Refuges in Corby and Kettering that house women and men fleeing violent and abusive relationships could be closed by the end of March after the government turned down their funding bids.
Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS) are having to turn to members of the public to help them raise £100k to enable them to keep the refuges in our towns open, as well as three others in the south and western parts of the county.
Representatives at the charity say that in they have already drained their own financial reserves to keep services open this year, so they recently turned to borough councils and the Government to fund them through the 2018/19 financial year.
But their bids have been unsuccessful which means that they cannot afford to keep the refuges open.
If they close, there will be 21 adult and 34 child spaces lost, and the county will be left with just one specialist refuge with five spaces for women with substance misuse issues.
The county’s male refuge in Kettering - one of only nine in the country - is included on the closure list.
Corby Borough councillor Mary Butcher, a former county councillor who has been involved with the refuge service for many years, is currently Corby’s representative on the police and crime panel. She said: “You can’t put somebody fleeing a domestic violence situation into a bed and breakfast, as has been suggested in the past.
“Northamptonshire County Council has a responsibilty to protect our children and vulnerable adults but they’re in such a mess at the moment.
“In the boroughs, we can turn around and say that’s not our job but protection of these women and men is the job of us all.
“We have to take responsibilty.
“In two years time who is going to take responsibility when one of these women or children is murdered because we turned our heads away? I’ll be the first to say that, unfortunately, I told you so.
“Is this county going to walk away from the most vulnerable?
Councillor Butcher said that there will also be a financial impact on the boroughs, adding: “We’ll have to put extra safety features into the rooms, security on the doors... it’s a false economy.
“How much is it going to cost us to protect people - for policing and housing services. For £30,000 we could keep this refuge in Corby open.”
The refuges in Northamptonshire have had unstable, piecemeal funding for several years which has made it almost impossible for them to make long-term plans.
In 2014/15 they were funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government through NCC, then in 2015/16 they were funded wholly by NCC. They funded themselves through the last financial year, but now the coffers have run dry.
The buildings the refuges are housed in are already paid for and residents pay for their keep through their housing benefit. But each resident needs a support worker to enable them to stay in the refuge. NDAS currently has four such workers covering five refuges and it is these wage bills that the Government funding was supposed to pay for.
Last year NDAS supported 72 clients and their families in refuges but had to turn away 150 families away due to lack of space.
Business manager at NDAS Zoe Tatham said: “We funded 2017/18 from our reserves because we weren’t willing to close the refuges.
“We’ve been waiting for the Ministry of Housing. Communities and Local Government money to come through. The bid was submitted by NCC but it wasn’t successful.
“The loss of our refuges will have a knock on effect on many other agencies. Local councils who will have to deal with more cases of homelessness and there will be more cost to house families fleeing domestic abuse.
“Having to provide temporary accommodation also increases demand on Northamptonshire County Council to safeguard children whose lives are at risk due to domestic abuse, putting a greater strain on children’s services.
“There may be a rise in domestic homicides if there is a lack of refuges for the victim to flee to. There will also be more pressures on other charities including night shelters who will undoubtedly have to try and deal with some of the clients we would no longer be able to help.
“We believe it may be that the local authorities collectively in the county have failed to produce a domestic abuse strategy for Northamptonshire to deliver essential services, which include refuge in line with the national standards of expectation.
“To enable us to keep the much needed refuges, we are starting a campaign to raise £100k by the end of March 2019. This is the amount it will cost to keep a very basic level of support in all of our refuges. The Charity’s Board of Trustees are taking measures internally through a restructure of the organisation to reduce costs.
“We urge the combined local authorities whose stretched services will be impacted on further, if refuges should close, to work with us to ensure that we don’t lose this much needed facility.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “Domestic abuse is a devastating crime, which shatters the lives of survivors and their families and we made £22m available to support people, which is an increase on the last fund.
“All bids went through a robust assessment process, and all councils had an equal chance to bid for funding.
“Longer-term, we are reviewing how domestic abuse services are supported in England and we are working closely with the sector on future plans to support services.”
You can donate to help save the refuges here.