Funding for domestic violence refuges in Hackney has been cut by 45 per cent since 2010, new figures have revealed.
Freedom of Information requests showed that Hackney’s cuts were higher than the rest of London, with other boroughs reducing payouts by an average of 38 per cent.
In 2010, Hackney spent £812,000 maintaining domestic violence refuges — places which provide safe accommodation for women and children fleeing abuse. In 2016 this sum was slashed by nearly a half.
The borough has imposed the fourth-largest cut to its refuges budget of any local authority in London during this period.
Last year, as a result of the Government’s plans to cap housing benefits, Women’s Aid found that 67 per cent of refuges in England were at risk of closure.
After a high-profile campaign from domestic violence charities, the Government was forced to U-turn on these changes. However, the sector remains under intense pressure. In Hackney, one domestic violence charity is forced to turn away 60% of women seeking help, because of a lack of resources.
💔 Hackney Mayor Phillip Glanville has broken his promises – and he’s breaking our hearts! 💔 🎩💰 Why is Glanville spending millions on exclusive regeneration projects and leaving survivors and the borough’s most vulnerable with nowhere to live, and #nowheretogo? Why has he broken his promises? 💰🎩 Join East End Sisters Uncut TONIGHT at 5.30pm outside Hackney Town Hall to demand answers – because East End Sisters Take Action! #keepingpromises #theycutwebleed
Speaking to the Hackney Post, Councillor Rebecca Rennison, Mayoral Advisor on Domestic Abuse, said:
“Our domestic abuse service is at the forefront of innovative practice, offering an intensive and holistic service and working closely with partner agencies and women’s charities to help break the cycle of abuse.
“As well as increasing funding in recent years to tackle domestic abuse, and offering the third-highest number of refuge spaces in London, Hackney also supports victims and survivors to stay in their own homes through the Sanctuary Scheme. We want anyone who is experiencing abuse to know that we are here to support them.”
According to a statement from the council, more women approach refuges in Hackney than almost anywhere else in the capital. The borough has also enhanced its staffing provision to work not only with victims and survivors, but also directly with the perpetrators of abuse, in order to reduce the risk they pose.
There are currently 48 beds available for women fleeing domestic abuse in Hackney, the locations of which aren’t publicised in order to safeguard the victims. The borough has lost four beds since 2012.
Domestic violence services are in crisis. Right now, services in Lancashire, Sunderland, Northamptonshire and West Dunbartonshire are all fighting against proposed cuts that would close their doors – whilst 2 women a week are still dying at the hands of a current or ex male partner. MEANWHILE, last week a male Tory MP spoke for over an hour against a parliamentary bill to ratify the Istanbul Convention, an international agreement on violence against women that would legally oblige the government to provide specialist domestic and sexual violence services. Why? Because he thinks that's sexist. Patriarchy in action.
As well as a generic support service, the council has had a specialist refuge for Asian survivors of domestic abuse since 2017.
However, according to figures obtained by the Hackney Post, funding for this specialist service has been reduced from £261,000 to £142,000 — a cut of around 45 per cent.
As well as accommodation, this specialist service is able to support Asian women with a range of issues, including forced marriage, insecure immigration status, and issues of disownment by family and communities relating to systems of honour.
Hackney is one of London’s most ethnically diverse boroughs and, as such, demand for specialist services will be significantly higher than the rest of the capital.
At the last census, Black/Black British people accounted for 23.1 per cent of the borough’s population. Asian/Asian British people were the third largest ethnic group, at 10.5 per cent.
Marai Larasi, chief executive of Imkaan, a UK-based black feminist organisation, said: “London benefits from having well-established, diverse refuge provision, and we are proud of this. But FOI data sadly confirms the information that we have received from Imkaan members, that specialist BME women’s organisations have been disproportionately affected by cuts to refugee budgets.
“We know that in some areas BME organisations have taken a huge hit with over 40 per cent of their refuge funding being cut, while in other areas, the local authority cut provision by choosing not to include specialist BME provision in their contracts.
“Such draconian approaches have a direct impact on critical services and the women and children that they support. We need the Government to urgently commit to developing a sustainable funding strategy which ensures that no woman or child is left behind.”
— Cole Peters (@cole_peters) February 15, 2017
Activist group Sisters Uncut recently staged a Valentine’s day protest at Hackney Town Hall to draw attention to the Mayor of Hackney’s “broken promises” to survivors of abuse.
They say Mayor Philip Glanville is yet to deliver on a pledge he made to them to fill all the empty units in Marian Court by Christmas 2016, and is still placing survivors in private hostels despite a commitment to use only council-run safe houses with properly trained staff.
According to Sisters Uncut, the mayor has also failed to commission research into the introduction of secure hostels in the borough.
A spokesperson for Sisters Uncut said: “Why does it need a direct action group to take to the streets for him to focus on protecting the most vulnerable in the borough? Why are women and non-binary people fleeing domestic violence still being housed in unsafe, privately-owned B&Bs and private refuges? Why can’t the council house their homeless and those seeking safety in empty council homes?
“We’ve had enough of Glanville’s stonewalling.”
(Top image credit: Hackney Post)