The Autumn Statement – nothing but a sticking plaster for domestic violence services
Thursday, November 24, 2016
On 20th November we blocked bridges across the UK to demand the government stop blocking survivors’ bridges to safety through cuts to specialist services. We also hijacked London tube ads to spread the message about our demands: a secure, long term funding plan for domestic violence support that includes specialist services and support for all survivors, including black, brown and migrant survivors.
Yesterday saw the first financial statement of Theresa May’s government. The Autumn Statement traditionally sets out a government’s plans and priorities. Although May claims she wants to end violence against women and girls, the statement contained no real measures at all that will help achieve this.
So what were we offered today? £3 million from the “tampon tax”. You know our views on that – a sticking plaster on the hemorrhaging caused to domestic violence services by austerity. This tiny pot of money is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of money that has been snatched from these services since 2010. It’s not a long-term plan, and services will have to fight for it. It’s just not enough to save lives.
But what else does the Autumn Statement mean for us?
All week the press have speculated about about new money being offered for “just about managing” families, sometimes crassly referenced as ‘Jam’. There were no such lifelines thrown today. The minimum wage was increased, sure, but to nowhere near the levels needed for a living wage. A change to universal credit allowed just 2p for every extra pound. Whilst this means a gain of £500 for a family, cuts to work allowance will see a £2800 loss.
Furthermore , the government continues on with its bull-headed Universal Credit crusade, despite strong evidence that it is a danger to those experiencing domestic violence.
Back to the ‘just about managing’. The narrative is one of the deserving poor, who the government deem worthy of state support, vs. benefit scroungers. Those that do not fit into the model of ‘deserving’ poor are cast out, blamed and viewed as a burden. This props up a misogynist and racist vision of who is and isn’t allowed support.
Domestic violence survivors who are not working (usually because they are prevented from working by controlling partners), those fleeing violence and those with ‘no recourse to public funds’ are trapped in a vicious bind and forced to stay in abusive situations with no help from a negligent state – like the 52% of survivors who can’t afford to leave a violent relationship.
Paltry giveaways after six years of vicious austerity are a dangerous front. Enormous welfare cuts have been left in place, and many of these – such as the benefit cap – disproportionately affect women and non-binary people. This budget has made no attempt whatsoever to redress the huge gender imbalance in terms of the impact of austerity, and the small reprieves announced will overwhelmingly benefit men. As the Women’s Budget Group pointed out ‘Increasing the personal tax allowance will do nothing to help those earning too little to pay income tax (65% of whom are women). Raising the 40p threshold will largely benefit men since 72% of higher rate taxpayers are men. Together with the freeze in the fuel duty, these measures benefit men and the better off.’
£23 billion towards…infrastructure
There is a deep and bitter irony in the knowledge that domestic violence costs the UK economy £23 billion a year, never mind the immeasurable personal trauma that spans generations. Yet, once again, the government has completely failed to realise that investing in domestic violence support would be both life-saving and money saving. If they really only care about money, it economically makes much more sense to support survivors and work to prevent domestic violence.
The government have offered this exact sum – £23 billion – towards infrastructure, including housing. But how much social housing will this include? It’s not guaranteed. And the vision of “infrastructure” does not recognise women and non-binary people. Where is the funding for social infrastructure – domestic violence services, mental health services, social care and childcare? Women and non binary people, particularly migrants, will continue to provide the free or cheap labour needed to prop up the government’s vision of “infrastructure”.
This Autumn Statement reinforces the white male power that underpins the violence we face. It’s clear who benefits from the cut in corporation tax – not us.
The Autumn Statement offers no hope for survivors of domestic violence. Austerity reigns on, and the government continues to target the people they perceive as powerless. We are those people. We will not be silent whilst the government props up perpetrators by blocking survivors’ bridges to safety. We will keep fighting, because our lives depend on it.