The government today (25 November 2014) announced a £10 million fund to support women’s refuges in 100 areas across England.
The fund comes on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and is one of a number of measures the government is taking as part of this global campaign.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles also wrote to England’s 326 councils to remind them of their legal duty to house women and children who have been forced to flee their homes for fear of violence and abuse.
It comes as the Home Secretary Theresa May will today address a parliamentary reception to mark 40 years of the charity Women’s Aid.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
"Specialist refuges can mean the difference between life and death for some victims of domestic abuse, and today’s £10 million funding will help councils maintain this vital national network and ensure support is provided wherever it is needed.
"This government has made changes to safeguard vulnerable victims and today is another example of our commitment to ensuring we have a strong safety net for anyone who finds themselves in a situation so fearful they are forced to flee their home."
Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan said:
"The government is absolutely committed to ending violence against women and girls. We know that there is more to be done and we are determined to relentlessly drive a culture change to support victims and survivors.
"I want women and girls to know that if they ever suffer the horrific ordeal of domestic violence and need a safe place to stay there is always one available, and that they will be offered the expert advice and support they need to rebuild their lives.
"This additional funding will provide victims with immediate support and ensure they can feel safe and secure."
Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:
"Violence against women and girls has absolutely no place in our communities and we are determined to end it wherever it occurs.
"Today’s £10 million funding will help provide safe havens for women at risk of domestic violence, while our continued efforts both in the UK and internationally will help bring an end to female genital mutilation and other so-called honour-based violence."
Ending domestic violence
Latest figures published by the Crown Prosecution Service show the conviction rate for domestic violence is at its highest ever level, with three- quarters (74.6%) of all cases reaching successful outcomes. Police referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging decisions have also reached their highest ever levels, and the volume of prosecutions and convictions have both risen by over 10% in the last year.
Mr Pickles said with victims of domestic violence making an average 32 attempts to leave before they make their final escape, councils must do everything in their power to ensure there is nothing to prevent a woman from taking the vital steps to safety.
The £10 million fund will be available over this year and next, and builds on steps taken by this government to end domestic violence, support victims and ensure offenders are prosecuted.
- a £40 million fund for local support services and specialist helplines
- new laws and powers – including the criminalisation of forced marriage, the introduction of new stalking laws
- the national roll-out of Domestic Violence Protection Orders and theDomestic Violence Disclosure Scheme
International action against violence
Today marks the start of 16 days of international action, to end violence against women and girls, and a range of government activity.
Later this week the government will announce details of local community groups who have received grants to help end the harmful practice of female genital mutilation.
Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone will visit the Katherine Low Settlement charity, to highlight the importance of communities talking openly about female genital mutilation.
She will also address students at King’s College London on the need for men to speak out as ‘agents of change to tackle violence against women and girls.
This is on top of action already taken to end the practice of female genital mutilation. In July, the Prime Minister and UNICEF jointly hosted the Girl Summit, shining a spotlight on the importance of ending female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
The government has introduced a range of measures to support women and girls at risk of violence:
As part of our review of victims’ services ‘Getting It Right For Victims and Witnesses’ we also outlined plans to generate up to £50 million extra a year for victims’ services. This will be partly funded by making criminals pay more for their crimes. The Victims’ Surcharge has been extended and increased so that criminals, not taxpayers, are contributing more to services that support victims. Next year there will be a potential total budget of up to £100 million, double Ministry of Justice’s previous spending of around £50 million per year.
Since 2011 £4 million per year has been provided to female Rape Support Centres in England and Wales, including funding to create the 13 new centres created through the Rape Support Fund. This has increased to £4.4 million in 2014 of which £300,000 has been set aside to allocate to 2 new centres.
In September we announced, that the coalition government has met its commitment to fund 15 new rape support facilities across the country since coming to power in 2010. There are currently 84 established centres receiving government funding through to 2015 to 2016, with 2 new centres due to open in 2015.
This includes dedicated housing support for those escaping domestic violence.
On this the government has:
- invested £6.5 billion to help vulnerable people through housing support – with a proportion used by local authorities to commission refuge services
- made £500 million available since 2010 to local authorities and the voluntary sector to prevent and tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, helping the most vulnerable in society – including victims of domestic abuse
- funded UKRefuges Online, a UK-wide database of domestic violence services which supports the national 24-hour free phone domestic violence helpline – this service enables those working with victims of domestic violence to identify appropriate services and potential refuge vacancies around the country so victims can get the help they need as quickly as possible