Act now to support victims of domestic violence in South Yorkshire!

Act now to support victims of domestic violence in South Yorkshire!

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Women's Lives Matter Campaign started this petition to South Yorkshire Members of Parliament

To South Yorkshire Members of Parliament and all local government representatives:

5 women have been murdered in Doncaster under lockdown and 8 women altogether in the South Yorkshire region since the Covid-19 lockdown began.

Whilst we are aware that not all the women’s deaths have been reported as domestic violence – men have been arrested in all cases. It is highly probable, given the context, that many are domestic violence homicides or cases where the man was known to the victim.

As I hope you are aware, women are most likely to be killed by a man they know, in many cases their partner or ex-partner. Domestic violence and abuse (henceforth referred to as DV&A) is on the rise in the UK.

2019 marked a 5 year high for DV&A and we entered 2020 with the number of women being murdered a week by a partner or ex-partner moving from 2 a week to 3.

This increase comes after a decade of austerity measures and the cutting of vital funds to many domestic violence services and refuges. 60% of all referrals to refuges in 2019 were rejected due to lack of space.

To put it simply: Domestic violence is increasing and increasingly women have fewer places to flee to and get support from.

On top of this, it is well researched that poverty limits a victim’s ability to flee and to able to be financially independent from perpetrators. Austerity measures have seen a general increase in poverty.

Women are more likely to be in poverty than men. This is because of their position socially as the main care givers of children and disabled or ill relatives and because they are more likely to be reliant on benefits and/ or in low paid, insecure employment.

All of this means women’s abilities to seek support or leave abusive relationships are increasingly impossible.

Now under Covid-19, lockdown restrictions have meant that DV&A has increased – with the government doing next to nothing to prevent this crisis.

Around £37 million was initially promised by the government to support DV&A charities to cope with increased demand – so far these charities have seen £1 million of this between them. There are not enough refuges as there is, but many have not even been able to open due to lack of funds to make them covid-19 safe.

South Yorkshire is not free of these issues – no where in the UK can claim to have enough support for DV&A victims. It has been made quite clear by national domestic violence charities, that they cannot cope with the increase in demand and therefore women do not have the support they need as a result. This is costing women’s lives nationally, but at an incredibly high rate in South Yorkshire.

We have therefore drawn up the following set of demands, that we put to our local and national government in order to support victims of DV&A and save lives:

·         Immediate reversal of all cuts to domestic violence services + full and substantial funding of refuges and DV&A services.

·         Massive injection of funds to set up specialist refuges for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women.

·         Specialist refuges to be set up and funded for women with disabilities and other specialist needs.

·         Stop and scrap universal credit – establish a benefits system that people can actually live off and that meets their needs.

·         For specialist police domestic violence units and courts to be reinstated – for democratically elected committees to be set up, including members of the public and professionals, to hold the police and courts accountable for how they deal with DV&A.

·         For the police to change the way they record victim’s stories in order that victims don’t have to repeat what happened to them, which is re-traumatising.

·         Bring the family court back to local areas so women don’t have to travel long distances to attend.

·         Ensure women have free access to target hardening measures to ensure they can make their home safe.

·         Fully funded legal aid for ALL who need it.

·         Scrap the third child benefit limit + scrap the benefit cap.

·         MARAC conferences to be held every day in local areas, led by DV&A specialists and not the police, to ensure quick responses to high risk victims.

·         For vulnerable women to be given social workers – (social worker intervention should not just be for children or for when a woman has children).

·         Fully funded childcare so this cost is not a barrier to women getting jobs.

These demands are just the very basic steps that need to happen immediately to ensure victims have access to the support they need to leave violent relationships, continue to be safe and to be able to live independently. It is because women, particularly on low incomes, don’t have access to support, safe housing, financial independence or the legal system, that their lives are put at risk.

We demand that our local leadership in South Yorkshire use whatever funds they have at their disposal to implement these measures now and to campaign for sustainable funding from the government to meet these demands in the long term.

We make these demands because it is what is needed to save lives. We sincerely hope you will engage with this letter and open a discussion with us about these demands.

 

Women’s Lives Matter.

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