Hundreds turned away from 'full-up' domestic violence refuges in Yorkshire

Hundreds of women and children have been turned away by domestic violence refuges in Yorkshire in the past six months because of a lack of available beds, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

An increasing number of women and children cannot be accommodated in Yorkshire refuges due to a lack of space.

It comes after council budgets in the region were slashed by around 40 per cent since 2010 - and despite police forces across the county reporting massive rises in the numbers of cases they are dealing with.

The figures have been revealed as part of a national investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and local newspapers, with 40 refuge managers across the country speaking on condition of anonymity revealing that their organisations had turned away more than 1,000 women since the start of the year.

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One refuge in Yorkshire reported turning away 117 people in the last six months because of “no space [and] no recourse to funds” and being unable to meet specialist needs.

Another said it had turned away 79 people due to being full, while a third refuge said it had turned away 40 families because of the same reason.

A fourth Yorkshire refuge was unable to give a precise figure but said it was “always full” and had a lack of bed space. It added that it is particularly difficult to find spaces for people with complex high-risk needs, with one person with a disability turned away recently.

Nationally, three-quarters of refuge managers said they had seen their budgets cut in the last seven years.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “For survivors of domestic abuse, being able to flee to a refuge is often a matter of life or death. On average, two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales.

“Yet for many women and their children trying to escape abusive homes, they are unable to access the safety of a refuge due to the chronic under-funding of these lifesaving services which means there are not enough spaces.

“On just one day in 2016, 78 women and 78 children trying to escape abuse were turned away from a refuge. This can leave them forced to return to their abuser or face becoming homeless – some stay with family or friends where they are at risk of being hunted down by the perpetrator, others end up sleeping on the streets.”

“The Government has promised to tackle domestic abuse through its landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and make survivors safe in the knowledge that the state 'will do everything it can to both support them and their children'. We fully support the Government’s ambitions but fear that the Bill’s potential will be undermined if these lifesaving specialist refuges are not properly funded.

“We urge the Government to commit to the sustainable, long-term funding of a national network of refuges and ensure that the housing benefit refuges rely on will be protected. The Government must commit to save these lifesaving services so that all women and their children can safely escape from domestic abuse.”

Local authorities are responsible for the care and support element of domestic violence services which is funded from their core Government grant. The housing costs for victims staying in refuges are paid for through housing benefit for those who are eligible to receive support.

But of the four Yorkshire councils to provide comparable funding figures under Freedom of Information laws, the amount of spending on refuge services fell by an average of 39 per cent between 2010/11 and 2016/17.

Leeds and Sheffield Councils both had budget cuts of more than 40 per cent between 2011/12 and 2016/17.

Councils said today spending reductions were down to changes to how services were being commissioned instead of frontline cuts.

West Yorkshire Police has seen a 102 per cent increase in domestic violence offences between 2010 and 2016, with over 22,000 such crimes reported last year. There have been increases of over 70 per cent in North Yorkshire and Humberside in the same time.