This information post has been written by a student volunteer for Foundation. It’s explores Domestic Abuse and current legislation impacting on services that support victims. It has been written and shared to mark International Women’s Day

8th March 2017

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women, unity, reflection, advocacy and action globally. On this day, women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. Women all over the world encourage one another to stand up for themselves and be bold.

Therefore, the theme for 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. This is a call for a change that encourages women to actively take part in something that will help in making the world a more ‘gender inclusive’ place.

How you can get involved

Women all over the world are planning to go on a strike on Wednesday, March 8th. Moreover, here in Leeds, there will be two events taking place between 8th and 10th of March 2017.

What do we do?

According to a 2014/15 report carried out by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), 84% of victims of domestic violence incidents were women. Moreover, in 2015 on average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales (Office for National Statistics citing Homicide Index, Home Office). Therefore, one our main aims at Foundation is to help those affected by domestic abuse by giving information, offering advice, help, support and counselling through a range of schemes and programmes in partnership with an amazing network of external agencies. We are committed to ensuring that every single voice is heard helping women rebuild their life after domestic abuse.

Last year we supported 450 individuals and families who were victims or survivors of domestic abuse with customers in those services reporting improvement of mental health (93.5%), choice control and involvement (98%) and reduced risk of harm from others (98%). Our teams are supporting our customers to stay resolute and strong. A customer success story tells the story of Gabby and her struggle with the constant abuse by her boyfriend Leo and her refusal to get help and support. We never gave up on her and she finally started to accept our support. Now she is becoming stronger and stronger and is determined to be a positive role model for other women subjected to violence. This is one of the most important goals of the International Women’s Day – to connect women all over the world and encourage them to stand up for themselves and the rights of those around them.

New law and House Benefit cap

The Prime Minister, Theresa May launched a new law to transform the way the UK is dealing with domestic violence by improving the support and treatment of victims and preventing violent abusers from cross-examining ex-partners in court. This commitment from the government is highly appreciated by the Chief Executive of the charity Refuge – Sandra Horley (The Guardian, 2017).

However, another change in the government laws will affect Housing Benefit. From April 2017, those out of work between the ages of 18 and 21 will not be automatically entitled to claim housing benefit, parents whose children live with them will be excluded from this measure and vulnerable group will also be excluded, as will claimants who have been in continuous work for the preceding six months. This will save £35m a year from 2017, but how will it affect refuges for women escaping domestic abuse?

Despite the fact that government has said that it will ensure that certain groups are still able to get help with their housing costs, housing benefit is the “lifeblood of women’s refuges” and the housing benefit cap could mean the collapse of the Domestic Abuse sector that was started more than 40 years ago (The Guardian, 2017). A report by the Women’s Aid claims that this scenario would force 67% of women’s refuges to close and 87% of the refuges would be forced to scale down the support they give to families. A DWP spokesman said that they fully support the valuable work carried out by the domestic abuse refuges and they will conduct a review to ensure it is sustainable in the long term, however, the uncertainty around the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is affecting Refuge’s ability to plan for the future (The Guardian, 2017).

How can we help?

Despite this uncertainty, here, in Foundation, we focus on continuing to support our customers, seeing potential in everyone, ensuring that every individual we work with is given the basics they need to start and build a better, healthier and a more positive life. In addition to our housing services, we provide emotional and practical support and a wide range of opportunities such as volunteering, employment, environmental projects, sports activities and community activities We will continue to help our customers recognise their true value and learn new useful skills, thus creating a solid and sustainable future.