On Wednesday, I had my first chance to directly question the Prime Minister. I used this chance to highlight the threats to Domestic Violence refuges that Women’s Aid say are a likely result of the Government’s proposed changes to short-term housing support.
Nottingham has four refuges for those who need them in their darkest times, and having heard Women’s Aid’s call for support I have tried to raise this any way that I can. First I spoke about this in a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday and on Wednesday I questioned the Prime Minister but she refused to take action – I will continue to raise this.
There are two flaws in the current plans:
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 a national network of refuges 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. If we devolve funding to a local level we will break the national network and create a postcode lottery.