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Women’s refuge welcomes government U-turn but warns of need for more financial support

“DISASTROUS” cuts to funding for women's refuges have been ditched in a government U-turn, but campaigners said today that they need greater financial support to meet demands.

The Refuge charity welcomed ministers’ decision to scrap plans to devolve the responsibility for the funding to local councils, arguing that the proposal could have led to the collapse of provision of accommodation for women fleeing violent partners.

But chief executive Sandra Horley urged the government to step up financial support for refuges to meet “ever-growing” demand, pointing out that two women a week are killed by domestic violence in England and Wales alone.

The plans, announced last year, would have taken short-term supported housing, such as refuges for women in danger of violence or homelessness, out of the welfare system by stopping housing benefit payments to residents and instead covering costs through a new local grant fund for councils.

Following opposition by campaigners, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced yesterday that housing benefit payments will continue.

Ms Horley said: “Housing benefit is an essential source of income for women’s refuges. Previous proposals would have devolved this critical funding to local authorities, which have no obligation to fund refuges.

“This could have led to the collapse of refuge provision across the country – a national travesty. Thankfully, this disaster has been averted.

"And yet the reality remains that there are still too few places of refuge accommodation to meet the ever-growing demand.”

The plans were part of an overhaul of funding for supported housing begun after Prime Minister Theresa May abandoned former chancellor George Osborne's plan for a cap to cut costs.

Nationwide, around 716,000 people living in 651,500 supported accommodation properties would have been affected by the cuts.

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