international women's day 2011

Save Survivors’ Services Campaign – International Women’s Day Centenary Special Update

Posted on: 3 March 2011

100 years of action to promote women’s equality
100 years of action to stop violence against women
Stop the cuts to specialist domestic and sexual violence services

Despite welcoming government funding for of £28m for specialist services over the next four years for national helplines, and for local Independent Domestic Adviser (IDVA), Independent Sexual Advisers (ISVA) and Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) co-ordinators, Women’s Aid are concerned that many other vital local specialist support services are at risk.

IDVA and ISVA posts play an important role in supporting high risk victims, especially within criminal law processes, but they are only a small part of the national network of specialist services that provide refuge, outreach and other vital support services to hundreds of thousands of victims every year. The British Crime Survey and other research shows that most victims do not report to the police or statutory services, so there is a real need for voluntary specialist services in every area.

As local budgets are being set, specialist domestic and sexual violence services are currently at risk of significant cuts or closure.

We are particularly concerned about:

* Higher cuts to specialist domestic and sexual violence services
For example, Devon’s domestic abuse services were recently cut by 42% – far more than the local authority are implementing overall (check), meaning that the domestic abuse services are taking unfair and disproportionate cuts;

* Significant reductions in the vital help and support available to women and children at risk
There never was enough service to meet demand anyway – refuge places in Leeds , for example, are being reduced from 44 to 26 bed spaces, when they already can only meet 12% of the real demand for their services;

* The impact of reduced services on victims – increased prevalence of domestic and sexual violence, with the risk of an increase in domestic homicides, as well as increased pressure on shrinking health, local authority and criminal justice resources.

Since our seminar last November with government representatives and local services to discuss the spending review and likely impact on local services, we have continued to raise concerns with Ministers and civil servants about the impact of government policy upon local services, and have been working with national and local media to raise awareness of the impact of the cuts to services. Follow the Campaign on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We are also continuing the survey of all local member services to get up-to-date information on the cuts being made and impact on survivors’ services for use in national campaign coverage (the full results of which will be available on 8th March).

Initial findings from Women’s Aid’s Campaign Survey of local member services show that at least half of the services responding had no information about whether they would receive any funding at all after April 1st 2011.

Next steps: action for International Women’s Day and beyond

We need your help now to step up the activity and increase the pressure, both locally and nationally, to stop the cuts to the specialist domestic and sexual violence sector.

* Lobby your MP to support the Campaign and attend the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic and Sexual Violence on 8th March in the House of Commons about the impact of the cuts;

* Keep us informed about what is happening in your area and any action you are taking;

* Join our Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Saving-Survivors-Services/183511221680648 and Twitter http://www.twitter.com/womensaid campaigns.

Women’s Aid will continue to carry out Parliamentary lobbying, including using Parliamentary Questions and Early Day Motions and working with local services and their supporters to take local action and feed this into the national campaign.

How to lobby your local M

Many local services have already been lobbying local councillors and decision makers, pointing out the importance and cost effectiveness of local support services. Whether you are a specialist service or a concerned individual, you can help with some very targeted lobbying of MPs. Your MP should represent the interests of the people in their constituency and safety and public protection should be a priority. There are victims of domestic and sexual violence in all constituencies and MPs have a duty to help them.

We have created two template letters to MPs for you to use. Remember to put your own contact details so that they can reply. The contact details for your local MP can be found here.

Service providers – write to or email your local MP using local information that you already have or add your key points to this template letter provided by Women’s Aid: services letter to MP (Word doc). Encourage your supporters to lobby your MP with the information for individuals below.

Individuals – you can also lobby your MP and use your networks to ask everyone to do the same. Strength in numbers can really make a difference. If an MP gets lots of letters they are very likely to listen and so this is an incentive to get people to send them. A template letter to which you can add local information can be found here: individual letter to MP (Word doc).

Media work – issuing a press release for International Women’s Day

Women’s Aid will be issuing a press release on the eve of International Women’s Day. This will publish the final findings of the national survey we are undertaking and draw attention to the impact of government policy on responses to domestic and sexual violence. We have provided a template press release for you here. Add relevant local information as you feel appropriate and send out to local newspapers, radio and TV. As a general rule, keep to three key points and avoid diverting from the key messages – this applies to a press release, or if you get invited for comments on a radio or TV interview.

Last of all but most important – keep us informed about what is happening in your area and any action you are taking. If we do not know what is happening locally then we cannot draw attention to it or act upon it. We need you to tell us about any campaigning activities you are undertaking locally so that we can support these.

Check for new information and updates at http://www.womensaid.org.uk/page.asp?section=0001000100100017&sectionTitle=Safeguarding+Survivors%27+Services

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