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Refuge funding changes 'putting lives at risk', says domestic abuse charity

A charity that supports victims of domestic abuse has warned that lives could be put at risk by proposed changes to funding for refuges.

Jayne Donnelly, chief executive at The Dash (Domestic Abuse Stops Here) charity, which supports victims across the area, said she was initially ‘quite shocked’ at Government plans to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system.

It would mean vulnerable individuals fleeing abusive partners will not be able to pay for their accommodation using housing benefit.

Jayne said: “In our area we don’t get any funding so we rely on housing benefit to self-sustain our service.

“It depends on what the new funding will be, but it looks like we will have to close refuges.”

Dash can house up to 50 women and children but Jayne said it is still turning people away every week.

Each bed costs £250 a week to maintain, while on top of that are staffing and other running costs.

“Housing benefit doesn’t cover costs as it is, and refuges are a last resort already,” said Jayne.

“If we take away that option victims would be forced to stay in their homes.”

She said that it could come down to what domestic abuse meant to each local authority.

She said: “I don’t think enough has been made of the fact that some areas don’t get any grant funding.

“And there’s nothing that says they [local authorities] have to provide that funding.”

She described the £20m Government fund ‘to support refuges and other accommodation-based services’ as a ‘drop in the ocean’ as the charity will be competing with all the other organisations across the country which stand to lose out by the funding changes.

“There’s no clear guidelines,” she said. “It goes to whoever writes the best bid.”

She added: “We want to see changes that makes it a duty to fund, otherwise it’s a worrying time for us as a service.

“I don’t think the impact is being fully understood.

“The lives of victims are going to be at risk.”

Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill), cabinet member for adult services, public health and communications, said: “Domestic abuse is corrosive to individuals and families and we will work with partners to help anyone that needs it.

“We are working to secure a new contract for domestic abuse advisers and outreach services for adults and children in the borough and will announce more soon.

“Until then we continue to work with partner organisations including Thames Valley Police and the voluntary sector to offer a wide range of support services to victims catered to their individual needs.”

A spokeswoman for Slough Borough Council said that it would not comment directly on specific refuge provision but explained it had adopted the national ‘Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy’ for the town and was working to re-commission specialist domestic abuse services together with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

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