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Fri 26 April 2019
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Funding cuts to women’s refuges mean 95% are turning women and children away.

Thousands of abused women are being turned away from domestic violence shelters because of funding cuts, according to new statistics.

Figures obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism show that women’s refuges have seen their budgets slashed by a whopping 24% since 2010.

Domestic violence has risen dramatically, with an average of two women now killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales, according to Women’s Aid. But, council funding for refuges across England has dropped from £31.2m in 2010/11 to just £23.9m in 2016/17, according to the 87 councils that responded.

“Women and children are going to die as a result,” said one refuge manager. “Tens of thousands more will suffer preventable harm, with lifelong consequences. It is stupid, short-sighted, and will costs councils/the country far more in the short and long-term than it would to simply fund dv [domestic violence] services properly.”

A total of 95% of refuges had turned women away in just the last six months, according to a survey of 40 refuge managers. More than 1,000 women have been turned away from these shelters alone since the start of the year.

One survivor credits being able to stay on friends’ floors with saving her life when she was turned away from local refuges.

“I packed my clothes in a suitcase, and I went, and I said, I cannot go back, if he knows that I left, he will kill me,” she said. “I called a helpline and I said that I need help now… she said ‘call as many friends as you can’, she said ‘I know it’s embarrassing, call ‘em, call ‘em, just see who will pick up and that’s what I did, I spent weeks on friends’ floors before they found a refuge for me.”

Another refuge manager said they were “picking up the slack” from other agencies which had faced cuts – particularly mental health services.

“We had one woman and we knew straight away that she had serious mental health problems. She’d threatened some of the other women she was living with – women who themselves are very vulnerable – and tried to harm herself. We separated her from the other women, but one night we got a terrified phone call from one of them saying the woman had come back and put a brick through their window… After that, she was sectioned but I wish they’d have listened to us in the first place.”

“I think the decision not to section her initially was motivated completely by money – they were only taking the most acute patients because they don’t have a lot of space on the wards, because they’ve had enormous cuts,” the manager added.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:  “On just one day in 2016, 78 women and 78 children trying to escape abuse were turned away from a refuge. This can leave them forced to return to their abuser or face becoming homeless – some stay with family or friends where they are at risk of being hunted down by the perpetrator. Others end up sleeping on the streets.

“For survivors of domestic abuse being able to flee to a refuge is often a matter of life or death.”

This article was first published on The Overtake.

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