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Vera Baird QC calls for an end to refuge funding uncertainty and delay

6th September 2016

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, is calling on the Government to end its delays and uncertainty around the funding of domestic abuse refuges, while reassuring victims who need to escape an abusive relationship that help is readily available.

The Commissioner’s comments follow figures released by charity Women’s Aid that estimate 67% of specialist domestic abuse refuges in England will be forced to close if they are not exempted from the Government’s plans to cap housing benefit in the supported housing sector at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates.

If this goes ahead this will reduce the amount of vital income through housing benefit that refuges receive, putting the lives of thousands of vulnerable women and children at risk.

Vera Baird is backing Women’s Aid’s campaign to make refuges, and other forms of supported accommodation exempt and is urging the Government to announce its funding plans without further delay.

She said: “Women fleeing domestic abuse could see vital support removed if refuges are not exempt from the housing benefit cap – the Government cannot allow for this to happen and the continued delays in announcing funding plans are adding to the whole uncertainty.

“We have a host of fantastic refuges here in Northumbria. All are doing a brilliant job providing a sanctuary for those who are living in threatening, abusive or violent relationships.

“I want victims to know that Northumbria Police and support agencies are on hand to help them take the first step to changing their lives and protecting their children from any further harm. Help is there and I urge anyone with any concerns to seek it – they will be listened to and helped to safety.”

She added: “It’s a huge step for anyone to leave an abusive relationship, but if a victim feels they have no safe place to go, they may also feel they have no option but to remain in their own homes and to suffer in silence.

“And the impact is not only on the victim, there may be children involved and the longer they witness domestic violence and abuse, the more profound effect it will have on their lives.

“It is nonsense for the government to have a Home Office ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ (VAWG) strategy, which refuges are at the heart of, yet plans by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions would destroy these essential refuges.

“It’s therefore vital that the Government acts now and recognises that domestic abuse is a very real problem and cuts and closures are certainly not the answer. We need greater funding, and more support services – absolutely nobody suffering this abuse should be turned away from the services and support they need.”

For more information about domestic abuse visit For independent and confidential advice call 0800 066 5555. To contact Northumbria Police to report a crime call 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Local Refuges include those run by Wearside Women in Need (in Sunderland), by Places For People (in South Tyneside), by Home Group (in Gateshead & Northumberland), by Harbour (In North Tyneside) and by Women’s Aid and, more recently, by Thirteen Care & Support (in Newcastle).