A top children’s services director has suggested refuges are ‘not always the right solution’ after research found a dramatic fall in spending by English councils.
President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Alison Michalska, said disinvestment in refuges - which could be ‘pretty grotty, soulless accommodation’ - was sometimes done for the ‘right reasons’ but admitted the need to save money was also a factor.
Ms Michalska said: ‘Somehow domestic abuse has got to come out from behind the closed door.’
Research by The MJ and Bureau of Investigative Journalism found local authorities across England have cut their spending on domestic violence refuges by 24% since 2010.
More than three out of four councils have reduced the amount they spend on women’s refuges in the last seven years, Freedom of Information Act requests revealed, with the number of domestic violence incidents reported to police increasing by a third over the same period.
The research found council funding for refuges across England has dropped from £31.2m in 2010/11 to just £23.9m in 2016/17.
A survey of 40 refuge managers across England found three out of four reported their budgets had been cut in the last seven years.
More than 1,000 women have been turned away from those 40 refuges since the start of the year.
Last year prime minister Theresa May and the Department for Communities and Local Government announced a £20m pot to fund domestic violence projects.
But refuge managers claim that government funding has still not come through eight months after the winning bids were announced, leading one to put their entire staff on notice for fear of imminent closure.
Chair of the all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence, Jess Phillips MP, said: ‘Specialist domestic violence services are being hollowed out by council cuts forced by the Government’s austerity programme.
'The Government keep saying that they are investing tens of millions into domestic violence services but this is not being felt on the ground.’
A government spokesman said: ‘Domestic abuse is a devastating crime and we’re taking action to make sure that no victim is turned away from the support they need.’