Wednesday, 25 November 2009

EVAW Coalition urges funding for women's services to deliver government violence against women strategy

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) warmly welcomes today’s announcement of a cross-government strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women including rape, domestic violence, trafficking and forced marriage. It sees this as a vital step towards the government fulfilling its human rights obligations and ending abuse of women and girls. All main political parties support a strategy, as does the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

But the Coalition warns that the strategy will only be effective if properly resourced and women will judge the strategy in terms of its impact on frontline women’s services. Women consulted for the strategy told the government they not only needed these services, but that, in some instances, they had literally saved their lives.

Professor Liz Kelly, EVAW Chair, said:

“Hundreds of thousands of women are affected by violence each year and the vast majority do not report to the police or disclose to health services. For too long there has been a fractured approach with key government departments, such as education and health, failing to meet their responsibilities. So we warmly welcome the government’s commitment to a more joined up approach that focuses on stopping violence and abuse of women and girls before it starts.

However, we know that women still face a postcode lottery when seeking support and much funding for existing services, such as rape crisis centres, refuges and services for ethnic minority women, is increasingly fragile. Women across the country will be dismayed if the strategy does not include a coherent plan for secure and sustainable funding for vital frontline women’s services”

The EVAW coalition says the strategy must;

• Join up policies and services across government at national and local levels, including on health, education and immigration.

• Stop violence and abuse of women in the first place through campaigns to change attitudes and work with young people in schools, rather than just picking up the pieces afterwards through the courts and criminal justice system.

• Guarantee adequate resources to deliver the strategy, particularly
funding for frontline women’s services that support victims, such asrefuges, rape crisis centres and services for ethnic minority women, many of which are threatened with closure.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

'Women's rights groups say government provisions not enough', 12th November

Today, the UK government announced a pilot scheme for women experiencing domestic violence but who cannot access safe housing and support due to their insecure immigration status.

The scheme will provide funding for a woman with ‘no recourse to public funds’ in a refuge for up to 40 days pending an application to remain in the UK under the Domestic Violence Rule. The scheme will run for three months, following which there will be a review as to its effectiveness.

Leading violence against women and human rights organisations give a cautious welcome to this initiative recognising that this is ‘a step in the right direction’. However they call on the government to ensure that all abused women have sufficient access to protection and safety when they need it for as long as they need it.

Hannana Siddiqui of SBS says:

‘We are pleased that our concerns about previous proposals to help abused and destitute women have been scrapped and that the government has recognised that women with insecure immigration status are entitled to protection and access to safety from violence and abuse. But we remain concerned that the proposals do not go far enough. We would like to see a more realistic and permanent solution that reflects the reality of women’s experiences of violence and abuse and the immense problems they encounter in accessing support, thus ending a stark choice between destitution or further violence ‘

Experience across the UK shows that supporting women with no recourse to public funds is a complex and time consuming process. Women fleeing domestic violence are often too traumatised by their experiences to tackle intrusive questioning on complex social, housing and immigration issues. Further, it is extremely difficult to access appropriate, timely legal aid solicitors and it takes considerable time to gather the necessary evidence, including police and medical reports that are necessary in order to qualify for permanent stay in the UK.

Campaigners are also deeply concerned that the short term scheme will only afford protection to women who have entered the UK as a spouse or intimate partner. It will not apply to women on student visas, over-stayers, those on temporary work permits, trafficked women and asylum seekers.

One London organisation this year found that only 9 out of 429 women with No Recourse to Public Funds were housed. It is impossible to say what happened to the remaining 420 – it is likely that they were compelled to return to violent and life threatening relationships.

Specialist black and minority women’s organisations and refuges, in particular, are feeling the impact of increased referrals for support for women with no recourse to public funds and decreasing funding streams. Under the pilot scheme, the burden will still fall to front-line women’s services that are already marginalised and under-funded.

This is why a permanent solution which offers adequate protection and support to all women is desperately needed. Under international human rights obligations, including recommendations under CEDAW and the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 2,3,8), States have a responsibility to act with due diligence, that is with due care and effort, to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all women within their jurisdiction.

‘If the Government is serious about meeting its human rights obligations, it must exempt women experiencing violence from the No Recourse rule and provide up-front, sustainable funding to women’s organisations.’ (Kara Beavis, Women’s Resource Centre )

We seek a pre-election commitment from the government to a permanent solution.

Women's Resource Centre, Campaign to Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds