More than half of the services that help victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence could face closure as a result of “devastating” Government cuts, a charity has warned.
A survey for Women’s Aid, the national domestic violence charity, found 60% of refuge services and 72% of outreach services had no funding agreed from April 1.
It compared its findings with annual figures for refuge and outreach use for 2009 and 2010 and concluded that more than 70,000 women and their children across the country might not be able to access a service after April, which will put more lives at risk.
Nicola Harwin, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “We are particularly concerned that the removal of ring-fenced funding for Supporting People last year coupled with cuts to local authority budgets has created a situation where councils across the country are making disproportionate cuts and rash decisions at the expense of protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
According to the charity two women every week in England and Wales are killed by a former or current partner, and the proposed cuts will mean a significant reduction in lifesaving services for those affected by domestic violence.
Ms Harwin added: “It has taken 40 years to build the current national network of services which enables us to take women out of their area when needed to protect them and their children from their violent partner.”
She warned that even with the current level of service provision, there are only three-quarters of the bed spaces needed, and she urged local authorities to rethink and “consider the damaging effect withdrawing specialist domestic and sexual violence services will have”.
The report was published as the Home Secretary Theresa May prepares to outline Government plans to tackle violence against women and girls.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The provision of specialist services for local areas is and always will be a matter for local councils. We understand the pressure they are under to make savings. However, we have been clear that Violence Against Women and Girls services should not be the easy cut.
“This is why, despite the difficult economic climate, the Home Office is providing ring-fenced funding of £28 million directly to specialist services over the next four years and the Ministry of Justice is providing £10.5 million over the next three years for rape crisis centres. We are prioritising the issue centrally and we expect local areas to follow our lead.”