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Women’s Refuges

Volume 638: debated on Thursday 29 March 2018

13. What assessment she has made of the effect on women’s refuges of proposed reforms to supported housing. (904692)

The reforms will mean that the same amount of money that would have been available through housing benefit in 2020-21 will be made available as a grant to fund bed spaces directly. However, we are listening to the views of everyone involved in the domestic abuse sector, and we are carrying out a comprehensive audit of how domestic abuse services are delivered locally and how we can implement the best way to deliver those services.

The Minister has said that she is aware of the huge concern in Women’s Aid and other domestic violence charities about the ending of housing benefit for those in refuges, but there have already been cuts amounting to more than £6.5 million over the past eight years. Will she undertake to work with her colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to develop proposals to address those concerns and ensure that places in refuges are available to those who need them?

Refuges are a vital part of helping women and children to deal with the awful crime of domestic abuse and build better lives for themselves. We know that the number of bed spaces has increased by 10% since 2010, but we do not for a moment approach this issue complacently. I have said repeatedly, as has my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that no options are off the table. We hope very much that the hon. Lady and others will contribute to our domestic abuse consultation to ensure that the law that we hope to introduce by the end of the Session is the best possible law to help the victims.

Will the Minister reassure the House that any changes that the Government make will not reduce the number of women’s refuges? In particular, will she guarantee that they will not affect victims of human trafficking, whom the Government look after very well at the moment?

My hon. Friend has led a long campaign on modern slavery and human trafficking. We are very happy to give the reassurance for which he asks. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and, indeed, the Prime Minister have made that commitment, because, as my hon. Friend knows, it is a personal priority for both of them.