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Ministers unveil £16m cash boost to tackle 'postcode lottery' in help for domestic abuse survivors

3 min read

Ministers will hand more than £16m of new money to councils in a bid to end the "postcode lottery" in support provided to survivors of domestic abuse.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the £16.6m of fresh funding would be shared between 75 projects across England and Wales to help them provide "urgent support" to survivors and their children.

He said: "Domestic abuse destroys lives and leaves victims living in fear in their own homes – the place where they should feel most safe and secure.

"No victim of domestic abuse should have to struggle to get the right support, or wait months for help that they need. This new funding of £16.6 million will help local areas better protect victims and their children and provide essential life-saving services, delivering the urgent support that they need to rebuild their lives."

Research by the charity Women's Aid estimates that some 1.6m women experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales last year.

But the organisation's latest annual report found that more than 23,000 referrals to refuges had been declined in 2018-19 with a fifth (20.3%) of those refused due to a lack of space or capacity following years of cuts to council budgets.

The Government said up to 43,000 survivors would benefit from the new cash, claiming it would "bring an end to the postcode lottery of support for those fleeing abusive relationships".

Campaigners from the domestic abuse charity Refuge said the extra funds were a "crucial and welcome temporary measure".

But the organisation's chief executive Sandra Horley said the money would "only go some way towards solving the ongoing funding crisis refuge services are experiencing".

She added: "Refuges form part of an essential national network of support, yet years of local authority funding cuts have had an impact on their sustainability. Services have been cut to the bone and urgently need a long-term funding solution to prevent them from being forced to close.

"Refuge has worked closely with the Government on sustainable funding for services and eagerly awaits the new statutory duty to fund refuges, with sufficient funding to ensure they every woman has somewhere safe to go if they need it. No woman or child fleeing domestic abuse should ever be turned away from safety."

Simon Blackburn, chair of the safer and strong communities board at the Local Government Association - the umbrella group representing councils in England and Wales, also welcomed the funding.

He said: "Tackling domestic abuse is an issue that councils take extremely seriously and they need the cooperation of other public services to tackle this appalling crime.

"With long-term, sustainable funding, councils can work with the Government and partners to further safeguard individuals and families from the physical and psychological harm of domestic abuse and prevent it happening in the first place."

The cash comes ahead of the long-delayed Domestic Abuse Bill, which was first unveiled by Theresa May in 2018, introduced to the Commons in July - and then dropped after Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament in October.

It was once again promised in his first Queen's Speech after December's election, and will place a legal duty on councils to offer secure accommodation for those fleeing violence.

The bill also promises to bring in a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner to hold ministers' feet to the fire in their efforts to tackle the problem.

It will meanwhile ban the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts, and create the first-ever government definition of domestic abuse, which will include financial abuse and non-physical behaviour.

The Ministry of Housing said the bill would be "reintroduced to the House shortly".

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