Housing benefit cap will force over 85 per cent of women’s shelters to cut services or close

Women's Aid has called for supported housing services to be exempted from the cap


Government plans to cap housing benefit could force 67 per cent of domestic abuse shelters to close, according to a new report from Women’s Aid.

In last year’s autumn statement, the government announced plans to cap housing benefit in the social sector at the same level paid to private landlords. This represents a major threat to supported housing providers, including women’s shelters, who rely on housing benefits to meet the complex needs of service-users.

As a result of the cap, 67 per cent of refuges in England would be forced to close, while 87 per cent would be unable to continue their current levels in provision. In Wales, 69 per cent of refuges would be forced to close, while 100 per cent would be unable to continue current levels of provision.

Domestic violence advocacy organisations, MPs and others are campaigning to have supported housing services exempted from the benefit cap.

‘Remember, women who flee to a refuge are running for their lives, commented chief executive of Women’s Aid England, Polly Neate.

“Refuges provide specialist support to help women and their children truly recover from domestic abuse, and rebuild their lives with a view to long-term independence. We urgently call on the Government to exempt refuges, and other forms of supported accommodation, from these welfare reforms.”

However, while an exemption would address this short-term funding crisis, Neate has also called on the government ‘to make a public commitment to securing the future of refuges with a sustainable long-term funding solution.’

This call for lasting solution was today echoed by the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker.

‘It is time Theresa May’s Government abandoned the commissioning practices of previous administrations and adopted our policy of sustainable, ring-fenced funding to protect abused women at a time when they are most vulnerable,’ she said.

The Department for Work and Pensions has already deferred the social sector implementation of the cap while it conducts an assessment of its long-term sustainability.

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