Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Dawn Butler MP joined Women’s Aid, survivors and Dame Julie Walters in delivering a petition with 168,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street this week, calling on the government to stop changes to the way vital refuges are funded.
Dawn joined Suvivors, Katie Ghose the Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, a charity which supports abused women and children, actress Dame Julia Walters DBE, Carolyn Harris MP and other Members of Parliament in delivering the petition.
On 31st October 2017 the government announced proposed reforms to supported housing from 2020. This included a new model of funding for the housing costs (rent & service charges) of women’s refuges. The Government’s proposed model removes women’s entitlements to housing benefit (which is what currently covers the majority housing costs in refuge) when they enter a refuge. Instead ‘housing costs’ of supported housing will be paid directly to local authorities to administer to local services.
This model removes refuges’ last bit of secure funding – housing benefit - and will mean that refuge funding will be entirely devolved and completely in the hands of local authorities from 2020. These changes have caused concern to many including women’s charities.
Dawn Butler, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities and MP for Brent Central, said:
“I was pleased to deliver this important petition and I hope the Government will listen to our concerns. Specialist support services for women are a lifeline for women and girls escaping domestic violence but women’s domestic violence services are in crisis. In the UK, on average, two women are killed by their current or a former partner every week while around one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, which shows us the extent of the problem.
Women who have been affected need the right protection and the right support at the right time. It is frankly unacceptable that specialist women’s refuges are facing closure and that on a typical day 155 women are turned away due of lack of space.
Women’s refuges are a lifeline, access to which no woman should be denied. But the Government’s proposed supported housing funding reforms threaten the very existence of women’s refuges. I urge the Government to change course, reverse these changes and develop a sustainable form of funding for women’s refuge services, to ensure that no more women and children are put at risk. We owe it to women and girls to get this right.”