From: Sandra Horley CBE
Chief executive, Refuge
pen letter to Councillor Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council.
I am writing to you regarding the threats to specialist refuge funding in East Sussex and to urge you to act to ensure unsustainable cuts are not inflicted on essential refuge services.
Refuge provides specialist refuges for survivors in East Sussex, we run refuges in Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, Rother and Wealden. In total, these provide 47 units of accommodation, which vary in size and type. As part of our East Sussex services, we are currently running a year-long pilot to provide enhanced support to survivors of domestic violence with complex needs.
In 2016/17 our East Sussex refuges provided safe accommodation and life-changing support to 130 women and their 181 children. 81.5 per cent of the women staying in the East Sussex refuges had experienced multiple forms of abuse from their (ex) partner, in half of cases, her (ex) partner had threatened to kill her, almost 60 per cent had been strangled, choked or suffocated by their (ex)partner and 19.2 per cent were pregnant or had recently had a baby.
Incredible outcomes were achieved for the women and children staying in the East Sussex refuges: 70.9 per cent of women Refuge supported that year reported an end to all forms of abuse and controlling behaviour at the point of leaving the service; 92.8 per cent of women said they felt safer; and 94.2 per cent said their quality of life had improved.
As you are of course aware, your council has announced a £10 million budget reduction to adult social care and health funding, which includes refuges, and following consultation is due to make decisions about where these cuts will fall shortly. I know that this decision was not made easily, and reflects the highly challenging funding environment local authorities’ face.
However, I urge you to protect funding for refuges, which simply cannot sustain further cuts without closing units and leaving women and children at enormous risk with nowhere to turn.
The funding for the services we run in East Sussex was cut by 20 per cent in 2016, resulting in an £80,000 funding reduction. A further 40 per cent budget cut would mean at least 20 refuge places would be lost, leading to over 150 women and children fleeing abuse each year being unable to access a refuge.
It is no exaggeration to say that this put lives at risk. Two women are killed every week in England and Wales alone by a current or former partner.
We already receive a large number of referrals for every refuge place which becomes available in East Sussex, and expect demand to increase further as the Government brings forward the Domestic Abuse Bill, which aims to increase public awareness and understanding and encourage survivors to come forward for help.
It is essential that life-saving services, like the refuges in East Sussex, are available the moment a survivor of abuse needs them.
Refuge is extremely concerned about the threats to the services we run in East Sussex, and as well as writing to you and the lead member for adult social care and health, we are contacting local MPs and press to highlight the potential funding cuts. We are committed to working with you and local commissioners to protect the vital life-saving services for victims of abuse in East Sussex which cannot survive any further budget cuts.