AN MP who was the country’s first ever Minister for Women is demanding Government intervention to enhance and protect funding for Yorkshire’s domestic violence refuges.
Harriet Harman MP made the renewed call after figures from a series of Freedom of Information requests revealed that hostels in Yorkshire have been among the hardest hit by austerity measures, which have forced a third of the county’s local authorities to cut funding.
Leeds was the worst affected in the region, suffering a 59 per cent real terms cut in its funding for hostels since 2010.
Bradford lost 56 per cent of its domestic violence funding, Wakefield 50 per cent, Sheffield 52 per event and York 36 percent.
Ms Harman is now getting ready to table an amendment to the Government’s draft Domestic Violence bill, where she will ask for a dedicated and ringfenced national pot of funding to be created for victims of domestic violence.
Funding is currently funnelled through other services, which are subject to their own restrictions.
“What has happened with domestic violence is that it lives hand to mouth, it’s the first thing to be cut when local authorities feel totally squeezed,” she said.
“The Yorkshire figures are really quite worrying.
“The women’s movement have been protesting about them rightly, so I did an FOI of all the Yorkshire councils.
“Councils like Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Wakefield have put a lot of money into refuges and therefore they are the ones that are exposed, because they have got big cuts from the Government. So basically, it’s the councils that have been pushing forward who are now having to be pushed back.”
She welcomed the new legislation, accepting that Ministers “want to improve the situation for women and domestic violence”.
“But actually it’s not legislation of itself that saves lives, it’s the protection on the ground,” she added.
“What we need is the women who are now in the House of Commons to stand up against this because we have got more women in the House of Commons than ever before.
“And therefore we have got a really good basis to turn around to the Government and say we must have in this bill a pot - which will be something like 0.07 percent in terms of spending overall.
“It’s like a drop in the ocean - but it’s about saving lives.”
Across Yorkshire and the Humber, 15 out of 22 councils have responsibility for refuge funding.
The figures obtained by Ms Harman revealed that eight councils made no cuts or actually increased spending on domestic violence refuges since 2010, 53 per cent.
However more than a third of all the councils in Yorkshire were forced to make cuts .
One council has not yet responded to the FOI request and one authority - East Riding - has no domestic violence refuges in the area.
A Government spokesman said: “Domestic abuse is a devastating crime and we’re taking action to make sure that no survivor is turned away from the support they need.
“We’ve already committed £40 million until 2020 to support domestic abuse projects and under our new funding model, survivors will no longer need to worry about rent at a difficult time in their lives.
“Their entitlement to welfare benefits will also remain unchanged.”
Ministers says they have helped 80 domestic abuse projects across England to provide more than 2,200 beds, helping over 19,000 people.
The draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill is designed to protect and support victims and their children, they say, and there are also plans to give councils guaranteed funding from 2020.