
Or, any other rich, white guy with a trust fund or 6 figure income or a banker or a footballer or a Russian oligarch or CEO of a multi-national corporation or a hedge fund manager. It matters to the vast majority of families living in the UK (and not "families" as defined by the current obsession with "hard-working families" rhetoric used to punish anyone who is not rich)
With over 36,000 cash machines in the UK, victims would be able to send short text-based messages directly to the police in a discreet way and help them receive assistance from a specialist officer. Such an innovation would help those who may be controlled by their partner, and are fearful of visiting a police station in case they're seen.