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2011 National Women's Conference
21 October 2010
Carried as Amended

In her speech to the annual Women’s Aid National Conference in July 2010 Teresa May claimed “Violence against women is and always has been a priority for me and my ambition is nothing less than ending it”. She promised to ensure that ending violence against women would remain a priority for the coalition government.

However, only one month later Teresa May announced that a scheme set up to protect women from domestic abuse by removing violent partners from the family home was to be scrapped as part of the Coalition Government’s drive to cut down on public spending. Under the so called “go orders” planned for England and Wales, senior police would have been given the power to act instantly to safeguard families they considered at threat. Research shows that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when they are considering leaving the family home or have just left it. This scheme would have protected victims for up to two weeks, giving them the chance to seek help to escape from the abuse.

The government’s ‘Supporting People’ budget is being hit hard by the spending cuts with reports coming in of local authorities axing funds to local women’s refuges and rape crises centres ruthlessly, without consultation and/or equality impact assessments. If Teresa May is sincere in her ambition to ending violence against women, then she should ensure that local authorities consider very carefully before denying funds to such vital local services by insisting they meet their legal obligations under the Gender Equality Duty, to undertaken EIA’s (Equality Impact Assessments) and provide evidence of how a withdrawal of funds to rape crisis centre or women’s refuges will not adversely impact on women.

The coalition government’s cuts on public spending in 2010 alone is already having a detrimental impact on services which are reliant on funding, such as rape crisis centres and women’s refuges with some already closed down and those that remain are facing a very uncertain future. This conference is not confident that the coalition government is taking sufficient account of the major impact of these cuts on vulnerable women and their families who are often suffering multiple complex needs. The National Housing Federation and Women’s Aid stated in October 2010 that, “Cutting vital services for women fleeing domestic violence could lead to a rise in murders, rapes and serious assaults”. They fear that thousands of refuge places and outreach support services for victims of domestic violence could be slashed by local authorities under the government’s cost cutting drive.

In 2008 the Conservative party unveiled their policy on tackling violence against women, which contained a heavy emphasis on prevention and whilst this is to be welcomed, the government should recognise the implication of funds being withdrawn from support services that offer immediate assistance and safety. Prevention work is undoubtedly vital in eliminating violence against women but it will take time to develop; time to implement; time to take affect and all the while two women a week will still be murdered.

The question to ask now is how the government can talk about its commitment to ending domestic violence whilst the scant number of women’s refuges and rape crisis centres in this country face closure as a direct consequence of the withdrawal of government funding. In a Guardian Comment is Free article written by Teresa May in March 2009 she stated that “….only this week Harriet Harman rejected Conservative Party plans to offer stable three year funding for centres”. This Conference believes that Teresa May should now follow through on those plans and we would like to see this commitment cemented by ensuring that the funding is also ring fenced thereby demonstrating that domestic violence is a top priority.

We call upon the National Women’s Committee to continue to work with the End Violence Against Women Coalition, the NEC and Labour Link to protect domestic violence services, including:

1)Keeping pressure on Teresa May to implement the Conservative Party plans to offer stable three yar funding;

2)Lobbying government to prevent further cuts to funding for domestic violence services in the immediate future;

3)Lobbying government to support the ring-fencing of budgets dedicated to domestic violence in both the short and long term

4) Produce a briefing paper for branches to raise awareness of this issue and to ensure that branches are requesting EIA’s from authorities where services are being denied funds.