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Housing benefit cap could be 'very dangerous' for women's refuges, charity warns

PUBLISHED: 15:08 12 September 2016

Refuges provide a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse

Refuges provide a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse

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A benefit cap could force 67 per cent of women's refuges to close

A new cap on housing benefit could be ‘very dangerous’ for a charity that provides refuges for victims of domestic abuse in the borough.

Bromley and Croydon Women’s Aid caters for 42 women and up to 60 children in seven refuges, but plans to cap housing benefit in the social sector at the same levels paid to private landlords could threaten its existence.

Research by Women’s Aid released last week revealed 67 per cent of refuge centres operating in England could be forced to close if the benefit cap were introduced.

A high-profile campaign by several media outlets has brought it to the public’s attention, but an exemption for domestic refuges has still not been confirmed.

Management assistant and fundraising officer Marta Righetti said: “There is a really high demand because one in four women suffer domestic abuse.

“On a day when we have a space, once we have accepted someone we have to turn away three or four a day. It is very difficult.

“There is a very small window of time for those affected by abuse to leave their house. This benefit cap would be very dangerous.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn quizzed prime minister Theresa May on the issue in the House of Commons last week, and the PM said the government was looking at exemptions for refuges.

“It is very good news they are working on something, but we still need long-term funding because there have been a lot of cuts,” Ms Righetti added. “A lot of people are still looking for refuge and there are fewer and fewer of them in the country.

“We deal with any kind of abuse, not just physical - it can be emotional or financial. We risk assess people and provide targeted interventions.

Women’s Aid’s report reveals that housing benefit covers 90 per cent of rental costs and service charges for some refuges, and a benefit cap would significantly reduce the amount of money available to them.

Ms Righetti pointed out that the introduction of a benefit cap could lead some women to remain in abusive relationships.

“We are one of the lucky boroughs, but we are always full,” she added.

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