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UK Government proposals could put women's lives at risk

This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post

Friday 24th November was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day. It is followed up until the 10th December by 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.

I marked the day by visiting Swansea's Domestic Abuse One Stop Shop which offers information, advice and support for those affected by domestic abuse. They had a fayre in which local organisations were offering information about their services.

If anybody needs advice or assistance then the shop is located in Singleton Street, opposite the Grand Theatre.

However, a dark cloud is sitting on the horizon with regards to tackling domestic violence as the government plans to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system.

It would mean vulnerable women fleeing abusive partners will not be able to pay for their accommodation using housing benefit, the last guaranteed source of income available to refuges. Housing benefit can make up 53% of refuge funding.

On average, two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. Under the current spending model, Women’s Aid found 94 women with 90 children were turned away from refuge services in one day.

Instead of using housing benefit to fund refuges, the government proposes handing a “ring-fenced” grant to councils for short-term supported housing. However, this is also aimed at older people, homeless people, offenders, people with mental illnesses and drug addicts.

Many charities are worried about the fact that a number of councils are not very engaged with the agenda of tackling domestic abuse, whilst others may insist that money is only spent on local people, ignoring the fact that many victims need to leave their own area to avoid the abuser.

And of course, once funding is paid as a grant, it becomes easier to chip away at the value of the support, leading to it becoming diminished in real or even cash terms over a period of years.

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