England is now short of 2000 refuge beds for women who have suffered domestic violence.
News that women’s refuges are closing up and down the country shows austerity’s destructive reality. The new research provides clear evidence of the way political choices can harm people’s lives.
Women’s Aid found almost a fifth of specialist refuges have closed since 2010, which has led to domestic violence victims sleeping rough to escape abusive relationships.
In England, the number of refuge beds falls nearly 2000 short of the minimum standards required by the Council of Europe.
Whatever vision the Tories have for the country, I assume pregnant women sleeping rough on the streets is not it. But their choices are making that happen.
For people who don’t need to use a refuge the problem can be invisible. But Women’s Aid spoke to 404 women who were all refused space in a refuge on at least one occasion.
Of these women, almost half of them had been refused space three or more times. Only a quarter were eventually provided safe accommodation.
Domestic violence services are not the only victims of austerity. The NHS is also under increasing strain. Councils are being forced to cut social care funding. But much like refuges, people never miss these services until they desperately need them – which is far too late.
From my own experience of domestic violence I know how scared and alone these women must feel. For them to reach out for help only to be turned away is devastating.
Our communities need safeguards – we cannot do away with our most crucial services because the Government wants to spend less on funding.
Grassroots organisations and charities do amazing work to support domestic violence survivors but their job gets so much harder when the Government refuses to help.
The Green Party stands against not just the policies of austerity but its principles too, knowing that it affects women worst and BME, disabled and LGBTIQA+ women worst of all.
Cuts to domestic violence must be reversed, and the funding protected for the foreseeable future. We’re also demanding a comprehensive UK-wide strategy to tackle domestic violence at its core.
We may not be in a position to implement these changes, but we’re setting the agenda, and we’ll keep calling out the Government until they listen to the voices of domestic violence survivors they are ignoring.
You cannot run a country like a household budget. When you starve vital services of funding it impacts people’s lives, sometimes in dramatic, devastating ways. Austerity is a brutal regime, run by a Government determined to punish the most vulnerable.
Amelia Womack is deputy leader of the Green Party. She tweets here.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
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