Victims of domestic abuse in Lancashire will be better protected following a successful partnership funding bid led by Lancashire County Council.
Funding cuts over the past 5 years have hit women's refuge services particularly hard. In 2010 there were a total of 149 specialist services providing 187 refuge services throughout England. By July 2014 England had lost 17 per cent of specialist refuges due to funding cuts and poor commissioning Nearly a third (31 per cent) of referrals to refuges across the country were turned down last year because of lack of space, according to the Women's Aid annual survey 2013-14.
On average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.
Of those victims who experience four or more incidents of domestic violence from a member or ex-member of their household, 89% are women (these figures exclude sexual assault, for which separate statistics are gathered). Austerity measures and job losses have also hit women much harder, with the result that female victims are less likely to have access to the financial resources needed to be able to leave an abusive domestic situation and keep their children safe without assistance.
Lancaster & District Women's Aid, after over 40 years of providing essential services to women experiencing domestic abuse in the local area and which received over 200 referrals a year, most commonly following a police intervention, was merged with Blackpool Advocacy Service due to a lack of funding.
In November 2014 an 'SOS Vigil' organised by national Women's Aid calling on MPs to protect domestic violence refuges was held at Downing Street. Staff members and supporters of Women's Aid handed in a petition with more than 37,000 signatures.
The government has now pledged £10million nationally to strengthen accommodation-based domestic abuse service provision.
Lancashire County Council teamed up with all 12 district councils in Lancashire, as well as the charitable organisations that provide domestic violence services in each district, to submit a joint partnership delivery bid.
Lancashire's was the second largest successful bid in the country, being awarded more than £750,000 to extend the provision of emergency and temporary accommodation, advocacy and support to women and children escaping abuse in the county.
Together the joint partnership applied to the Department for Communities and Local Government for funding to strengthen Lancashire's refuge services by increasing capacity, creating new 'safe house' provision and increasing support from specialist services.
County Councillor Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: "We're extremely proud to have led on this countywide bid for services to support some of the most vulnerable members in our society. Joint working in Lancashire is very strong, as this unified approach shows, and clearly the DCLG were impressed by the level of collaboration and shared information which went into our bid.
"This represents a significant increase in the county's funding for domestic violence, which means we can make sure that all districts are properly provided for and we can bring in the right services to help women and children deal with the difficult circumstances they're facing, and move on in their lives.
"Demand is high for this service and often families have reached a critical point before seeking help. We want to be able to help more of them, more often, and now we will be able to do so."
The new grant will increase capacity to a total of 294 bed spaces within refuge and safe house provision across the whole of Lancashire. There are plans to intensify support in settings so that women with the most complex needs can be accommodated and supported, at least while the funding lasts.
There will also be specialist children's workers who will focus helping children and young people who have lived in a situation of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is the abuse of power or control over one person by another. It can be in many forms including physical, psychological, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members.
Domestic abuse affects all members of the family, especially children living in the household. If you or a friend are suffering from domestic abuse please contact the free 24-hour national helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit this website for further information and support: http://www.womensaid.org.uk