Frank Field MP
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Protecting refuge services

20
Feb
Over the past few weeks I have been campaigning to demand firm assurances that the government’s benefit cap will not threaten vital refuge services. One such threatened service is the Wirral Women and Children’s Aid refuge that gives sanctuary to women often fearing for their lives.

The coalition government is trying to cut the Housing Benefit bill, which currently stands attwo-thirds of the defence budget.

The Wirral refuge is part funded through Housing Benefit, which survivors of domestic violence use to pay the housing costs for the service. But the introduction of Universal Credit and the Benefit Cap mean that a refuge service will be unlikely to receive housing costs direct, thus having to chase individuals for
rent payments. 

The government has partly recognised these problems, announcing that rent payments for refuge services will be met outside of Universal Credit if they meet the complicated criteria for ‘exempt accommodation’. But a survey of Women’s Aid member services found that over half of refuge services are not likely to come under this criteria. The Wirral refuge itself was worried that it would not meet the criteria.

Last week I asked Graham Burgess, Chief Executive of Wirral Council, to confirm whether Wirral Women and Children’s Aid will be meet the ‘exempt accommodation’ criteria and be automatically covered. He has confirmed that the refuge does meet the criteria, which is fantastic news.

I have now also asked the government to give a clear commitment that refuges nationwide will not close as a result of their action.

 
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