A ‘LIFE-SAVING’ homeless refuge for vulnerable women and their babies in Winsford has closed for good, it has been confirmed.     

Cotswold House provided a safe home for nine women and three babies, often fleeing domestic violence, who had nowhere left to turn. 

Plans to close Cotswold House came to light in July, when operators, Weaver Vale Housing Trust (WVHT), wrote to residents and volunteers claiming they could no longer afford to run it.

Concerns were raised over the impact on residents, who stood to lose not only a safe home, but also their only support network, when they were trying desperately to rebuild their lives for themselves and their young children. 

On Monday, November 20, WVHT confirmed residents have already been moved out, and Cotswold House will close for good.  

Gareth Rigby, executive director of customer, place, and services, said: “Regrettably, we have been unable to agree a future funding strategy and therefore we can confirm Cotswold House will close.

“We have helped residents who were temporarily living there to settle into safe, alternative accommodation.

“The building has been empty for the past few months.

“This decision is not a reflection of the service provided by Cotswold House but does reflect the difficult budgetary decisions the trust and our local authority partners are having to take at this time.

“WVHT will continue to focus on vital investment in our existing 6,300 homes and support services, whilst we work alongside other partners who are better placed to provide the specialist services that have previously been provided at Cotswold House.”

When the proposed closure came to light in July, several former residents came forward to explain how their lives had been turned around by the project.

One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she’d been living on the streets for months when she finally came to live there.

“It’s been a life-saving project for so many women and girls, and their babies,” she added.

“Many are fleeing domestic violence, with some under the care of social services. Cotswold House staff support residents through the family court system, often advocating for them.

“They allowed me space and time to heal, and to get my strength back. I was just so tired, both emotionally and physically.

“They put me back together.”

Responding to the latest news, she added: “It’s disgusting, turning your back on vulnerable women and children in their time of need.  

“WVHT have chosen money over life; that’s what it boils down to. All of us who spoke out are absolutely devastated.”

Cheshire West and Chester councillor, Mandy Clare, paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of the staff at Cotswold House, adding the decision to close ‘a beacon of good practice’ is ‘short-sighted’.

She said: “Myself and Cllr Simon Boone, whilst agreeing the sole burden for funding should not be borne by founders WVHT, feel this is a very short-sighted decision.

“We appealed to Cheshire East and West councils, who have both been key referral agencies benefitting from the service, to work in partnership to prioritise these women and save this provision. 

“We attended a meeting with WVHT and contacted Cheshire East and West councillors, sadly to no avail. 

“We are sorry we couldn’t do more to convince both councils single sex provision for women is worthwhile and should be prioritised.

“In losing Cotswold House, we lose a local beacon of good practice. 

“The expertise of the wonderful staff team is irreplaceable, and we both wish them all the best and thank them for their dedication.”