Women's Aid says housing benefit cap a huge threat to refuges

The charity says the majority of domestic abuse refuges expect to close unless they are given an exemption on plans to cap benefit levels in supported housing

Women's refuges: threat from the cap
Women's refuges: threat from the cap

More than two-thirds of domestic abuse refuges in England and Wales expect to close unless they are given an exemption to plans to introduce a cap on housing benefit levels in the supported housing sector, figures show.

A survey of refuges in England carried out by Women’s Aid found that 67 per cent said they would close if they were not granted an exemption and 87 per cent said they would not be able to continue with their existing level of provision.

The same exercise in Wales, conducted by Welsh Women’s Aid, found that 69 per cent of refuges would be forced to close and none of them would be able to continue providing services at their existing level.

Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid said that, for some refuges, the income they received from housing benefit covered up to 90 per cent of rental costs and service charges.

Under the proposed cap, the funds that refuges would be able to receive through housing benefit would fall from about £300 a room per week to about £60 a week by April 2018.

In addition to an exemption from the cap, the two bodies have called on the government to commit to finding a sustainable funding solution for refuges.

The actor Julie Walters, who is a patron of Women’s Aid, has given her backing to the campaign.

"Refuges save lives; it is as simple as that," she said. "The government must exempt them from these welfare reforms or live with the consequences of more women being killed and more families traumatised by domestic abuse."

The survey included responses from a sample of 74 domestic abuse services in England and Wales.

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