The Socialist 5 February 2020 |
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Refuges turn away 64% of women - set no-cuts budgets now!
Womens Lives Matter campaigners fighting for domestic violence services, photo Iain Dalton (Click to enlarge)
Jane Nellist, Coventry Socialist Party
One of the most thorough reports about support services for people seeking to escape domestic abuse, researched by Women's Aid and released om 28 January, confirmed that 64% of those who seek shelter in a refuge are turned away due to lack of funding.
The Council of Europe, a human rights organisation covering 47 European states, highlights that the number of refuge bed spaces in England is now 30% below the number recommended.
For an increasing number of women, it's even worse, where there is no access to refuge provision at all. Many domestic violence services are run on a shoestring by volunteers and funding gets tighter every year.
It's not just the lack of refuge spaces that is the problem, it's also the lack of affordable social housing. Only 37,825 new homes built in England were let at discounted rents last year, despite a waiting list of 1.1 million.
For many fleeing abusive relationships, their choices are bleak. Either return to homes and the perpetrator they're trying to leave, or face poor, unregulated, private rented accommodation - or even worse, homelessness.
This is outrageous. And bluntly, what it means is that more women will die as a result of a violent partner, or face an earlier death due to living on the streets. I've been shocked talking to homeless women on the streets in Coventry as to how many of them talk about domestic violence as the reason they are forced into that situation.
There are two other factors highlighted in the Women's Aid report. Firstly, cuts to mental health services, for those with more complex needs, mean that women do not get the right support quickly enough. And secondly, the number of families who have "no recourse to public funds" because of their immigration status.
Universal Credit works against those fleeing a violent relationship. With long waits to get benefits paid, many are forced stay in refuges longer than they need to.
With the re-election of the Tories, the fight against cuts is even more vital. Labour councils must lead the fight for the resources our local communities need, instead of presiding over the rationing of an ever-reducing budget. We say, spend the reserves, demand the stolen millions back, and organise the fight!
And to build a society that guarantees the needs of all and faces up to the challenge of ending the fear of domestic violence, thoroughly and permanently, we must fight for socialism. The Socialist Party demands:
- Reverse all cuts to domestic violence services now - use council reserves and borrowing powers to fully fund local jobs and services, and build mass campaigns of workers and service users to demand the money back from Westminster
- Scrap Universal Credit - for benefits which reflect the real cost of living, and start immediately to support a woman to leave a violent partner
- Mass building of council homes, and rent caps in the private sector
- For affordable and accessible, publicly funded and owned, high-quality child and social care, run under the control of service users, workers and the community - not for profit
- Trade union struggle for real living wages
- End zero-hour and precarious employment practices - job security for all, and full-time hours for all who want them, with flexibility on workers' terms, not the bosses'
Read and sign the pledge not to cut domestic violence services at socialistparty.org.uk, 'Cuts to women's services cost lives'