Warn­ing not to cap pay­ments

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Edel Ke­nealy

Wo m e n flee­ing do­mes­tic abuse could be turned away from Women’s Aid refuges if a planned change in hous­ing ben­e­fit is in­tro­duced, the char­ity has warned.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion, which sup­ports hun­dreds of Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang women ev­ery year, says it could be forced to close refuges as the ben­e­fits shakeup would cre­ate a fund­ing short­fall of thou­sands of pounds.

This is be­cause hous­ing ben­e­fit women re­ceive is used to cover the cost of Women’s Aid sup­ported ac­com­mo­da­tion, owned by so­cial land­lords.

The UK Govern­ment’s pro­posal to ex­tend the lo­cal hous­ing al­lowance rate to so­cial land­lords in April 2018 would ef­fec­tively cap the amount of money awarded to those in cri­sis and Women’s Aid would be tasked with ful­fill­ing the fund­ing gap.

A study con­ducted by the char­ity sug­gested that in ur­ban ar­eas like Ruther­glen the an­nual loss for a onebed­room refuge flat would be £ 7,100, and in an­other semi- ur­ban area the loss on a three-bed­room refuge would be £11,600 per year.

With 26 refuges in South La­nark­shire alone, the loss to the lo­cal Women’s Aid branch could be more than £200,000 per an­num.

Heather Rus­sell, CEO of Women’s Aid South La­nark­shire and East Ren­frew­shire, said: “We have se­ri­ous con­cerns about the im­pact this will have on our ser­vices. Pro­vid­ing and man­ag­ing refuge ac­com­mo­da­tion for women and chil­dren flee­ing do­mes­tic abuse costs more be­cause of the cri­sis na­ture of ad­mis­sion, the spe­cial vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the women and chil­dren con­cerned, vari­able lengths of stay and rapid turnover. Ex­tra safety and se­cu­rity mea­sures is an on­go­ing and core cost to the ser­vice. We aim to pro­vide a com­fort­able and safe refuge ser­vice which in­cludes pro­vid­ing ba­sics such as bed­ding, fur­ni­ture and equip­ment be­cause women and chil­dren of­ten come to us with only the clothes they stand up in.

“We are des­per­ately wor­ried about the im­pact that th­ese pro­pos­als will have on our abil­ity to con­tinue to pro­vide refuge in the area at a time where Scot­tish do­mes­tic abuse show a con­sis­tent in­crease.”

The Depart­ment of Work and Pen­sions has sug­gested the fund­ing short­fall could be filled by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties via the Dis­cre­tionary Hous­ing Pay­ments scheme but Women’s Aid ar­gue those flee­ing safety should not be re­ly­ing on the “dis­cre­tion” of hous­ing and wel­fare of­fi­cers.

A UK Govern­ment spokes­woman said it was still look­ing at how the changes would work. She said: “We value the work sup­ported ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor does to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers.”

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