Recently, women’s aid groups are uniting together with politicians to campaign for change in the current domestic refuge centre situation. Many campaigners are challenged by new regulations and the cease of service of some refuges. There may be several opinions and proposals to take into consideration when observing this situation. Whilst the ideas and views from those in power may contrast each other, a fundamental aim for each party involved is the effective protection of those faced with domestic challenges. With this in mind, the current refuge situation may be viewed as a journey to a revolutionary modernisation of the refuge system.
Many of the refuges were set up in the 1970s, as part of the feminist movement. They accept women only. Local authorities organising the changes are challenged by this fact and call for alternative methods of prevention, which include men. This highlights a revolutionary aspect of the situation, which may modernise this form of support whilst adhering to human rights equality laws and potentially altering acceptance in society.
Women’s group’s campaigners are challenged by the fact that local authorities are choosing to replace refuges with accommodation provided by housing associations, for which users pay an agreed fee. However, this may provide individuals with independence and security. Some authorities are also proposing preventative community support strategies, whereby healthcare professionals visit individuals challenged by domestic issues in their own homes. This may prevent future domestic situations and far from challenge individuals with regards to housing. The aim behind this strategy is to limit the challenges they face whilst providing individuals with any information and support they require. These varied suggestions may contribute to a combination of methods available in communities.
Women’s groups and charities however have hailed the efficacy of refuges in the ability to bring women together who have a shared understanding of domestic challenges, provide them with specialist, therapeutic support and give their children Ofsted registered care if required. Sandra Horley, the chief executive of the charity Refuge, expressed the need for the refuges in a recent interview, stating that often within them, ‘lives are transformed,’ For her, this is due to the availability of specialist refuge workers who support women to stay safe, access to health services, legal advocacy and immigration advice. This is exactly the sort of specialist care provided by East Thames who have different safe-houses for specific needs. For those campaigning for refuges to remain open, Sandra’s words may come as a comfort as the coverage may allow individuals to recognise the need for refuges in our communities and the difference between them and the proposed government strategies.
Whilst, through the inclusion of men into the system, the equality factor of the government’s proposals may be celebrated, research shows that a significantly higher percentage of women are faced with domestic challenges when compared with men. It may be acknowledged that men should be incorporated into the support strategies; however, the degree to which this is operated may be observed to reach a happy medium.
The Haven in Coventry, a refuge which has been open for forty three years has had its funding largely reduced to create accommodation which will include men. The Haven and several other refuges in the UK are also under new policies to reserve places for men although the refuge has received no male referrals so far. This brings the new strategies into the limelight and allows policymakers to reflect on proposals on a journey to deciphering a method, which will be most suitable.
This situation may be viewed as a modern rebirth of the domestic refuge centre system. The coverage on the topic may aid the situation in being debated and discussed by policy makers and those in power who may now be readily informed to develop a system to suit each requirement of those affected by domestic challenges. Polly Neate, the chief executive of Women’s aid calls for ‘a national network and national funding to support it.’ These words may encourage those campaigning for change to come together and create a reformed, revolutionised system to reach a shared goal; protecting and preventing more individuals from challenging domestic situations.
What other institutions might be designed to offer the support for citizens faced with domestic situation challenges?