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Three women and a baby sitting in a kitchen

Through our range of specialist services, we help more than 6,000 survivors of violence each day across England and Wales. Keep up-to-date with the latest Refuge news, blogs and stories from our communications team.

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Spotlight on Warrington
Spotlight on Warrington

Our Warrington Domestic Abuse Service comprises four Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVA), one outreach worker and one young person’s advocate. As part of this vital service we also run a local helpline. We are delighted that over the period of time our team of experts have seen great growth in the numbers of clients we support. The team is based in an office close to the town centre but our IDVAs also co locate across two hospitals to ensure early intervention to support women experiencing abuse. The team also delivers training to frontline professionals such as doctors and nursing staff on a one-to-one and group basis. Our outreach worker runs a domestic abuse support group called Wings, a group for women, where we talk about domestic abuse, its impact on victims, children and parenting, and what healthy relationships look like. We receive very positive feedback from clients who attend the group for example: “I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for your support.  It has given me the strength to draw the line and battle on to freedom.” “To the Wings support group, thank you for helping my daughter to understand what has happened to her.  We have seen her grow in confidence, return to her usual self, and be relentless for seeking help with my granddaughter In short, she has her wings and she is raring to fly.” Our young person’s advocate works with young people aged from 12-17 and is often based within local schools. Following positive feedback from clients and the schools, our young person’s advocate has been asked to promote the service at a wellbeing fair. Parents will then be invited to attend and will be able to discuss support for them and their children.

Renewed funding for Richmond refuge
Renewed funding for Richmond refuge

With financial support from government agencies becoming increasingly precarious, community support is vital to the continuation of Refuge’s services. Refuge provides 15 units of emergency accommodation in Richmond and is a fantastic example of people coming together to support women and children escaping domestic violence and abuse. We are incredibly grateful to Richmond Mayor Ben Khosa, who has continued his predecessor Cllr. Sue Sampson’s support of Refuge in the mayoral office by selecting Refuge as his 2019 charity. As of May 2019 Mayor Khosa has raised over £20,000 in support of Refuge through events such as the multi-faith Peace and Unity event, cycling and marathon events and skydiving for which we are hugely grateful. Mayor Khosa said “It is one of the privileges of the Mayor to be able to meet and thank the many charities and wonderful volunteers in our delightful borough who give their time so freely to enrich the lives of others without any expectations of reward or recognition.” In addition to the two refuges in Richmond, we also provide advocacy-based services through independent domestic violence advocates (IDVAs) and outreach workers, who provide women and children with the support they need to build a new life free from fear and abuse. The community support Refuge receives in Richmond can also be seen with our partner agencies, many with whom we co-locate, for example: the Council Housing Department, drug and alcohol services, Children’s Centres, the Police Station, Civic Centre and Local Advice Centre. Detective inspector Matt East said: “[Refuge’s] support and guidance to our staff on a daily basis, has aided them (along with myself) to a massive extent. Your support and guidance to the survivors of domestic abuse also cannot be fully measured, but needless to say it has been exemplary and 1st class…Your team are always very professional, focused and motivated to do the best thing for the victim and survivors.” With ongoing support in communities we are better equipped to help survivors and address violence against women and girls. Thanks to the community support we have in Richmond the service receives a high rate of self-referrals; for example in our outreach services this is 26% compared to 15% across Refuge’s outreach services nationally. “I will always tell people what this service has done for me – it was the biggest help I received since being in this country.” Survivor of abuse who accessed support in Richmond.

New Refuge Service in Hillingdon
New Refuge Service in Hillingdon

We are delighted to announce that we opened a new refuge service in Hillingdon at the beginning of March. This service can accommodate up to seven women and 14 children at any one time. The service is staffed by a deputy manager, two refuge workers and a child support worker. During the first few months, the staff have been busy supporting residents, making links with external agencies and agreeing referral pathways so that our clients can easily access any additional support they might need. The child support worker is running activities for children such as cooking and homework club as well as days out during the school holidays. Our clients have been enjoying regular house meetings, coffee mornings and various activities including a summer get together for Eid and a Tech Abuse Empowerment Workshop. As well as providing support for women and children, we are making various improvements to the refuge building to make it as comfortable as possible. The lounge and some of the bedrooms have been redecorated and refurnished. The utility room has had a makeover making it easier to use as well as creating more space. The garden has been cleared and children’s equipment repaired so that all families can spend more time playing outside. We have been approached by the local Middlesex Federation of the Women’s Institute who have fundraised for the refuge.  We plan to spend the money they have kindly raised on a new dining table.  We’d like to say a special thank you for their support.

