The government continues to feed us crumbs
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Today’s budget, delivered on International Women’s Day, was humiliating.
Do not have your head turned by the smug announcement of £20 million to tackle domestic violence, or the £12 million generated by the tampon tax. Chancellor Philip Hammond’s offer on International Women’s Day implies that the government care about women’s rights and women’s well-being, but they don’t. These sums come in the form of temporary pots of cash, which the last-remaining support services will be forced to fight over through a brutal bidding process.
The government is feeding crumbs to the domestic violence sector; not enough money to keep it alive, but enough to make them look like they actually care. As Sisters Uncut, we’ve consistently kept up the pressure on government to fund domestic violence services, and at surface value, it might look like they’re responding. However, this is not the secure, long term funding plan that we need to keep survivors safe, and survivors are definitely not safe with the state the domestic violence support sector is currently in. In fact, it looks more like the government is exploiting domestic violence survivors to score points.
Austerity kills: they cut, we bleed
The real reason the domestic violence support sector is in crisis, is because of broader austerity. As we explain in this video, local domestic violence services are funded by local council budgets. Given that these have been totally decimated by central government, the once-stable funding plan no longer exists. And there’s nothing else in its place, except for these random pots of cash that are being drip fed through to the sector. This sporadic, unreliable funding does not guarantee money for specialist BME and migrant women’s services.
When perpetrators abuse survivors, they often hold them in spaces of economic uncertainty, making them constantly unsure about income and unable to plan for the future or control their own lives, forcing them to focus on surviving not thriving. The government’s treatment of the domestic violence sector mirrors this, and the sector is barely surviving. The government are offering two years of funding that local areas and services will have to compete for with no guarantee of long term sustainability. This is a government that economically abuses domestic violence services, drawing parallels between them and the women they support.
As a broader approach to tackling gender-based violence, this is a joke. As the Women’s Budget Group highlighted ‘It costs £70 milllion annually to run Rape Crisis England and Wales, which currently has a £10 million budget shortfall, yet will not see any of this additional money.’
The narrative of “tackling the deficit” allows the Tories to attack those it deems less powerful. We were told the government wants to balance the books. Help us live within our means. This is through £37 billion a year saved from social security cuts. Why then are tax cuts being made of £41billion a year? Working class women’s lives are lost to line the pockets of already-wealthy men.
The desperate state of the sector
With the amounts offered to services, the government demands a collective amnesia about the brutal cuts to life saving services and tries to force the domestic violence sector to be grateful for the benign hand of the Chancellor. Will this money open the 34 refuges that have closed? No. This isn’t a benign hand – it’s a hand offered by the very same smug people who tripped the whole domestic violence sector up and have left it laying on the floor for years.
Sisters will keep fighting because we have no choice. Today’s budget on International Women’s Day was humiliating for the domestic violence sector, and places domestic violence survivors in an even more desperate situation. However, we will keep fighting because this is a matter of life and death. We will continue to demand that the government supports domestic violence survivors, we will continue taking action, and one day, we will win.