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Domestic abuse refuges under scrutiny
A DECISION to alter the refuge system for vulnerable families fleeing domestic abuse is to face public scrutiny.
Plans to reduce three refuges to one hub and an emphasis on early intervention and behavioural work with perpetrators has been challenged.
CWAC’s executive group agreed to re-commission its domestic abuse refuges but members of the council’s Labour group have ‘called in’ the decision, which means it will be examined in depth at the safeguarding scrutiny committee meeting on September 30.
Other major issues of contention are plans to reduce a stay in the new hub from 18 weeks to 12 weeks and a 30 per cent cap on the number of people seeking refuge from outside west Cheshire.
Carmel Duff, chief executive of Phoenix Domestic Abuse and Support Services, which currently runs a mid Cheshire refuge, said: “A cap on the number of people from outside west Cheshire to 30 per cent shows a complete lack of understanding about what refuge actually is and why people go into it in the first place.
“People don’t go to the end of the road, they go to the other end of the country.
“People who come into Cheshire west become Cheshire west residents and it’s our job to develop those people and empower them.
“We encourage people into work, education, voluntary opportunities – things they may have put off for years.
“We’re developing the economy by creating successful individuals – confident people who can contribute to the borough.”
Carmel said families want to leave refuges earlier than the current 18 weeks but often cannot because of incidents outside their control, from people with disabilities who cannot find appropriate accomodation to people with arrears who struggle to get on the housing list.
“From the point where they’re ready they are bidding on all sorts of properties and going out to speak to estate agents,” she said.
“But there are barriers around every corner.
“I would love it to be 12 weeks for everyone, as long as you can guarantee that at the end of that there is an affordable safe place to move into with appropriate support.”
The executive group argues that its plans are to ‘provide more for less’.
Clr Lynda Jones said: “This is part of the council’s wider agenda to commission more cost effective, modernised and high quality services – with good contract management and quality assurance – but with the focus on the needs of the clients and their outcomes.”
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