Campaigners welcome temporary reprieve in funding row over women’s refuges in Northamptonshire

Sally Keeble
Sally Keeble

Campaigners fighting a change in the funding for domestic violence refuges in Northamptonshire have welcomed a temporary reprieve.

Sally Keeble, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Northampton North, has led the campaign against changes which she says threatens the future of refuges such as Northampton Women’s Aid, East Northamptonshire and Wellingborough Women’s Aid and Nene Valley Christian Refuge.

Northamptonshire County Council had originally told refuges that funding contracts would not be extended beyond June. But following a widespread campaign which was supported by a petition of more than 800 names and backed by the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, the council has confirmed that the contracts would continue until September 30.

The Tory-led administration of the county council said the decision to extend the contracts was taken to allow officers to continue to look at “best practice”.

But Mrs Keeble said: “This decision from Northamptonshire County Council to continue to fund floating support and accommondation services in the county is a great victory for people power.

“It will come as a big relief for many vulnerable women that the refuge doors will remain open and the support will continue for them to rebuild their lives. This gives a window of hope for the refuges and the thousands of women who rely on them.

“But it’s a start - the campaign to secure the long term future of the hostels must continue. Now it’s time for all the stakeholders to step up to the plate and agree a funding package,” she added.

Councillor Robin Brown, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said:

“Following national funding changes, we’ve been working with a range of providers to develop the way services are delivered to vulnerable people including victims of domestic abuse.

“There has been significant work undertaken with a range of providers in relation to improving services for people who need support.

“We didn’t specify in our commission that we want to buy accommodation-based support and floating support. Instead we asked providers, as the experts, to come up with proposals for services that will work for victims, children and young people affected by domestic abuse and perpetrators.

“None of the bids to run the services we received contained provision for refuge-based services.

“The new contracts for running services will start next month. It was always envisaged to run the ‘old contracts’ in tandem until July to allow a smooth transition and protect vulnerable people.

“Given the current situation we decided to extend that overlap for a further three months until September 2014 to carry out a piece of work looking at best practice.

“Over the next few months we will be working with providers to ensure that we protect victims and to ensure that there will be a continuation of safe, crisis accommodation for any victim at real risk.

“It should be understood that the county council is only one of the funders of support to victims of domestic abuse so work with our partners is ongoing to find resolution to this issue.”