The Transformative Power of Environments on Survivors’ Recovery
The Transformative Power of Environments on Survivors’ Recovery

A refuge is so much more than just a roof over a woman’s head At the beginning of the year Refuge won a bid to develop its first psychologically informed refuge service in Westminster, London. The service comprises five refuges which support 35 single women or families at any one time. As we develop this service we have been giving much thought to creating an environment in the refuges which provides a culture of well-being and a sense of physical and emotional safety for clients and staff. Our specialist staff have consulted women about the refuge environment – with a view to transforming these temporary homes to be as welcoming, safe and supportive as possible. Initial feedback from survivors explained that the way information was displayed in the houses made them feel more institutional than homely, so we have worked to find other ways to communicate key information and fill the house walls with art and pictures, homely comfortable furniture – especially good quality beds. Colour schemes have also been chosen carefully in an effort to create a welcoming, tranquil environment. Working in partnership with our corporate fundraising team we have secured additional support for the service thanks to John Lewis & Partners generosity. The community team at John Lewis & Partners, Oxford Street, have gone above and beyond in their efforts to support this service which culminated in a £10,000 grant to spend on furnishings. Residents are delighted with this fabulous award. Thanks to McGlashan’s Interiors, a London-based, family business, owned and lead by Andrea McGlashan, many other furnishings have been donated. Andrea’s hands on support has transformed the refuges to become beautiful welcoming homes which has been much appreciated by all the residents. This project is work in process and will evolve over time as we continue to consult with women to ensure we create the most welcoming and supportive environment as we possibly can.

Refuge response to proroguing Parliment
Refuge response to proroguing Parliment

In response to the Government’s announcement that it intends to suspend Parliament in September, Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: ‘The announcement today from the Prime Minister that the current parliamentary session will end in mid-September has the potential to erase years of work towards the Domestic Abuse Bill. The Bill, introduced by Theresa May and awaiting a second reading, aims to put in place much needed changes to current legislation and save lives. Legislation introduced in the last parliamentary session can be very simply 'carried over’. We hope that the Prime Minister will make an urgent and unequivocal commitment to ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill is carried over. While parliament is currently dominated by Brexit, we must not let this crucial piece of legislation, years in the making, be pushed into the long grass. Every week across England and Wales, two women are killed by their current or former partner. Addressing violence against women and girls must be a priority and the Domestic Abuse Bill is the vehicle by which the Government can cement its commitment to so doing. We hope that the Prime Minister will publicly confirm that his Government’s commitment to addressing violence against women and girls is unwavering by making a clear commitment to ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill will be moved into the next parliamentary session. For more information contact the Refuge press team on 0207 395 7731. About Refuge: Refuge is a frontline service provider. It runs specialist domestic violence services across the country and opened the world’s first refuge in 1971. On any given day, it supports more than 6,500 women and children escaping all forms of violence against women and girls.

Statement on Home Office decision to award National Domestic Violence Helpline grant to Refuge
Statement on Home Office decision to award National Domestic Violence Helpline grant to Refuge

Refuge is pleased to announce the Home Office has awarded Refuge a grant of £1.2 million to run the National Domestic Violence Helpline from November 2019 to March 2022. Refuge has run the National Domestic Violence Helpline since 2003, in partnership with Women’s Aid. Last year, the Home Office re-tendered the service and Women’s Aid decided to bid independently. Following a competitive process, Refuge was awarded the contract to continue running the helpline. Refuge will run the Helpline in partnership with Women’s Aid until 31 October 2019, from which point the service will be run by Refuge only. Callers will receive specialist support from the same dedicated, highly-trained team of Helpline staff and volunteers and the Freephone number will remain the same. Refuge has also secured additional support to develop new digital and mobile resources to empower even more victims. This includes increasing capacity to answer more live calls, developing web-chat services and publishing information on social media channels to widen the availability of the helpline service. For more information, please read the Home Office’s press statement. Refuge looks forward to continuing and expanding this life-saving service for women. If you or anybody you know thinks they may be experiencing domestic violence, please call the Freephone 24/7 National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.   About Refuge: Refuge is a frontline service provider. It runs specialist domestic violence services across the country and opened the world’s first refuge in 1971. On any given day, it supports more than 6,500 women and children escaping all forms of violence against women and girls.              

