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Lockdown increases domestic violence calls - Tory money a drop in the ocean
Amy Cousens, Women's Lives Matter
Home secretary Priti Patel, has announced a 'you are not alone' campaign to support domestic violence victims who are more at risk than ever under lockdown. The primary goal, she said, is to 'get perpetrators out' of family homes.
The government is looking into providing alternative accommodation. But what accommodation is she thinking of? The Conservatives have cut refuges to the bone in the last ten years.
The UK has around 4,000 refuge beds. Last year there were 19,000 referrals and a rejection rate of around 60%. Patel has announced a £2 million boost to services to help to deal with the increase in referrals under lockdown, but this will be going toward helplines and online support.
This is after the government stopped funding the national Women's Aid Helpline and gave the contract to the charity Refuge, presumably as they were the lower bidding contract, although that is still unclear.
Let us say for argument's sake the 'extra' funds will be going toward accommodation. A small to medium refuge housing around 10-12 women and their kids would need approximately £200,000 a year to run - to support women financially, physically, and emotionally.
So £2 million would provide around 100-120 more beds nationally, or 200-240 if over a six-month period. Say a refuge is cutting it fine and only needs £50,000 to open up ten more beds over a six-month temporary period - the figure would rise to 400-480 more bed spaces.
We are still not getting anywhere close to the predicted 15,000 bed shortfall - a shortfall that does not take into account the huge increase in victims needing to flee under lockdown.
It does beg the question, what planet is Patel living on? This money is given in the same breath as tax breaks are being handed to individual big businesses alone. Tesco, a big business swamped in cash, dealt out £900 million to its shareholders in the midst of the lockdown because 'it didn't need the surplus cash'. This was days after being handed £585 million in a tax break. It is clear that the planet Patel is living on is one in which the rich are handed a blank cheque and ordinary people are left with the crumbs.
There's no doubt that the government has decided to act, even on this minute level, due to campaigns like Women's Lives Matter putting the pressure on them to do so. But we need much more. As an emergency measure, local councils should use their powers to take over empty properties to house women fleeing domestic violence, and demand extra resources from national government.
Women's Lives Matter Campaign, along with the Socialist Party, will be fighting for that as well as continuing to campaign even harder for the funds that are necessary long term to keep women safe.
In The Socialist 14 April 2020:
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