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Region’s Police and Crime Chiefs back domestic abuse petition

8th August 2014

The region’s three Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are urging people to sign an online petition calling on Government officials to stop the means testing of women who are trying to seek help for domestic abuse.

Barry Coppinger, Vera Baird and Ron Hogg have hailed the joint campaign by Middlesbrough-based charity My Sister’s Place and UNISON as an important battle in the fight against dangerous red tape, which they say ‘further victimises women who are at their lowest ebb’.

Currently, women who are employed are means tested at the point which they try and access safety, resulting in many expected to fund themselves in refuges at a cost of between £100 and £250 per week.

Some of these women may be locked in the perils of financial abuse and while on paper they have a steady income, they may not have the actual means to support themselves and may have responsibilities such as a mortgage, utility bills and debts.

Representatives from My Sister’s Place and UNISON say that many women are advised to give up their jobs to access state benefits as a route to housing benefit and safety. They say the system is a gross injustice that puts women’s lives at risks and undermines their choices and independence.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “This is a really important campaign, and while its conception is on Teesside, the issue affects women much further afield so I’m pleased my counterparts are also helping to raise awareness of the petition.”

Michelle O’Rourke from My Sister’s Place said: “We feel it is vital for women that have made the decision to leave an abusive relationship to have equal access to safe accommodation regardless of their economic status. We are urging the public to sign our petition and help highlight the need for a change in the current system to ensure that safety is the priority.”

Clare Williams, UNISON Regional Convenor, said: “UNISON Northern Region is pleased to be working with the regional PCCs and My Sister’s Place through the survey which we are supporting. Domestic abuse continues to be an important campaign within UNISON, and in this region we have consistently seen this as a trade union issue. The prevalence of domestic abuse continues to be a shadow on our society which we all must work to eradicate.”

Ron Hogg, Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, is working with partners in a number of ways towards tackling domestic abuse. He said: “Having immediate access to a safe environment is a priority for those who are suffering from domestic abuse. By signing this petition, the public will be making a stand with us to ensure the Government does more to protect vulnerable women at risk of further abuse.”

Vera Baird, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I hope people join us in signing this petition which will have a huge impact on people who are seeking a pathway to safety.”

People can sign the petition by visiting and searching for My Sister’s Place, or via the link on the website