Domestic violence affects one in four women during their lifetime. Police in the UK receive a domestic assistance call every sixty seconds. Two women are killed every week by their violent partners.
The statistics are shocking, but the government’s ‘initiative’ to slash funding from vital services that protect and safeguard women and children from violence is far more shocking.
Last week’s leaked report by ACEVO has shown that cuts to the charity sector could be, in the very best scenario, just under £1billion and in the worst case, just over £5.5billion.
Refuge, one of the leading domestic violence charities in the UK, is getting their funding slashed by 50%, resulting in them having to turn away hundreds of vulnerable women on a day to day basis. But it’s not just the biggest services that are being cut. Many other services up and down the country are now financially threatened as a result of the Coalition’s harsh austerity measures.
Croydon Family Justice Centre (CFJ) is just one of many domestic violence (DV) services facing closure as they petition against a further £96,000 worth of cuts. Every month, CFJ help more than a thousand women affected by domestic violence. Now, they fight for survival.
Women’s Aid reported that DV services at Devon were dramatically reduced by 42% in April 2011. Although local authorities cut funds elsewhere, the DV services were cut by far more, meaning that they were unfairly and disproportionately targeted.
Bede House was not so lucky. Currently, Bede is one of the leading organisations that provide practical and emotional support to victims of domestic violence and hate crime in the borough of Southwark. Having worked there, I was able to witness first-hand the much needed assistance that Bede House provides on a daily basis. I asked the manager Ntokozo Dlova how these cuts would hinder the charity’s ability to safeguard and protect women. The answer was shocking.
“From 1st April, everything changes. We’re losing 100% of our funding to our domestic violence service,” she told me.
Bede House, as well as other DV services in Southwark, lost their local authority funding due to new commissioning arrangements, so although there will still be a service, it means that the choice no longer exists.
“Bede has a solid reputation that we’ve spent years building. 30% of our clients self refer to our project after hearing about us from their friends, their vicars and even at their hairdressers,” Ntokozo said. “Before, there was a diversity of services available- if you had a bad experience with one, there were alternative places you could go to. Now, there either aren’t any, or there’s very few.”
This is worrying as it could mean women stay in a domestically violent relationship due to not being able to successfully engage with a service. A study by Jaffe (1982) showed that on average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before she asks for help- If these are the statistics before funding cuts to DV services and the Metropolitan Police, what will the statistics show thereafter?
A study by Crisis (1991), the national charity for single homeless people, showed that 69% of homeless women they interviewed cited domestic violence as the key reason for their homelessness. Without an alternative refuge, this could be the ugly reality for many women. Apart from victims having to stay in abusive relationships -resulting in more physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial abuse- what’s the scariest thing about funding to rape crisis centres, domestic violence services and refuges being slashed? It’s obvious- this will inevitably lead to more victims of homicide, deaths that could easily have been prevented.
CJF are trying to prevent this from happening to the women in Croydon, a town reported to have the highest DV incidents in the capital. Tireless campaigners will spend International Women’s Day rallying outside Park Lane in hope that the local council will reverse the damaging cuts. It seems, yet again, that the most vulnerable in our society will pay the price with the unfair austerity measures imposed.
Why would any government who claim to care about the welfare of the state want to cut funding to these vital organisations that safeguard the lives of vulnerable women and children? Shouldn’t more funding be injected into these organisations, rather than trying to squeeze more and more out of a shrinking pot? And aren’t these the types of questions that should be posed to the Prime Minister rather than whether he had ridden Rebecca Brooks’ horse?
Ntokozo’s advice to the government was clear. ‘Stop lying to us. If you really value women as much as you say you do, put your money where your mouth is and truly invest in the precious resource that is women and girls.’
What we realise from this is that the ‘Big Society’ promised by the Coalition isn’t really a big society- in fact, it’s rather small. Once you eliminate the vulnerable women, young children, the elderly, university students, the disabled, those on benefits, public sectors workers and so on and so forth, it’s the smallest society you can think of. In essence, pretty much only leaving behind affluent conservative party members.