Refuge centre faces future funding crisis

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A refuge centre which has helped women since 1974 is facing its own crisis with changes in funding which could see a reduction in its services.

The Bury St Edmunds Women’s Aid Centre, which helps women and children seeking refuge from domestic abuse, currently receives £110,000 a year from the Government’s Supporting People Programme.

But, next year that programme is likely to go out to tender and staff at the centre, which operates from a secret location, are concerned about the effect that could have.

“Our future, as of next September, is a little uncertain,” said Annie Munson, centre manager.

Although Mrs Munson is confident the refuge service would continue, she is worried about the resettlement service and freedom programme the centre offers which, she says, have proved vital in preventing recurring survivor-victim cycles.

She said: “Since the resettlement work and the freedom programme, we have had a next to nil return rate. Before then, we could see the girls coming back year on year.

“They would return to the perpetrator or he’d worm his way back in, or they’d find a another perpetrator. It would be a shame to see it go back to what it was before.”

Last year, a total of 32 women and 32 children became residents of the centre, with a further 59 helped on an outreach basis and even more through its other services.

Residents usually stay about six months, during which time they are put through a 12-week freedom programme to help them understand the mind of perpetrators and what it was about themselves which made them vulnerable.

After leaving the centre, they continue to receive support with such things as managing finances and becoming integrated into the community through a resettlement service.

“We have no doubt that somebody could come in here and say they could run it for less but that would mean snipping off all the frilly bits around the edges,” said Mrs Munson.

The centre is also in need of a new minibus to help with moving victims’ belongings, transporting families and taking them on outings. It has already raised £8,000 but needs a further £7-12,000.

To contact the centre, email bsewacentre@btconnect.com or call 01284 753085.