More than 1,000 people in Northamptonshire signed a petition to protest against pulling the plug on funding for refuges that take in victims of domestic violence.
At a summit held at Northampton Guildhall today, Northamptonshire Labour leader, Councillor John McGhee, and head of National Women’s Aid, Janet McDermott, defended the work done by refuges such as Northampton Women’s Aid in a bid to secure funding for the refuges by the Tory administration beyond September.
Robin Brown, cabinet member for health and adult social services, has said the authority would back the refuges until September and continue to work with operators on funding strategies.
But Ms McDermott said: “Our network of refuge spaces has suffered disproportionately from Government cuts and we are currently in discussion with the Home Office about strengthening organisations that offer such services.
“People don’t realise how crucial these refuges are. They are more than just a roof over people’s heads.
“One of the key tools of the abuser is isolation; with the support offered by experienced staff at our refuges we aim to break that pattern and help women who have suffered domestic abuse to build their self-worth and move on with their lives.”
One Northampton woman at the summit said: “I’ve been in a local refuge for eight weeks and it has saved my life. The 24-hour staff gave me emotional help, financial advice and they always found the right answer to any question I had.
“The thought of these services no longer being available to me and other women who have been affected by abuse is terrifying,”
Head of domestic violence at Corby Borough Council, Mary Butcher, said: “Making these cuts is a false economy when you consider that it costs £20,000 to fund a refuge for a year and but it can take up to one million pounds to take a single domestic homicide case through the courts which, sadly, can be the result of extreme domestic violence cases.
“Personally, I think that if you can turn around the life of even just one woman and her children, £20.000 is worth that.”
Councillor McGhee said: “I don’t pretend to know what domestic abuse feels like but it must be horrendous and these refuges are a vital service that we must keep for those who need it most.
“We need to think of ways to ensure that this happens and that we make provisions for the future.”
The debate follows the Tory decision earlier this year to extend refuge funding until September, but campaigners are concerned for what will happen after that.
The summit was also attended by Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Northampton North, Sally Keeble, who commented on Northamptonshire as being the county with the lowest arrest rate for domestic violence in the country.
No Tory representatives were present at today’s summit and councillors agreed to organise a further meeting within the next month to discuss more formal strategies.