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End refuge space shortage


Women's Aid, 2019 report, No Woman Turned Away, project, accessing a safe refuge,Every survivor should receive the right support, the first time they ask for it.

The national domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid launched its No Woman Turned Away report 2019 earlier this week.

Between 12 January 2018 and 11 January 2019 the No Woman Turned Away project worked with 309 women who were left with nowhere to turn as they fled domestic abuse.

Of these women 136 (44 per cent) sofa-surfed, 42 (14 per cent) stayed in local authority emergency accommodation, 22 (per cent) slept rough and 12 (4 per cent) stayed in a B&B, hostel or hotel.

And that while waiting for a refuge space, 59 women (19 per cent) experienced further abuse from their perpetrator.

Some survivors reported suicidal feelings linked to the stress of trying to find a safe place to stay.

Most survivors reported an immense negative impact on their own and their children’s wellbeing, and how this compounded the trauma they had experienced from their abusers.

The report also describes the insurmountable financial difficulties that survivors face when fleeing domestic abuse, with many women struggling to feed themselves and their children and to pay for the phone calls and transportation required to reach a safe place to stay.

The No Woman Turned Away project has been funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government since January 2016. It provides dedicated support to women who face barriers in accessing a refuge space.

This year, in addition to carrying out statistical analyses of survivors’ experiences, researchers worked closely with 17 survivors who took part in interviews and used art to document their experiences of trying to find a safe place to live.

They are hoping that the report, and especially these survivors’ quotes and artwork, will add to the previous project reports – Nowhere to Turn and Nowhere to Turn, 2018 – by offering readers a more extensive insight into survivors’ often long and harrowing journeys.

Of the 17 women who were interviewed in depth, two had attempted to kill themselves.

Women’s Aid’s Annual Audit (2019) found a shortfall of refuge bed spaces of 1,715 in England.

It also found that 57 per cent of domestic abuse service providers were running an area of their service with no dedicated funding, and 31 per cent reported that, since 2014, they have had to

And the report has several recommendations for the government and local government:

Provide sufficient bed spaces in specialist refuges to meet the level of demand nationally.

Ensure that migrant women, including those with no recourse to public funds, do not face discriminatory treatment which prevents them from safely escaping domestic abuse and having fair access to services.

Through the Domestic Abuse Bill, ensure individuals fleeing domestic abuse are automatically considered ‘in priority need’ for housing, rather than being subject to the ‘vulnerability test’.

Adina Claire, Acting Co-Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “It’s scandalous that, in 2019, women fleeing domestic abuse still face the terrifying prospect of either returning to their perpetrator or facing homelessness.

“We are facing a chronic shortage of bed spaces in specialist refuge services, and this is causing unimaginable suffering for women at a time when they are most in need of support.

“Survivors fleeing domestic abuse should not have to sofa-surf.

“Our report tells the story of women who have endured unsafe living arrangements, overcrowding, broken friendships and further abuse while sofa-surfing.

“Hostels or emergency accommodation are not appropriate either – women recovering from domestic abuse need the specialist, holistic support that domestic abuse refuges provide.

“It goes without saying that survivors should not have to sleep rough, yet, for the third year running, we found that this is still happening, even to pregnant women and children.

“Our research shows that BME women are far more likely to face homelessness as a result of domestic abuse.

“We cannot let this continue.

“At Women’s Aid we firmly believe that every survivor should receive the right support, the first time they ask for it.

“To deliver this, we need sustainable funding for life-saving services in every community, including the very specialist services led ‘by and for’ BME women which have been hit hardest by budget cuts and poor commissioning decisions.

“As it stands today, a survivor’s access to support services is dependent on her immigration status.

“We are calling on the government to deliver a domestic abuse bill that guarantees access to support for every survivor, including women with ‘no recourse to public funds’.

“Earlier this year Theresa May promised a landmark legal duty for councils to fund support for survivors in refuge and safe accommodation, and we strongly urge Boris Johnson to deliver on this pledge.

“It is also crucial that the law is changed to ensure that all survivors escaping domestic abuse are automatically in ‘priority need’ for housing.

“The desperate experiences of women and children detailed in this report must end.”

To read the full report, click here.

If you or some you know needs help or advice, call the 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership with Refuge) or visit Women’s Aid’s website.

If you or someone you know is or feels threatened, call the police on 999.

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