Welsh Women’s Aid – Save Refuges, Save Lives Campaign

Thursday January 14th, 2016

Save refuges, save lives

Welsh Women’s Aid calls for no cuts to refuge services across Wales

Over half of refuge services in Wales report facing proposed cuts to their services next year
284 women were turned away from refuge services in Wales last year because of a lack of space.
Today, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Welsh Women’s Aid calls for lifesaving refuge services’ funding in Wales to be protected by government and public authorities, so that women and children can live free from violence and be supported to recover from abuse. This should be accompanied by sufficient resources and a sustainable funding model for refuge services so that all regions of Wales have capacity to meet demand.

This call for action, which is supported by 26 specialist domestic abuse services across Wales, coincides with the UK Government Spending Review announcement on 25 November, which will inform how local services will be funded from next year.

Last year in Wales, over 10,000 adult survivors and nearly 4,000 children and young people were provided with refuge and community based advocacy and support by domestic abuse services in Wales, and our national Helpline received over 28,000 calls. In the same year, at least 284 women in Wales could not be accommodated by refuges because there was no space available when they needed help.

Yet most of these vital lifesaving services have not had their funding confirmed beyond March 2016. They do not know if they can sustain their services at current levels, let alone whether they can grow and meet future demand for support. Most services fear the worst, and expect cuts to be made to their already limited funding.

This is in spite of a new European Directive on Victims’ Rights being introduced from November which includes obligations for states to ensure the provision of specialist services for victims of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women.

Whilst positive steps have been taken in Wales to introduce the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act earlier this year, this is not accompanied by funding for specialist services. This Act will introduce statutory funding guidance for the provision of services across the country from 2017, but this may be too late for many existing refuge services in Wales.

Refuges and community-based domestic abuse services are needed now more than ever. In England and Wales, some 4.6 million women have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16 and 1 in every 7 children will have grown up living with domestic abuse. Refuges provide a vital package of support for women and children living in fear as a result of coercive controlling abuse, sexual or physical violence at the hands of partners or family members. These specialist services provide a place of safety, support with housing, health, and legal matters, help to recover from abuse and to achieve independence; they save lives and rebuild lives.

Eleri Butler, Chief Executive of Welsh Women’s Aid, says:

“We are reaching a critical moment for refuge services across Wales. At a time when the demand for refuges and other specialist services is expected to increase in Wales, it is deeply worrying that such lifesaving services do not have sustainable funding to protect and support the most vulnerable women and children in Wales.”

“Commitment to preventing domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women in Wales by the government and local authorities must now be accompanied by a commitment to sufficiently fund the protection and support of survivors living in fear of their partners.

“It is unacceptable that refuge services, which have been supporting women in Wales for four decades, are still operating from year to year without a sustainable funding model. These services face the risk of being tendered out to the cheapest bidder or of being cut altogether in favour of generic services without experience of supporting survivors of abuse.”

“We urge government and local funders to work together to find a long-term funding solution for local specialist services in Wales, to save refuge services in order to save lives.”

Anyone needing help or support for domestic or sexual abuse in Wales should call the national Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800, provided by Welsh Women’s Aid and funded by Welsh Government.

1. For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact Tina Reece (Public Affairs Manager) at Welsh Women’s Aid on 02920541551, 07553374402 or tinareece@welshwomensaid.org.uk

2. Welsh Women’s Aid is the lead national organisation in Wales, providing the voice of local services and survivors to government as well as campaigning, influencing policy and practice, and innovating to end domestic abuse and violence against women across Wales and the UK. Welsh Women’s Aid represents and supports a federation of 26 specialist domestic abuse services in Wales, which provide a range of support, advocacy and prevention services for women, children and families affected by domestic abuse. More information is available at www.welshwomensaid.org.uk

3. To donate £3 to Welsh Women’s Aid to enable us continue our work to end violence against women and children in Wales please text ’EVAW15 £3’ to 70070.

4. Anyone affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence in Wales can contact Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800 for 24/7 confidential information and support.