Women’s Refuges and Universal Credit Changes

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2019 Community Conference and Seminar
2 November 2018

Conference congratulates campaigners, including UNISON’s National Women’s Self-Organised Group, on their success in preventing changes to the welfare system which would have caused the closure of more women’s refuges. Proposed government changes resulting from Universal Credit could have meant women fleeing abusive partners not being able to pay for accommodation using housing benefit. This is the last guaranteed source of income available to many refuges.

In August 2018, pressure applied by the campaign, led by Women’s Aid, forced the government into a u-turn when they announced that all supported housing funding would be retained in the welfare system.

However, the episode shows once again that refuges remain vulnerable to closure as a result of continued austerity measures. The UK has a network of more than a thousand refuges providing women and children with sanctuary from violence and giving ongoing support. Refuge services for survivors of domestic violence have been decimated by the public-sector funding cuts.

Data provided by 131 refuges in 2016 showed that, on one day, 78 women along with their children were turned away because they could not be accommodated. This is unacceptable.

Conference believes it is absolutely crucial that the Government should provide more funding for refuge places.

Conference calls on the Community Service Group Executive to:

1)Work with UNISON Labour Link and other stakeholders to improve the financial position of women’s refuges. This includes lobbying political parties in positions of power and influence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

2)Work with UNISON Women’s Self-Organised Group to support their campaigning on this issue.

3)Ensure UNISON Community members working in the women’s refuge sector are aware of this campaigning work and have an opportunity to get more involved.