I was struck by today’s news that Denise Marshall, Chief Executive of Eaves women’s charity and campaign group, has handed back her OBE on principle. While some may well ask what the point is of an OBE in the first place – and therefore, what the significance of giving it back is – Denise Marshall has undoubtedly achieved something important with this symbolic action. She’s made cuts to women’s services front page news. That’s no mean feat.
She has successfully drawn the media’s attention to the fact that, in spite of much vaunted government pledges to invest £10m in Rape Crisis centres, the charity sector, and the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector is facing a very bleak future as funding – central, local, and grant based – evaporates into thin air.
Denise Marshalls explained
“It [the OBE] has been keeping me awake at night. I feel like it would be dishonourable and wrong to keep it. I’m facing a future where I can’t give women who come to my organisation the services they deserve – I won’t be able to provide the services for which I got the OBE.We will see situations where women are in danger as a result of the cuts. There are disasters waiting to happen.”
And some of those disasters are already happening. Just last week Women’s Aid produced a survey with Channel 4 news which found that More than half of domestic violence services across the country do not know if they will be able to remain fully open after March due to funding cuts. Only a quarter of refuges have had their contracts extended beyond March. A quarter of respondents said they would have to close one or more services if they lose funding, with 40 per cent warning they would have to cut staff numbers. Devon County Council recently proposed a 100% cut to domestic abuse services.
While the funding landscape for this vital sector is still so unclear, Denise Marshall is absolutely right to be making her voice heard now.