Women’s Refuge suffers budget cut

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A vital refuge for victims of domestic abuse in Bury St Edmunds has had its funding cut by a third and faces an uncertain future about who will run the service.

The Women’s Aid Centre in the town supported 37 families by providing accommodation last year but budget cuts have meant it has lost £26,000 of funding this year from Suffolk County Council.

The cutback in core funding comes as Suffolk County Council has agreed a £2million cut in its supporting people services,

This is part of an overall budget cutback of £38.2million.

In October there will be a tendering process for organisations to run the domestic abuse service next year. The refuge offers safe and supportive accommodation to victims of abuse and their children as well as outreach support. It has been operating in the town for the past 40 years.

Currently Suffolk Adult Care Services runs the refuge and manager of 21 years Annie Munson said there was concern that it could be taken over by a non specialist organisation.

Mrs Munson said: “We’ve done the job for 40 years. We don’t wish to think we are more special than other care givers but we do feel to cut our funding and give us to a non specialist is dangerous. We’re dealing with protecting women from violence.”

Christina Dye, chairman of the trustees said: “Even if we don’t get the £26,000 we will continue to provide a service which is of a very high quality and we are trying to seek funding from elsewhere. It’s an anxious time but we are very confident in what we provide.”

Cllr Sandy Martin, leader of Suffolk County Council Labour group which attempted to decrease some of the cuts using council reserves, said: “One of the saddest things about debating the budget is that it has been about money and not about specific services that are going to disappear.

“If some of the Conservative councillors had realised what that meant on the ground I think they would have been horrified.

“Cracks are already very large. I don’t believe in the financial imperative. The Tory administration is in a mind set that we have to cut year after year. We have massive reserves and it’s about time we reinstated reserve spending.”

Cllr Martin said that competitive tendering put smaller organisations at a disadvantage as larger companies were more experienced in the field.

“It is a shame that organisations like Bury’s Women’s Aid have to spend large amounts of time here instead of doing what they are best at, caring for women involved in domestic violence.”

As well as providing accommodation the Bury organisation which has charitable status provides outreach support to women, child therapy and runs a programme to help women recognise aspects of domination.