by NADEEM BADSHAH
NEW chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged to focus on “prevention” and long-term strategies to support vulnerable people in his Budget on March 11.
Charities working with domestic abuse victims, the elderly and the disabled have called on Sunak, who was given the job after Sajid Javid’s shock resignation last week, to also address the major budget cuts suffered by support groups in recent years.
Councils slashed funding for domestic violence refuges by almost a quarter between 2010 and 2017 and last year the Women’s Aid charity found that 64 per cent of all referrals to refuges were declined.
It comes as housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a £16.5 million fund on Monday (17) for 75 projects to help domestic violence victims which could help 43,000 people to find temporary accommodation.
Yasmin Khan, founder of the Halo Project which supports victims of forced marriage and honour based violence, told Eastern Eye: “It should be around prevention, preventing harm and abuse in our communities.
“The estimated cost to the economy of domestic violence is £66 billion. Looking at prevention rather than reaction would be cost-effective.
“Are schools resources to deal with trauma? When a child’s behaviour raises the red flag, putting resources into support available in schools rather than emergency planning.”
Khan added: “Frontline services are being cut in social care. It requires charities to pick up care and neglect issues on a shoestring. I hope the [chancellor] is listening to what is needed and the crisis that public services are facing.
“There are huge inequalities working with marginalised groups in health, education and employment. A long-term approach has not been considered at the moment.”
Government figures showed that in the year to June 2019, almost 24,000 people were made homeless in England directly because of domestic abuse.
In England, charities are lobbying for a change in the law so anyone who is homeless because of domestic abuse is considered in priority need for settled housing like in Wales and Scotland. The bill is expected to be brought back to parliament before Easter.
Mandy Sanghera, a government adviser on disability issues, said helping the elderly and those with disabilities should be a priority in the budget.
She told Eastern Eye: “The Joseph Rowntree Foundation looked at the impact of the governments cuts on poorer communities. It said that local authorities are at a tipping point and staff and services face unsustainable stress.
“The cuts are contributing to rising levels of inequalities. We need to explore long term, preventative solutions by involving clients.
“We need to find real a balance between balancing the books and managing austerity.”
In the 2017 budget, the government announced an extra £20m for groups battling domestic violence and abuse, which increased the total state funding for the initiative to £100m.
Meanwhile, a report from Women’s Aid in December estimated it will cost almost £400m a year to fill the national funding gap in domestic abuse services. And demand for women’s abuse support services rose nationally by 83 per cent between 2007 and 2017, while funding from government and donors almost halved in the same period.
A study in February by the Wish Centre charity in Blackburn, Lancashire, warned of the “systemic issues and blockages” which leave child victims without proper support, adding that “too few funders” want to support work with young people.
The Wish Centre’s CEO, Shigufta Khan, said: “The resources just aren’t there in the volume needed, the systems and co-ordination between services aren’t good enough and children are being failed.
“The problems are experienced by one generation of victims and just get passed on to the next.”
In October, the government unveiled plans to place a legal duty on local authorities to deliver life-saving support to domestic abuse survivors with £15m funding for refuges and safe accommodation projects.
A spokesman for the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The government is committed to ensuring all victims, including children, affected by domestic abuse receive the support they need, when they need it.
“Through the Domestic Abuse Bill, we are introducing a new statutory duty on councils to ensure all victims, including children, have access to safety and support within safe accommodation.”
Sunak has ruled out delaying the Budget which will go ahead on March 11 as planned.
He wrote on Twitter on Tuesday (18): “Cracking on with preparations for my first Budget on March 11. It will deliver on the promises we made to the British people – levelling up and unleashing the country’s potential.”