Domestic violence cases soar as funding is cut in Birmingham

Domestic violence - Ella Paton, Viewfinder Studios

Domestic violence – Ella Paton, Viewfinder Studios

Domestic violence “high-risk” cases in Birmingham have nearly doubled in the last 4 years, according to an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Birmingham Eastside.

However, the spending on domestic violence services by Birmingham City Council (BCC) hasn’t seen the same increase.

According to data obtained from Birmingham City Council using Freedom of Information laws, in 2013 there were 682 cases of domestic violence deemed as “high-risk”. In the four years since, this number has increased by 97%, with 1,343 cases in the last financial year.

Despite this, the budget connected to domestic violence only grew 16%, from £2.9 million to £3.3 million in the same period.

Women’s refuges

The findings come as part of a nationwide investigation into refuge funding from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and their local partners.

The project found councils across England have cut their spending on women’s refuges, leading to vulnerable women being turned away.

In Birmingham women’s refuge spending has actually increased during the last five years, by 7% increase at the same time as cases almost doubled.

A refuge manager in West Midlands told the Bureau that the most difficult thing is to retain and motivate the highly skilled team. This statement depicts that the instability is a problem on the ground:

“In a tender, we might get told that 50% of our services have been cut, then you have to turn around and tell your staff. You might lose your best staff because they can’t hold on in limbo for three months.”

In the past two years, when domestic violence cases increased by 36%, there was no increase in the expenditure on women’s refuges and domestic violence services.

“We can support people from death to life, can offer them court advice, get their confidence up. So many things can be lost without that funding. The stress levels have risen because of our ever changing demands of funding,” the refuge manager added.

The numbers in refuge accommodation also remained steady, there have been no added support units since 2015. In 2012, when number of domestic violence cases were just 473, there were 118 refuge accommodation units.

Last year, when the cases number almost doubled, there were only 143.

Central government to take responsibility

Jess Philips, MP for Yardley and chair of the APPG on domestic violence, said that in Birmingham hundreds of women are turned away from refuges every year.

“The government keeps saying that they are investing tens of millions into domestic violence services but this is not being felt on the ground,” she told The Bureau.

Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Katie Ghosereinforced the importance of this service. She told The Bureau:

“For survivors of domestic abuse being able to flee to a refuge is often a matter of life or death. On average, two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales.”

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Co-Director of UK Women’s Budget Group said:

“It is simply not acceptable that in a rich country like the UK women and children are being turned away from sometimes life-saving services because of cuts to funding.”

She thinks that the central government should take responsibility. She says that between 2010 and 2015, central government funding to local government fell by 50%.

Since then, there has been a further 30% cut in funding.

“And these cuts have not been shared evenly – local authorities in the most deprived areas have lost far more than local authorities in richer areas,” Stephenson added.

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