Today the Government set out its proposed funding plans for the supported housing sector - of which domestic violence refuges make up just 1%.
The proposals made by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) do not protect specialist refuge provision and will make it even more difficult for victims to flee domestic violence and abuse.
The proposals fail to take into account Women’s Aid and a cross-party select committee of MPs recommendations earlier this year – to protect the refuge network via a national ringfence of funding, but instead proposes to make refuges part of a funding model controlled locally by individual local authorities along with other supported housing provision – to be known as “short term services” which include homeless people with support needs, shorter term transitional housing for those with substance misuse problems and vulnerable young people, such as care leavers.
Under the plans, local authorities will be responsible for their own ‘short term services’ provision including refuges, which will remove refuges entirely from the welfare system. All funding for housing costs (including rent and eligible service charges) that were previously met from Housing Benefit, to refuges will cease and instead be allocated to local authorities to “fund services that meet the needs of their local areas.”
This means future funding will be allocated on a provision basis, rather than to those individuals fleeing domestic violence and abuse. Those in refuge would not have to pay rent - as the bed space would be directly commissioned and funded by the local authority.
These plans will remove refuges’ last secure form of funding and pose huge challenges for the 1 in 10 refuges who are currently not commissioned locally. The reforms risk compounding the devastating impacts of localism on the national network of refuges, threaten more services with closures, and will put more women and children experiencing abuse at risk.
We believe these proposals undermine the future of specialist domestic violence refuges, and go against what Government has previously stated about protecting victims by ringfencing national funding to support our vital network of refuges which enable victims to flee. We believe Government needs to revaluate these proposals urgently to safeguard the lives of victims and children and engage with specialist services to formulate a long term solution for refuge funding