Home Secretary Amber Rudd visits Leamington to meet victims of domestic violence and hear concerns over funding

Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP (middle) speaking to journalists about her visit
Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP (middle) speaking to journalists about her visit

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP visited Leamington today (Thursday November 30) to meet victims of domestic violence and hear their concerns over funding for services in Warwickshire.

After meeting with senior police officers at Warwickshire Justice Centre in Newbold Terrace about what services are currently provided for victims in Warwickshire, Ms Rudd met Jill (not her real name), who was seriously assaulted by her husband in 2010 after a nine-year relationship of more subtle abuse.

Jill was able to recover by accessing support services in Warwickshire. She is now a qualified health visitor in the county and often points victims of domestic violence to services they can access for help.

Speaking about her ordeal, Jill said: "I spoke to some colleagues who referred me to the Warwickshire Domestic Abuse Service. They were really helpful and arranged for me to go in for a meeting. I was made to feel very welcome.

"They gave me lots of advice about how to keep myself safe and formulating an exit plan."

But she was worried about the level of funding Warwickshire currently receives, and she told Ms Rudd about how important domestic violence services are for women.

Jill added: "For me, it did work well, but this was in 2010. Services have changed, and funding's been pulled. At the moment, it's difficult. It needs to be better I feel.

"If the funding gets cut and services get cut there's less support for these women. The women that I work with - we can support them to a degree but you need those specialist services. We can only do so much."

Since 2010, police forces across England and Wales have had to deal with large cuts. The number of police officers has dropped nationally by around 13 per cent, and in 2012, Warwickshire and West Mercia Police had to form an 'alliance' to reduce their costs by £30 million.

And a new model of funding for refuges proposed by the Government, which will pass on the cost to local authorities instead of being linked to the welfare system, has been heavily criticised by charity Women's Aid.

A survey conducted by the charity found the planned reforms would force 39 per cent of refuges across the country to close, and would put more than 2,000 extra women at risk.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Demand for refuges already far outstrips supply and the proposed funding model could be the breaking point. Refuges will be faced with the awful reality of either turning more women and children away or closing their doors forever.

"To ignore the advice of experts and put these vital services at risk would be a dangerous, and a potentially fatal move. Only by creating a long-term and sustainable funding model for a national network of refuges can we ensure that every woman and child can safely escape domestic abuse.”

After speaking to Jill and hearing her concerns over funding, Ms Rudd said Warwickshire Police has had a 'small increase' in their funding of just over £2 million since last year which will help them deliver services.

She added: "When I spoke to the Police and Crime Commissoner (Philip Seccombe) today, he told me how he'd just opened a new refuge. That is to do with an increase in demand.

"I understand the pressures that are out there, and I understand the pressure on policing.

"Particularly in this sector, what we've seen is a real increase in recording (of cases of domestic violence), and that's a good thing. I want people to be able to come forward and speak out and say they've been abused. I want the support to be there for them.

"So I would say to local people we're determined to make sure the police do get sufficient funds to do the good job they've been doing."

Anyone affected by domestic violence should call the Warwickshire Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 4081552.