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Welsh Women’s Aid’s campaign for no cuts to refuge services across Wales: call for evidence

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To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) Welsh Women’s Aid is launching Save Refuges, Save Lives, a campaign that calls for:

  • Refuge services’ funding in Wales to be protected by government and public authorities,
  • Sufficient resources and a sustainable funding model for refuge services so that all regions of Wales have capacity to meet demand.

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 Welsh Women’s Aid’s national Helpline received over 28,000 calls. In the same year, they know that at least 284 women in Wales could not be accommodated by refuges because there was no space when they needed help.

Whilst England recently set aside £13.2 million for struggling refuge services, services in Wales and the survivors that depend on them face a postcode lottery amid cuts to local authority budgets and other public services in Wales. Most of our member 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 commissioning guidance for the provision of services across the country from 2017, along with a range of other measures to improve public authorities’ responses to domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women.

Over the course of this campaign Welsh Women’s Aid will be raising awareness that 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.

The key message(s) of this campaign will be:

  • Specialist refuge services provide lifesaving support for survivors of domestic abuse, in refuges and in the community; they save and rebuild lives.
  • Most services have not had their funding confirmed beyond March; funding cuts are expected and services cannot currently sustain service levels let alone grow to meet demand.
  • Welsh Women’s Aid needs refuge services’ funding in Wales to be protected by government and public authorities next year, accompanied by sufficient and sustainable funding for refuge services longer term, so that all regions of Wales have capacity to meet demand.

During November Welsh Women’s Aid will be:

  • Writing to ministers, calling for no cuts to refuge services this year
  • Issuing a press release to coincide with 25 November, calling for sustainable funding
  • Talking with our members to gather evidence of the impact of the spending review on the capacity and funding of services. We also want to know what you would like to have in a campaign toolkit. This information will be used to promote what is happening to refuges and community-based domestic abuse services across Wales, to inform Welsh Government, local authorities and commissioners. Providing members with a campaign toolkit for raising awareness of their services amongst local councillors and AMs, and the impact of any proposed cuts on survivors and the local community; and tools to help challenge funding decisions should any cuts be made.
  • Raising awareness about the importance of refuge services throughout 16 Days of Action – starting today. Please do get involved using the hashtag #SaveRefugeSaveLives and #AchubLlochesAchubBywydau

Through December-January they will be:

  • Writing a briefing informed by findings about current funding status across 6x regions, information about funder proposed cuts or decisions, potential impact of proposed/actual cuts to refuge and community domestic abuse services.
  • Identifying media coverage opportunities

In the meantime, if you’d like to contribute your thoughts or experiences, or if you have any questions, please contact [email protected]. Do also please get in touch if you have supported women and children in a refuge service who would be interested in speaking about the positive impact this has had on their lives (anonymously if needed, of course, and with support).

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