Domestic Abuse Bill: Cuts to specialist services also represent threat to migrant women’s safety

The Step Up Migrant Women coalition calls on the Newham council to overturn the decision to cut the funding for the London Black Women’s Project, a specialist organisation supporting women and children fleeing domestic and sexual violence in Newham for over 32 years. The current Domestic Abuse bill does not allocated any sustainable and adequate funding for specialist services which directly impacts the lives of migrant and BME women.

As Leah Cowan, Imkaan’s Policy and Communications Coordinator, said:

This Bill encourages survivors to disclose abuse without properly funding specialist VAWG services, which has been decimated by public funding cuts. In London alone, council funding for BME refuges has been slashed by 50% since 2009, and this alarming trend is continuing.

The funding cuts highlight the severity of the issues that Step Up coalition is fighting to address. It is well documented that the statutory services fails to understand and meet the needs of BME women. When migrant and BME women look for statutory services to report their experience of VAWG, they often face multiple barriers including disbelief, denial of support, discrimination, detention and deportation.

Our research, ‘Right to be Believed’ gave evidence that the ‘hostile environment’ prevents migrant women from reporting and accessing support from public services because of their immigration status.

The core of the Step Up Migrant Women as a BME-led campaign is to build an inclusive support system that promotes equality and ensures protection for all survivors of abuse, regardless of their immigration status. Therefore, specialist organisations such as LBWP are the gateway for migrant women to access justice and support. Specialist organisations have a vital role in the lives of BME survivors as they have a unique understanding of the needs and challenges BME survivors face and they provide non-judgemental support and offer a safe space for women to speak up.

On Monday, July 15th, BME women and campaigners took to the streets to call the Newham Council to reverse the funding cuts.

Anjum Mouj, Chair at the London Black Women’s Project said:

We understand the services our women need and we provide those services. We have built a community in Newham and we will not go away. We are here to stay because the people in this community need us here. If the Government is serious about protecting women and children subject to domestic abuse and violence, they would make sure our specialist services are safe. They would not let funding cuts disproportionately impact on minorities’ women’s services,’ Anjum added.

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Marai Larasi, campaigner and former director of Imkaan at the demonstration said:

‘BME women are constantly saying, we need specialist services. We need services that are by us, for us and with us. Whether the council likes our services or not, we are not going anywhere.’

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Illary Valenzuela-Oblitas, coordinator of the Step Up campaign at the Latin American Women’s Rights Services (LAWRS) said:

 The funding cuts to BME organisations makes migrant women even more vulnerable to abuse. Our research showed that more than 50% of migrant women with insecure migration status looked for support at specialist organisations. Without BME organisations, these women will have no place to find support and will be left destitute in the hands of their abusers. We need these organisations alive.’

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