Refuge's Top 5 Asks for the Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge's Top 5 Asks for the Domestic Abuse Bill

Refuge has played an essential role in influencing the content of the Domestic Abuse Bill and continues to campaign for the changes our front line staff and the survivors we support tell us they need. The Government’s stated objective for the Bill is to transform the response to domestic abuse – which Refuge is fully behind. However, we are concerned that the Bill in its current form focuses too much on the justice system and policing, leaving out swathes of policy areas that need reform in order to better protect, and meet the needs of, survivors. Listening to the survivors we support and our front line staff, we identified five priority areas for change:   Universal Credit – the single payment structure of Universal Credit facilitates and exacerbates economic abuse by potentially handing over control of the household’s entire income overnight. Additionally, the automatic five-week delay in receiving the first Universal Credit impoverishes women and their children at the point of fleeing, making women dependent on food banks and other charitable resources. As such, Refuge is calling for separate Universal Credit payments by default and for survivors to be exempt from paying back any advanced Universal Credit payments they access while waiting for the first payment. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Access to Housing – survivors who have fled their home in order to escape abuse are not automatically entitled to priority need for settled housing. This makes it incredibly difficult for survivors without dependent children to rebuild their lives in a new home, and can serve to trap them with their abuser. We are calling for extending priority need for housing to all survivors fleeing abuse. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Gendered definition of domestic abuse – the Domestic Abuse Bill will define domestic abuse in law for the first time ever, including economic abuse. This definition will be instrumental in informing the public, and professionals tasked with responding to domestic abuse. Refuge therefore thinks it is essential that the definition reflects the reality of this crime, i.e. that it disproportionately impacts women. Refuge is therefore calling for the definition of domestic abuse to be gendered. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Migrant women – a huge number of migrant women have ‘no recourse to public funds’, barring them from accessing benefits, including housing support, which is essential when fleeing abuse. Some women, i.e. those on spousal visas, can apply for the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC), an exemption from the no recourse to public funds category for three months, while they apply for indefinite leave to remain. Refuge is calling for protection from VAWG to be accessible to all women, regardless of immigration status, by extending the DDVC to apply to all women. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Funding for specialist services – specialist domestic abuse service provision does not meet demand, with women and children turned away from refuges due to lack of space every day. Refuge is calling for a long-term, comprehensive, sustainable funding system, so that all survivors and their children can access the support they need. Read our briefing one this issue here.   Read more on the The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee report. Having listened to Refuge they have made some strong recommendations to the Government on the Bill.

Violence Against Women and Girls Organisations ask Prime Minister Contenders to pledge on policies to end abuse
Violence Against Women and Girls Organisations ask Prime Minister Contenders to pledge on policies to end abuse

Refuge, one of 30 women’s groups today wrote to Conservative Party leader candidates Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson asking them to make specific pledges to tackle domestic and sexual violence if they become the next Prime Minister. The organisations, who work supporting survivors of all forms of violence against women and girls across the UK, are asking Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson to: Ensure the draft Domestic Violence Bill becomes law and is delivered; Renew the cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy from 2020 onwards – this includes life-saving work from ensuring hospital there are domestic violence workers in A&E departments, to advising on the framework for the way schools teach Relationships & Sex Education, and critical work to end forced marriage and FGM; Give Prime Ministerial support to the Home Office and Ministry of Justice ‘Rape Review’ of falling prosecution rates as it publishes its recommendations this year, and ensure its recommendations are carried out; Assemble a cross-departmental team to look at how national government can recognise the critical value of local women’s support services and support work to ensure they are sustainable before any more are lost. The letter says: “We are living in an era of enormous changes in public recognition of and attitudes towards gender based violence. Reporting to the police, and help-seeking from local support services, are at their highest ever levels and the #MeToo movement has exposed the huge scale of sexual harassment and violence. We hope you share with us a real desire to drive these social changes further, so that a real end to violence against women and girls might be in sight. “There is already a significant legislative and policy agenda under way to prevent and tackle gender-based violence, and we want to ask you as a candidate for Prime Minister to commit to maintaining and building on this work. The Home Office-led Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy is a critical framework, encouraging all government departments to play their part in ending abuse so that it is never again seen as purely a policing matter. It extends to the introduction of compulsory Relationships and Sex Education in 2020, the new White Paper on online harms, and much of the proposed content of the Domestic Abuse Bill, including the setting up of a critical new Commissioner in this area. “At a time of enormous political change in the UK, we believe that violence against women and girls deserves political attention and leadership because of the damage it does to thousands of women’s and girls’ lives and all those who love them, which is why we have taken the time to write. We hope to hear from you soon.” We hope to receive replies soon to their letters, and will publish any replies here and on our social media channels.   Womens-Groups-Letter-to-Jeremy-Hunt-MP Womens-Groups-Letter-to-Boris-Johnson-MP-   Response from Jeremy Hunt: 6th July 2019 "Thank you for contacting me on behalf of 30 women’s organisations and campaigners. The UK is a world leader in efforts to prevent violence against women and girls and as Prime Minister I would seek to continue the good progress that we have made. Although the UK’s exit from the EU may dominate the headlines, efforts to end sexual and gender‑based violence continue with the remarkable work that your organisations do. As you will be aware, the UK’s £25 million programme What Works to Prevent Violence programme is the world’s largest investment in research focused on preventing violence against women and girls. I am proud of this but I also want to ensure that services in this country are properly funded. That is why I want a strong economy and growing businesses to support the services that the most vulnerable women in our society rely on. The Domestic Abuse Bill is an historic piece of legislation which I fully support. I am aware, however, that conviction rates and prosecution for sexual offences have fallen. The Government has been collecting evidence as part of the violence against women and girls strategy refresh to inform future policy making and my ministerial colleagues are currently looking at the evidence. I look forward to the conclusions that will be published in due course. There is always more that can be done and you can rest assured that you have my full commitment to work to end violence against women and girls should I become Prime Minister. Wherever you live in the country and whatever the abuse you face, everyone should have access to the services that they need. Yours sincerely Jeremy Hunt"  

