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Kent Labour Unites Around Opposition to Domestic Abuse Refuge Funding

Kent Labour Groups Oppose Changes To Domestic Abuse Refuge Funding

Two years after the government made coercive or controlling behaviour a criminal offence, over 50 members of the Labour Party in Kent have signed an open letter calling on the government to reverse their planned housing benefit cap for domestic violence refuges.

Currently, Housing Benefit makes up around 50% of the revenue refuges rely on. The letter notes that “If Housing Benefit entitlement is removed for those in refuges, it will mean vulnerable women fleeing abusive partners will not be able to pay for their accommodation using housing benefit – the last guaranteed source of income available to refuges.”

In October 2017, a document was published by the Department of Work and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government, ‘Funding Supporting Housing’. Proposals contained in this document state that instead of being able to use housing benefit to fund refuges, a ‘ring-fenced’ grant to councils for short-term supported housing would be given. However, the majority of women (77.6% in 2015) in refuges come from outside the authority, having left their original home in order to escape the perpetrator.

If these reforms proceed, Labour is concerned that this will result in a postcode lottery of domestic abuse support services, with further refuge closures who provide such an invaluable service, and more women and children being turned away from the lifesaving support they offer when escaping domestic abuse and violence.

The letter was signed Councillor Jonathan Hawkes, Leader of the Labour Group in Dartford alongside Labour leaders in Canturbury, Thanet and Medway.  Elected Labour representatives from North Thanet, South Thanet, Maidstone & Weald, Faversham & Swale, Rochester & Strood, Gillingham & Rainham, Chatham & Aylesford, Dover & Deal have also made a stand.

Jonathan said: 'The proposal to remove Housing Benefit entitlement for those in domestic violence refuges is unacceptable and needs to be halted.  The Tory government are showing a lack of understanding of the importance of domestic violence services – these cuts will have a huge effect on the safety of women and children across Kent. Access to refuges has meant the difference between life and death for women escaping violence at home. That’s why Labour across Kent has united to sign this letter - it’s vital that the Tory government start listening and reverse these cuts.'

Councillor Daisy Page who also signed the letter said:

'As a Councillor, having worked with women and children escaping domestic violence and abuse, seeing how much refuges and our local refuge is relied upon I know the devastation this will cause. It’s time Government listened to the people on the ground and abandoned its plans to remove refuges from support term housing welfare. This Government should be working to find a long-term and sustainable funding solution for refuges across the country, an invaluable service for so many, instead of removing funding.'

The letter asks that the government “reconsiders and abandons its plans to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system.”

You can sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/gov-don-t-remove-refuges-from-the-welfare-system


The full text of the letter is available below:

We, the Women’s officers and Cllrs of the Constituency Labour Parties of Kent, are writing to draw attention to our very significant concerns about the Government’s plans to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system. We feel this proposal will further endanger the safety and lives of women and children seeking to escape domestic abuse. 

Currently, Housing Benefit makes up around 50% of the revenue refuges rely on. If Housing Benefit entitlement is removed for those in refuges, it will mean vulnerable women fleeing abusive partners will not be able to pay for their accommodation using housing benefit - the last guaranteed source of income available to refuges.

In October 2017, a document was published by the Department of Work and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government, ‘Funding Supporting Housing’. Proposals contained in this document state that instead of being able to use housing benefit to fund refuges, a ‘ring-fenced’ grant to councils for short-term supported housing would be given.

However, the majority of women (77.6% in 2015) in refuges come from outside the authority, having left their original home in order to escape the perpetrator. If these reforms proceed, we are concerned that this will result in a postcode lottery of domestic abuse support services, with further refuge closures who provide such an invaluable service, and more women and children being turned away from the lifesaving support they offer when escaping domestic abuse and violence.

It takes incredible courage for a person to leave an abusive relationship. Two women continue to be killed by a partner or ex-partner every week in the UK. Research by Women’s Aid found 94 women with 90 children were turned away from refuge services in just one day in 2016, meaning there is an absolute demand for this service.

We ask that the Government reconsiders and abandons its plans to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system. This Government should be working to find a long-term and sustainable funding solution for refuges across the country, who provide an invaluable service for so many women and children in need.

Lily Madigan Women's Officer, Rochester and Strood CLP

Pauline Farrance Women's Officer, North Thanet CLP

Jennifer Hamilton Women's and Equalities Officer, Faversham and Swale CLP

Lia Mandaracas Women's Officer, Gillingham and Rainham CLP

Jennifer Hamilton Women and Equalities Officer, Faversham and Mid Kent CLP

Cllr Claire Pearce Stone Parish Council, Women’s Officer, Dartford CLP

Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of the Labour Group on Medway Council

Cllr Alan Baldock, Leader of the Labour Group on Canterbury City Council

Cllr Jonathan Hawkes, Leader of the Labour Group on Dartford Borough Council

Cllr Josh Jones, Dartford Borough Council

Cllr Daisy Page, Dartford Borough Council

Cllr Tom Maddison, Dartford Borough Council

Cllr Mark Maddison, Dartford Borough Council

Cllr Patrick Kelly, Dartford Borough Council

Cllr Mandy Garford, Stone Parish Council

Cllr Emma Morley, Stone Parish Council

Cllr Pam Brivio, Dover District Council

Cllr Lenny Rolles, Gravesham Borough Council

Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox, Gravesham Borough Council

Cllr Karen Constantine, Thanet District Council, Kent County Council

Cllr Jenny Matterface, Thanet District Council

Cllr Iris Johnson, Thanet District Council

Cllr Michell Fenner, Thanet District Council

Cllr. Peter Campbell, Thanet District Council

Cllr Ian Venables, Thanet District Council

Cllr Derek Boyle, Paddock Wood Town Council

Cllr Naushabah Khan, Medway Council

Cllr Andy Stamp, Medway Council

Cllr Tristan Osborne, Medway Council

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