The lives of women and children in the UK are being placed in jeopardy by a proposal to change funding for refugees. According to The Guardian, the proposal has not been widely publicized and “plans to remove refugees and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system.”
The change would mean that domestic violence survivors trying to get away from their abusive partners would not be able to pay for “accommodations using housing benefits.” An article that dove deeper into what this would mean for these women noted, “The Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions reveals plans to remove refugees and other short-term supported housing from the welfare system.” These housing benefits are extremely beneficial for the women who use them in that the benefits make up about 53 percent of the women’s revenue.
Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, shared, “The government’s proposed reforms to supported housing will dismantle our national network of lifesaving refuges and put the lives of women and children trying to escape domestic abuse at risk. This is a matter of life or death. Councils can be reluctant to spend cash on those from other counties and are more likely to focus on local people, meaning a higher probability of a ring-fenced grant being spent on homeless or elderly people.”
These women will lose a safe place if this government proposal moves forward. She added, “If pursued, the reforms will result in a postcode lottery of domestic abuse support services, with further refugees [sic] being forced to close their doors and more women and children being turned away from the lifesaving support they offer. Without a safe space to escape to, more women and children’s lives will be lost to domestic abuse.”
Domestic violence happens every day to women all over the world. A government spokesperson shared, “Domestic violence and abuse is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families. This government is determined to ensure anyone facing the threat of domestic abuse has somewhere to turn to.”
The spokesperson made sure to note that the funding would be provided for anyone who needs it until 2020. They said, “Until 2020, the government is providing £100 m of dedicated funding for tackling violence against women and girls. This includes a £20 m fund to support refugees and other accommodation-based services, providing 2,200 additional bed spaces. We will publish a landmark draft domestic violence and abuse bill to protect and support victims, recognize the lifelong impact domestic abuse has on children and make sure agencies effectively respond to domestic abuse.”
For a lot of charities and campaigners who have been fighting for support for women affected by violence, this proposal is not what they hoped to see from the government. Many domestic violence survivors will be affected by these changes and will once again not have access to specialized services.
Ghose said, “If you have a new law that improves the criminal justice response, you can have the best police response in the world for a woman who is seeking to escape an abusive relationship, but if she doesn’t have the specialist services in her community to go to, then that response will be really undermined.”
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