The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Report Overview
The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Report Overview

The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee, a group of MPs and peers who are responsible for scrutinising the draft Domestic Abuse Bill published by the Government earlier this year, today published its report and recommendations to the Government. We are delighted that the Committee has listened to Refuge, and has made some strong recommendations to the Government. Gendered definition of domestic abuse The draft domestic abuse Bill will define domestic abuse in law for the first time. As this will be an important awareness and understanding raising tool, the Committee took lots of evidence on this issue and debated it extensively, Refuge is firmly of the view that unless the definition of domestic abuse reflects the reality of this crime – that violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of gender inequality – society cannot hope to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse. Ultimately, the Committee agreed with Refuge that failing to account for the gendered nature of domestic abuse assumes a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach which fails to meet the needs of survivors. The Committee therefore recommended: The Government introduce a new clause into the draft Domestic Abuse Bill: when applying the definition of domestic abuse public authorities providing services must have regard for the gendered nature of abuse and how gender intersects with race, age, disability, and other protected characteristics of service users in the provision of services. Public authorities must be required to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of domestic abuse on women and girls when developing strategies and policies in this area. Economic abuse Refuge welcomes that the draft domestic abuse Bill defines economic abuse as domestic abuse for the first time. However, Refuge and other organisations were concerned that the draft Bill did not go further and by seeking to reform aspects of the social security system, which can facilitate economic abuse. Refuge has consistently argued for the  issues around single Universal Credit payments and advance payments to be addressed so the Bill can help reduce economic abuse and dependence on perpetrators. Fortunately, the Committee picked out Universal Credit as a particular issue addressing it right at the beginning of the report. The Committee made the following recommendations which Refuge urges the Government to adopt: Ministers should consider whether advance payments should be converted into grants that are not repayable, so as not to impoverish women and children who flee abuse. The Government reviews the impact of its welfare reform programme on victims of domestic abuse. Specifically, this review should examine how different approaches to splitting the Universal Credit single household payment might mitigate against the effects of domestic abuse, given that single payments facilitate and exacerbate economic abuse. Funding The MHCLG announcement on their refuge funding proposals and consultation came out as the Committee was taking evidence. The Committee welcomed the new proposed legal duty and additional funding, but said they shared the concerns of Refuge and others that the duty needed to make sure specialist refuges and not generic accommodation-based provision are provided, that refuges need to be able to operate as a national network without imposing local connection restrictions, and that specific services, including by-and-for services are funded. They also noted the concern Refuge raised on the statutory duty possibly leading to a rationing of services depending on whether women are assessed as ‘high risk’. The Committee made the following recommendations: The Government to work closely with refuge providers, local authorities, and other stakeholders to ensure that refuges can operate as a national network. The Government needs to provide clarity on how non-accommodation based support services such as community-based advocacy, IDVA services helpline and counselling support services will be provided and funded under the new statutory duty proposed by MHCLG. Also recommended that the Government works closely with refuge providers, local authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that these essential services are included in future service commissioning plans in order to ensure full compliance with the Istanbul Convention. Migrant women/NRPF In Refuge’s written evidence, along with many other women’s organisations and campaigns such as Southall Black Sisters and Step Up Migrant Women, we highlighted the particular vulnerability of migrant women, including how fear of deportation can make women reluctant to seek support, and perpetrators’ weaponisation of their partners’ insecure immigration status. The Committee recommended: Establish a firewall at the levels of policy and practice to separate reporting of crime and access to support services from immigration control. The Government explores ways to support migrant survivors of abuse, to ensure all these vulnerable victims of crime can access protection and support whilst their application for indefinite leave to remain is considered by the Government. The Government should extend the three-month time limit for support for migrant women with no recourse to public funds to six months in light of the specific difficulties for victims highlighted by specialist services. To include a non-discrimination clause in the Bill, to reflect Article 4, paragraph 3 of the Istanbul Convention. Other key recommendations Children: the Bill to be amended so that the status of children as victims of domestic abuse that occurs in their household is recognised; the Government consider amending the Children Act definition of harm to include the trauma caused to children by witnessing coercive control between adults in the household Police bail: the Government to bring forward legislation to increase the length of time suspects can be released on pre-charge bail in domestic abuse cases; re-balance the test for allowing extensions to pre-charge bail to give full weight to the protection of the victim from the risk of adverse behaviour by the suspect; amend the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to create a presumption that  suspects under investigation for domestic abuse, sexual assault, or other significant safeguarding issues only be released from police custody on bail, unless it is clearly not necessary for the protection of the victim Special measures: victims of domestic abuse appearing in the family courts should have automatic eligibility for special measures Cross-examination: the ban is extended so that it applies wherever there are other forms of evidence of domestic abuse, as in the legal aid regime threshold What happens next? The report is submitted to the Government. Ministers and civil servants will consider the recommendations in the report and determine what changes they will make to the draft domestic abuse Bill. When this process concludes, the Government will introduce a domestic abuse Bill into either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, where it will be debated by both MPs and Peers, who will be able to argue for amendments to the Bill. Refuge will continue to work closely with all politicians and officials involved in the progress of the Bill, so that we can achieve a piece of legislation which protects survivors. ________________________________________

