Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Action urged over refuge closures

Women fleeing domestic violence are being forced to sleep rough because there are no places available at refuges, the Government has heard

Women fleeing domestic violence have been forced to sleep on night buses and in internet cafes because there is no room in refuges, the Government has been told.

Labour peer Baroness Gould of Potternewton said that across the country, women's refuges were "closing down or facing cuts" and called on ministers to take action.

At question time in the House of Lords, she said the charity Women's Aid was turning away 230 women on a typical day "because they haven't got the funding to be able to accommodate them".

She added: "This means women are literally having to find places to sleep outside such as in Occupy camps, hospitals, night buses, and I heard of one case in an internet cafe, or return to an abusive partner."

She asked Baroness Verma, who was answering for the Government, what action was planned to ensure "women are not subject to such a position and do not actually have to return to an abusive home rather than finding a place of safety".

Lady Verma said the Government was "committed" to ensuring victims had a place to go but added that there were "difficult" financial circumstances.

She told peers the Government had "ring-fenced nearly £40 million of stable funding for specialist local domestic violence support services until 2015".

Accommodation was the foundation to ensuring that victims were afforded safety and security and this was why the homelessness legislation in England provided one of the strongest safety nets in the world for families with children and vulnerable people who became homeless through no fault of their own, she said.

She added: "We are also piloting domestic violence protection orders in three police forces where the police and magistrates are able to put into place protection for the victim so that they need not flee their own property and that the perpetrator is prevented from returning to the residence and having contact with the victim for up to 28 days."

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