Today I have spoken in Parliament to oppose the proposed changes to the way the Government is funding women’s refuge centres.
For the six years before coming to Parliament I held a number of Special Responsibilities on Nottingham City Council – one of which was the commissioning of Nottingham’s excellent, well-run domestic violence services. Whether it’s Equation and their nation-leading prevention services they offer, Women’s Aid with their advocacy and survivor support, our Sexual Violence Support Service who only ever one call away for survivors whatever the time, whatever the day or the Women’s Centre who act as a fulcrum for these critical services we have an excellent range of services. I rose today to speak up for them. I rose to speak, too, for the 15,000 domestic violence survivors Nottingham City Council believe live in my constituency.
There are two flaws in the current plan proposed by the Minister.
Firstly, grouping refuge provision with other short-term housing services. Refuges fulfil a completely different function to these other services – such as for those with substance abuse issue or care leavers. Aggregating refuges with other such services risks them disappearing from proper commissioning processes and getting lost.
Secondly, local devolution of the funding for these services. I am a big fan of devolution. I believe that decisions should be taken at their lowest appropriate level. However, the lowest appropriate level for refuge provision is not at the local authority. As much as domestic violence services are a complex local ecosystem they have a significant impact on each other across local boundaries. For a woman in Nottingham fleeing a violent relationship, the safest place for her may well be Birmingham. Again this is completely different to the rest of the services in that local devolution plan.
And it’s not just local authority funded refuge provision that I fear for. We have a fourth refuge that is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. We know that DCLG have committed to £40m of supported funding between 2016 and 2020 for organisations such as this and Nottingham Central Women’s Aid benefited from this. What we don’t know is what happens with the next element of funding. I understand that the DCLG do not want to allocate the 18-20 funding until they have evaluated or audited the previous funding round. And that’s a sensible idea. But why haven’t they done that already? The NWCA is at a cliff edge – when will Ministers be able to let them know if they will stay open?
I know that some things take long time to change. However, what we’re talking about today doesn’t take time to change. Publishing funding decisions could be done this week. Moving away from this dangerous new model of funding could be done on the 23rd of January. I strongly encouraged ministers to do so – the cost of not doing so is so great.
You can see my whole speech here: http://bit.ly/2xMplr5