I am writing on behalf of Eastleigh Labour Party to urge you to speak in a Backbench Business Debate on the future of refuge funding at 9.30-11am on 12 December 2017.
Refuges for victims of domestic violence and abuse are more than only a ‘bed for the night.’ They are specialist services, providing safe and anonymous shelter and support for women and children escaping domestic abuse. Demand for refuge remains sky-high; 60 per cent of total referrals to refuge were declined in 2016-17 and shockingly, on just one day this year, 90 women and 94 children were turned away. As survivor Mandy Thomas has said, “if you don’t have a place to go, you back”.
The Government recognise refuges’ critical role and have delivered welcome emergency grants for ‘support funding’ in refuge since 2014. The Government will also lead a ‘review’ of refuge funding in 2018 - the same year as a landmark new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill will be scrutinised in Parliament.
We are concerned, however, that the Government’s proposals to reform refuge funding, as part of a new funding model for ‘short-term supported housing services’ from 2020, threatens to undermine this welcome legislation and will dismantle the national network of refuges. Women’s Aid’s research shows the new funding model would force over half of refuges to close or reduce their provision in England. It is also estimated that refuges would have to turn away 2,058 women and 2,202 children from life-saving shelter.
Currently, housing benefit provides around half of a refuge’s total income. The Government’s proposed model would end a woman’s entitlement to housing benefit - or Universal Credit - when in refuge, and devolve this ‘housing funding’ to local authorities. This would end the last sustainable national income that refuges receive, and result in the full devolution of responsibility and resourcing - at a time when we already have a ‘postcode lottery’ of refuge provision.
Women’s Aid and refuge providers are warning that this local model risks the end of the national network of refuges. As two thirds of women flee to a refuge outside of their local area to escape a perpetrator, these services cannot be planned or operate on a local basis alone.
Please support Women’s Aid’s SOS: Save Refuges, Save Lives Campaign, attend the Backbench Business Debate on refuge funding, scheduled for 9.30-11am on 12 December 2017, and write to the Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions and Communities and Local Government to raise concerns about the impact of this funding model on life-saving refuge services. You can find Women’s Aid’s briefing on the reforms here.
Eastleigh Labour party took part in the recent White Ribbon day for men to pledge never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. We sold many ribbons on our street stall in Eastleigh and discovered this was a very important issue for residents.
Your recent Constituency Newsletter reported on the work you have been doing to promote #drawaline is UN Women's global campaign to end violence against women. As the MP for Eastleigh and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in Parliament, I hope you will add your support for this campaign and help save refuges.
Secretary, Eastleigh Labour Party
69 Leigh Rd, Eastleigh. SO50 9DF