Five Northamptonshire refuges shutting could mean a rise in domestic homicides, charity says

An urgent £100,000 stopgap is needed to halt the closure of five refuges that house 72 of Northamptonshire's most vulnerable men and women.

Wednesday, 28th November 2018, 3:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 10:04 pm
Staff and volunteers at Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service have issued a plea for more money to fund staff and their refuges. Pictured L-R: Jolene Taylor, Zoe Tatham, Natriece Westwood, Pierre Ellson, Coleen Brown and Sue O'Sullivan.

Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS) currently provides six refuges within Northamptonshire to men and women fleeing domestic abuse but five out of six of these refuges will have to close if alternative funding is not found by the end of March 2019.

This comes after the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCHLG) said it will not renew the grant for the Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service next year.

This means that 21 spaces for adults and 34 spaces for their children will be lost, which includes three spaces in the male refuge, which is one of nine refuges solely for male victims in the UK.

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The impact of this is that the county will only be left with five specialist spaces for women with substance misuse issues.

Between 2017-18 Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service supported 72 clients and their families in refuge and had to turn away about 150 families who they did not have room to shelter.

The concern now is the loss of these refuges will have a knock on effect with many other agencies, including Northampton Borough Council who will have to provide temporary housing if the victims are made homeless and Northamptonshire County Council will need to safeguard the children.

Business manager at Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service Zoe Tatham said: "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 Oasis House and other night shelters who will undoubtedly have to try and deal with some of the clients we would no longer be able to help."

In a bid to keep the refuges open, and four refuge staff in a job, Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service have kick-started their own campaign to raise £100,000 by the end of March 2019.

This is the amount it will cost to keep a very basic level of support in all the refuges and the charities trustees are taking measures to restructure the organisation to reduce costs.

Zoe added: "Northamptonshire will not receive any central Government funding for refuge provision in 2019-2020 and approaches to district and borough councils for refuge funding for 2018-2019 were unsuccessful.

"Northamptonshire has failed in its bid to secure funding from the recent Government MCHLG money allocated for refuge accommodation.

"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.

"Within the county we do have Voice and the Sunflower Centre to provide support to victims of domestic abuse, however they do not provide any accommodation."

The charity now urges NCC and the district and borough councils - whose stretched services will be further impacted if the funds are not found - to work with them to ensure that they don’t lose the facility.

A collective bid was submitted for the Government funding by all councils in the county, the Police Crime Commissioner's office, NDAS, Sunflower and EVE.

This was unsuccessful and we await feedback from the Government on the reason for this.

At the moment Northampton Borough Council is funding (for 2018-19) £20,000 for Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS), £23,200 Sunflower Centre and £7,500 for Northampton Rape Crisis.

Council chiefs said funding is already earmarked for NDAS (£20,000) and the Sunflower Centre (£23,200) for the next financial year.

Councillor Anna King said: “We allocate just under one million pounds to the community and voluntary sector each year to a wide range of charitable organisations”.

“The organisations in question could consider changing the way they use the funding we have already allocated, or they might make further bids for funding in the next financial year to our partnership grant.

“It is important to remember that the borough council has seen shrinking Government grants since 2010 and we provide a wide range of services which all require funding.”

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.”

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Funding for five refuges in Northamptonshire to be withdrawn