Six hundred people sign online petition over threats to future funding of women’s refuges in Northamptonshire

Sally Keeble, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Northampton North
Sally Keeble, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Northampton North

An online petition to safeguard the future of domestic violence refuges in Northamptonshire has been presented to the county council.

The petition, which was signed by more than 600 people, was handed over to the council by Sally Keeble, Labour’s Northampton North prospective parliamentary candidate. The council is currenty considering the future funding arrangements for refuges which provide accommodation for 68 women and their children.

Mrs Keeble said funding for the hostels was at risk because of the Supporting People programme which finances accommodation and support services for a range of vulnerable people. She said the proposed new arrangements do not include a specific budget line for domestic violence services, and she feared the changes could lead to the collapse of services that are highly regarded in the county and nationally.

Mrs Keeble said: “ Domestic violence and abuse affects a third of all adult women. It places a heavy burden on public services, especially police and health services, and damages the life chances of many children: over two third of children in families where there are is violence are the either the direct victims or witnesses of the conflict between their parents.

“I hope that even at this late stage, the county council will rethink its approach and secure the future of the hostels.”

Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo last week, a spokesman for the county council said said that following national funding changes, it was working with providers to develop the way services are delivered. He said: “We want better working links between all the different organisations that support victims of domestic abuse and a greater range of services that match the needs of the woman, man or family in need of support. This will ultimately mean more money being spent on these services and in a better way.”

All three refuge services in Northamptonshire (Northampton Women’s Aid, Wellingborough and East Northants Women’s Aid and Nene Valley Christian Family Refuge) have faced 10 per cent funding cuts for the past three years.

The bricks and mortar of the refuges are funded by district and borough councils through housing benefit paid to the women living in them. But all the support services inside them that help the women get back on their feet are funded by the county council. Now domestic violence services are being contracted out by the county council and there is no dedicated funding stream included for domestic abuse refuges.

This means that although the buildings will continue to be funded, they will have no services in them so they will have to close.