Funding crisis: women’s refuges could all close in next four months

Northampton Women's Aid chief executive Ann Bodsworth and former MP Sally Keeble NNL-140603-160228001
Northampton Women's Aid chief executive Ann Bodsworth and former MP Sally Keeble NNL-140603-160228001

Every women’s refuge in Northamptonshire could have to close its doors if changes to the way they are funded go ahead, according to domestic violence bosses.

The county’s 68 residential spaces for women and children could be taken away after Northamptonshire County Council proposed putting the contracts for several of its services out to tender.

Now the people who run refuges have joined with former MP Sally Keeble to ensure the vital services stay open.

Speaking at the launch of a their campaign, Ann Bodsworth, chief executive of Northampton Women’s Aid said: “The bottom line is that is we do not get funding from somewhere, we are not going to have refuges.

“Some of the people here today would be dead without refuges.

“There is a tender out from Northamptonshire County Council that includes domestic violence within its remit, but quite simply there is not enough money in that tender to pay for refuges.

“I believe we are going to see a lot more domestic homicide as a result.”

The campaigners say that it is a realistic prospect that the refuges could close as they already have in six other counties in England. Their funding runs out in June.

They say that the loss of refuges will have a massive impact on the burdens places on other services including police, mental health and social workers.

Domestic violence support services in Northamptonshire are considered to be some of the best in the country.

Julie Coles of Nene Valley Christian Family Refuge said: “We have come a long way over the past 35 years and we have fought hard to build up what we have here in Northamptonshire.

“The cost of investigating one domestic homicide is about £1 million. That would cover the cost of all the services we need across the whole county for a year.”

Under the new contracts, all help for children under the age of five would have to be accessed through children’s centres. But victims say they that children’s centre staff do not have the expertise they need to help them escape violent relationships.

There would be no funding for women without children, and those who do not have UK immigration status.

It also stops women from outside Northamptonshire accessing help here, but many of those in shelters here have been forced to move away from their home towns to avoid men who will go to great lengths to track them down.

Mrs Keeble said: “The funding for these refuges is like Jenga - the county council is taking the important bit out right at the bottom so the whole thing will collapse.

“Domestic violence accounts for 20 per cent of all homelessness applications and a third of miscarriages. There will be a big effect on other services.”

A petition against the cuts is available here.

The county council have been contacted for a comment.

For more on this story, including the stories of domestic violence survivors, see next week’s Northamptonshire Telegraph.