No pledge money and no accommodation
The government’s purported proposals ‘do not constitute a crisis response’.
The Public Interest Law Centre and Southall Black Sisters have launched a legal challenge to the government’s failure to provide funding for accommodation for domestic abuse survivors during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
As has been widely reported, both in the UK and abroad, women and children living in abusive homes face greater danger during lockdown because they are trapped in the home with their perpetrator(s).
Counting Dead Women recorded 16 killings in the UK between 23 March and 12 April 2020.
This is an average of five deaths per week – over double the average of two deaths per week.
So far, the government has been slow to act, despite being aware of the problem as well as the need to prevent the escalation of abuse.
The first announcement of specific funding after appeals by women’s groups for government action did not come until nineteen days after the ‘stay at home’ guidance was introduced.
On 11 April, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, announced ‘up to £2million’ was pledged, to enhance online support services and helplines for domestic abuse.
The sector has yet to receive this funding.
Announcing the £2million, Priti Patel highlighted how the limited capacity of refuges at the current time lead to insufficient accommodation provision.
This is a real concern, exemplified by the fact that currently Solace Women’s Aid’s 23 refuges in London are currently full.
The Home Secretary said that “…where a victim, and their children, do need to leave, we will ensure they have a safe place to go.”
In order to achieve this, Patel said that she was looking at alternative accommodation to “…ensure that there are enough places for those in need at this difficult time.”
While these promises are welcome, given the critical need for housing, not only did Patel fail to mention how and when the accommodation will be sourced, but the proposals do not go far enough and do not constitute a crisis response.
And while funding for helplines is welcome, it is not an adequate practical and effective crisis response.
Women and children will not be able to flee abusive homes unless there is accommodation for them to move into when they are at risk.
And refuges are currently full.
Domestic abuse charities are, apparently, to receive a portion of a £750million charity fund announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, but it is not clear how much this will be nor when it will reach frontline services or fund alternative accommodation.
This funding will also only cover the additional costs and challenges services need and face in operating and maintaining current levels of provision.
The UK government therefore also needs to guarantee specific funding for emergency accommodation and crisis support.
This is the only way to ensure that there are ‘enough places’ for women, to be safely and suitably housed.
What is the point in funding domestic abuse helplines unless the government also provides accommodation for survivors who are at risk and need protection?
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