VICTIMS of domestic violence risk more pain and suffering from abusive partners if a vital refuge centre in Stratford-upon-Avon closes in May because of funding cuts by Stratford Town Trust.
The refuge was given almost £20,000 in funding by the trust last April as part of a possible two-year strategy of financial support dependent on it providing a development plan and applying to alternative funding sources by October last year.
Refuge manager Liz Smeyatsky, of Warwickshire Domestic Violence Support Services, works part time with one other colleague. She was not able to meet the October deadline with a comprehensive overview of the work they envisaged but did provide progress reports and updates on work already undertaken.
However, Stratford Town Trust says these reports do not meet the criteria set for funding to continue.
“While we are very grateful for the funding we receive from both Stratford Town Trust and Stratford District Council, with only two of us working—part time—it’s been incredibly difficult to manage all of the administrative demands placed upon us. Our first priority has always been to the victims and their families.”
Renewed funding to the tune of £20,000 would help pay for Liz’s part-time colleague at the refuge which has five accommodation flats for women but for the time being the future looks bleak and if no money is forthcoming the centre will close.
The imminent closure of the refuge centre coincides with shocking figures recently released by Women’s Aid—a national charity committed to ending domestic violence against women and children—which reveal, one-in-four women, and one-in-five men, in the UK, are likely to suffer domestic abuse from their partners during their lifetime.
Figures made more alarming by the disclosure that violence and abuse knows no boundaries. It affects women aged 15 to 70, regardless of professional status and in most cases has a devasting physical and emotional impact on children involved. Liz recalls one case where a two-year-old boy was regularly violent and abusive towards his mum because of what he witnessed in the home.
In fact, the welfare of women is a particular cause for concern among teenage girls, where reports suggest that both male and female teenagers are starting to show worrying signs of ambivalence towards the abuse of young women.
Liz added: “What people don’t realise is that this type of violence can affect anyone from any walk of life. Please, let’s get rid of the myth that it only affects certain people.
“Very often our clients are professional people and just like everyone else they are left traumatised by the emotional shock and wreckage caused by an abusive relationship and that’s why people turn to us in their darkest hour. Don’t be fooled, this sort of thing does go on in the safe, middle class homes of Stratford, and, to that end, we provide a
service to the people of Stratford as well as Warwickshire. That’s an essential part of our whole make-up.”
Yesterday, (Thursday), Stratford Town Trust said that Warwickshire Domestic Violence’s plan was not robust and did not address the issues that the trust had specifically asked the organisation to look into.
“We reiterate that our door is always open for them to reapply, should they feel able to show any development around enhancing the service to meet the needs of the town, and to provide a considered plan as to how other local agencies could be joined as partners to the benefit of the people of Stratford,” said the trust.
“It is with regret that we took the decision not to continue to fund the [refuge] and, although we do not disclose confidential information about each beneficiary, we can say that the criterion with which we judge suitability were not fulfilled.
“It is only right and equitable that we apply the same judgments to all our applicants, and it would be unfair to make exceptions.”
The trust said it continued to fund the Domestic Abuse Counselling Service and had recently given it grants of just over £17,000.
Last Friday was International Women’s Day. On St Valentine’s Day the One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women was supported all over the globe. In a tiny corner of Stratford a vital refuge service that helps victims of domestic violence recover and start a new life for themselves and their children, free from the threat of violence, now faces closure.
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