Reaching new heights: how a team from HMP East Sutton Park took on Three Peaks and raised £3,000!
Reaching new heights: how a team from HMP East Sutton Park took on Three Peaks and raised £3,000!

Earlier this year, a team from HMP East Sutton Park in Kent took on the Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for Refuge. In just three days, Stacey, John, Jo and Matt beat Great Britain’s three highest peaks and raised £3,000 - as if that were not enough, they even found time to write a blog about their adventure. Ben Nevis We began our ascent at 7am after an overnight stop in Carlisle. The track up Ben Nevis mainly consists of rocky steps made for people with exceptionally long legs, which none of us have! Despite our early battles with uneven surfaces and midge bites, we made good progress and soon reached the waterfall, marking the half-way point. Being late June, the weather had been pleasant, yet ascending the zig-zag path to the summit, we were soon enveloped in mist. As we neared the summit, we crossed the snow line – and after a quick snowball fight – we made our way to the top of Britain’s highest mountain. Scafell Pike After a six-hour drive to Scafell Pike and a good night’s rest, we began to climb the trail to our next summit without incident. On nearing it, three of us decided to scramble up ‘Mickledore’ gully, but John took the better-trodden route to the top! We all met at the top, and having each eaten a peanut butter and jam bagel (recommended for all mountaineers!), we quickly descended. Next stop: Wales. Snowden It was a mixture of emotions when we found ourselves standing at the beginning of the miners’ track at the foot of Snowden. We were looking forward to resting our legs – but we also didn’t want the experience to end! As we travelled along the miners’ track, we stopped a few times to take in the magnificent views, and cool down in the lakes. After lunch at the summit, surrounded by spectacular views, we climbed over Crib y Ddysgal, and continued towards Bwlch Coch. Here, we decided to each attempt a different descent before meeting back in the car park for well-earned drinks. We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will, no doubt, return to the mountains again. The best news was that we raised £3,000 for Refuge, and knowing that we have contributed towards helping women and children experiencing domestic abuse is the greatest achievement. Everyone at Refuge would like to thank Jo, Stacey, Matt and John – and all our amazing fundraisers - for their incredible hard work and commitment! Feeling inspired? Perhaps a little more sedentary, it was nevertheless a busy summer for the Refuge community and events fundraising team, who were working away in London on a new exciting suite of fundraising activities, from skydives to trekking and overseas events, like The Great Wall of China. They hope there will be something to inspire everyone. The team also attended the annual National Student Fundraising Conference in Bristol in August where they met experienced and passionate student Raising and Giving (RAG) officers and spoke to them all about Refuge’s work. Autumn is set to be another exciting time at Refuge. Our dedicated runners recently tackled the Royal Parks Half Marathon and at the end of the month is #TeamRefuge’s first-ever spooktacular London Halloween Walk on 27 October. For more information on how you can get involved, visit our events webpages. With thanks to Stacey, John, Jo and Matt for providing the photos for this blog.