Violence Against Women services are “not a luxury”
Trawling through the 2,200 charities and voluntary organisations facing Local Authority funding cuts listed on the False Economy website and widely reported in the press today, makes for extremely bleak reading.
After school clubs for kids, Christmas lunches for old people, wheelchair loan services, sexual health advisory services, meals on wheels, support services for disabled children, all axed. Welcome to the Big Society.
I was particularly taken aback by the number of women’s sector organisations and violence against women and girls (VAWG) services that have faced cuts.
I’ve blogged before on the closure of rape crisis centres and cuts to VAWG services. Today the TUC, End Violence Against Women, and the Women’s Resource Centre released a joint statement highlighting the number of VAWG services facing funding cuts.
As Vivienne Hayes, Chief Executive of the Women’s Resource Centre, explained,
“Women’s organisations provide some of the most cost effective services across the UK for women and families in need. They have also long been grievously underfunded, and seeing these figures shows all too starkly the terrible impact these cuts are having on such vital services.”
Holly Dustin, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, pointed out that funding for many of these services was inadequate even before Local Authorities started cutting in earnest. She said,
“We already have very patchy provision of these essential services and by cutting funding to existing services, or withdrawing it altogether, Councils are leaving women high and dry at a time when they most need support to escape violence and rebuild their lives. Violence against women support services are not a luxury that can only be afforded in good economic times, they are core services that all women should have access to no matter where they live.”
The scale of the cuts to the VAWG sector will no doubt come as a surprise to the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, who just last week boasted that the coalition is doing more than Labour did to protect VAWG services. She said,
“If you look at rape support, under Labour two centres a year were closing. We are going to open four this year. Even in this age of austerity, we’ve ringfenced money for those sort of things.”
Sixty four of the cuts listed in the False Economy research are categorised as “Domestic Violence and sexual abuse”. However, there are others that offer VAWG services which fall into different categories. For example, the Pakistani Women’s Welfare Association in Waltham Forest offers advice and information on domestic violence but falls into the “Community” category. Eaves, an organisation that offers VAWG services, is categorised as a “Housing” organisation.
This isn’t a criticism of the data – it’s simply a reflection of the fact that VAWG is a cross-cutting issue which has wide reaching implications for both individuals and society. Cuts to housing, policing, courts services, advice services, and Legal Aid – as well specialist VAWG services such as rape crisis centres and domestic violence refuges – will combine to create sometimes insurmountable hurdles to any woman fleeing violence.