Local women’s groups have warned that announcements made in last week’s Spending Review have raised concerns about how further cuts to local authorities are likely to impact specialist women’s charities and refuges. The statements were made on the same day as the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Solace Women’s Aid, a London based charity who run specialist refuge centres in Hackney, is concerned about what the ‘devastating knock-on effects’ the cuts will mean for the women accessing their services.
Mary Mason, CEO of the charity, said: “Women and children have already borne the brunt of cuts which often, simply make no sense; for every pound spent on our services, £6 is saved. This includes huge savings in emergency responses to domestic and sexual abuse.”
Sisters Uncut, a feminist direct action group for domestic violence, told Eastlondonlines:“Make no mistake, cuts to local authority budgets are direct cuts to domestic violence services. It is these budgets that local authorities use to fund specialist domestic violence services, including refuge accommodation, community support, and advocacy for folk at the highest risk of being seriously harmed or killed by their violent partners.”
Last Saturday the group held a funeral march to “commemorate the specialist services that are a lifeline for women fleeing domestic violence”. Nationwide, two women a week are being killed in domestic disputes and since 2010 32 specialist refuges for women have closed down due to funding cuts.
As outlined in the Spending Review the Government has promised to direct the £15m generated from the tampon tax into women’s charities. The question being asked by women’s rights campaigners, is how will a one off cash injection generated from the tampon tax compensate for a £4.1bn reduction in grants to local authorities?
The tax has provoked widespread criticism from women’s rights campaigners, who feel that enforcing a tax on sanitary items means vulnerable women are essentially paying for their own domestic violence support.
The fact that these funds will be coming directly from a tax on women’s sanitary products is reinforcing the idea that violence against women and girls is a woman’s problem.
Mason, sceptical of the Government’s plans for the tampon tax, said: “The fact that these funds will be coming directly from a tax on women’s sanitary products is reinforcing the idea that violence against women and girls is a woman’s problem. Male violence and abuse must be tackled by men working with women to address the issue. That women are ultimately now funding the support they need to recover from male violence and abuse, is simply not OK.”
Croydon had some of the highest reported cases of domestic violence incidents in the capital. Between September 2014 and September 2015, 3,811 domestic abuse offences were recorded in the borough – of these 1,287 resulted in injury. Tower Hamlets recorded over 6,000 instances of domestic abuse, and there were 250 reported rape offences in Lewisham.
Last year ELL reported that Croydon had signed up to the White Ribbon Campaign, an award given annually to councils that demonstrate a commitment to engaging communities in condemning violence against women.
25 November, 2015 marked the first of 16 Days of Action against gender based violence in the lead up to Human Rights Day on December 10. Both Tower Hamlets and Croydon are countering the direct effect of spending cuts on some of the most vulnerable groups in their boroughs through new initiatives.
Health and community groups in Tower Hamlets will hold workshops focusing on early detection of signs of domestic abuse and issues such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In the new year Croydon council will be training volunteers from Croydon College to work in local schools to deliver an awareness programme about safe relationships.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “This November and December we are hosting a wide range of training and events to raise awareness of gender-based abuse and violence. By joining together as a community we can protect the lives of all residents who are victims or potential victims of these heinous crimes, and help to eradicate all violence in the future.”