Harriet Harman in fight for victims’ centre’s future

Pic: The Trades Union Congress

A centre for victims of domestic violence in London’s worst area for abuse is under threat of closure from cutbacks of £96,000, campaigners claim.

Labour party activists led by MP Harriet Harman will call on Conservative council leader Mike Fisher to reverse the cuts and save the Family Justice Centre, which they claim could be forced to close.

The Croydon Labour Women’s forum will rally outside the centre at 69 Park Lane on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Launching the campaign at a party dinner on Wednesday, Harman, the deputy party leader, said: “The last thing that vulnerable women and children need is for this vital work to be jeopardised in any way, which is why we are opposed to the cuts being made by Croydon’s Tory council.”

The council says there are no plans to close the centre and that additional money is being invested in support services.

The centre, which opened in 2005 and helps over 1000 women each month. offers victims of domestic and family violence and elder abuse help rebuilding their lives.

It gives medical and legal services, benefit advice and education as well as housing councilors, police, probation officers and education groups.

Its budget has been cut by £96,000 and may lose the same amount again next year, having already lost its housing officer and paid councilors as well as dedicated police teams now forced to leave.

Figures show that Croydon has the highest rate of reported domestic violence in London, with 117 women and 64 children on the waiting list for support.

A spokeswoman for Croydon Council said: “There are no plans to close Croydon’s Family Justice Centre. In fact, an additional £30,000 is being invested in services that support woman and girls who have been victims of violence.”

But the Women’s Forum claims the increase would be spread across other issues like homelessness, poverty and poor learning outcomes.

A statement said: “The £30,000 ‘increase’ put forward by the Conservative Council in their new budget is not to the Family Justice Centre but to the Family Resilience Team, which covers domestic violence only as part of five broader issues.”

“Whilst these are important services, the expertise and priority given to people experiencing domestic violence will be lost.”

It added that the Centre will lose a further two jobs according to council documents from a Cabinet meeting on February 20.

Lee Margaret Webster, 33, member of Croydon Labour Women’s Forum said: “As a woman in Croydon I fear for the loss of the Family Justice Centre. An attack on domestic violence services is an attack on all women.

“The Council must ensure that a specialised service, provided through the Family Justice Centre, remains a reality in Croydon.”

The Forum claim there is not enough transparency in the budget to answer their concerns the centre will be closed.

It said: “We want to know from the council how the 1000+ women each month are assured specalised services with the decreases.”

Lysa Walder is a passionate supporter of the campaign. She has been victim of domestic violence in the past, and as a paramedic, she has referred families to the centre over the years.

She said: “It has been a unique resource for the people of Croydon…it should be seen as an example of good practice and expanded to other areas rather than closed.”

Two women a week in the UK are killed by their partners or former partners.

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