SHELTER from domestic violence has reached crisis point in Gloucestershire with the most vulnerable women placed in the firing line due to a lack of refuge funding, it has been claimed.
Closure of safe houses across the county has forced some women and children to move away from the county to get the critical support they need.
In 2000, there were refuge spaces for around 46 families affected by domestic abuse in Gloucestershire. In 2014, there are no beds currently commissioned in the county and just eight provided by a Stroud charity.
According to the national domestic violence charity Refuge, two women are killed by a current or former partner each week.
On average Gloucestershire identifies 12 cases of victims at high risk of domestic abuse every seven days.
Changes to the way services are provided has put vital services in the hands of charities and volunteers, with women’s refuges no longer available in Gloucester or the Forest of Dean.
The only county refuge available is in Stroud, and run by the Beresford Group, an independent refuge that filled the void after funding cuts in 2012 saw other safe havens shut.
Manager Jill Cooper, said: “Many women’s refuge services have been closed throughout the country as a result of changes to commissioning.
“Although we don’t currently receive any funding from the county domestic abuse contract, we are receiving increasing numbers of referrals for families in need when they are not safe to stay in their own home. “We are unable to meet the increased demand for our services as we now have only eight refuge spaces and receive referrals from across the county.”
In Gloucestershire, a commissioning process took place two years ago which moved funding away from women’s refuges and towards alternative types of services.
Gloucestershire Constabulary recorded in the region of 6,200 incidents last year, with 24 per cent of reported sexual offences domestic-related.
Figures also show 70 per cent of children on child protection plans are as a result of witnessing domestic abuse in the household.
Outreach work and advice here is offered by the Gloucestershire Domestic Violence Support and Advocacy Project.
Amanda Wilsdon, who manages the service in Kingsholm, said: “There are high levels of demand, so some extremely vulnerable women and children who need refuge accommodation in order to be safe from domestic abuse are referred to refuges elsewhere in the country.
“Refuges cost money. But in my opinion no other model provides the intensive level of support to survivors that refuges offer. I am also concerned some extremely vulnerable women may remain in domestic abuse situations longer because they are too frightened to move away from the county.”
Councillor Kathy Williams, cabinet member for long-term care at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “In the past, refuges have not been successful for all victims, particularly men or women with teenage sons. We know how important it is to keep routines and remain in touch with friends and family, so where it’s safe and appropriate we offer support that helps victims stay in their own homes.
“When this isn’t possible, we provide options that meet the individuals’ needs.”