Domestic violence campaigners say they are “delighted” at the news that Sunderland will continue to provide a service for victims in the next financial year, despite huge cuts to budgets.
Back in November, the Echo revealed that the future of Wearside Women in Need (WWIN) had been plunged into doubt amid fears it could see its £586,000 annual funding stop from June 2017.
The charity, which says it helps around 350 vulnerable women and their children who are forced to flee their homes, had held talks with Sunderland City Council, which insists no final decisions on its budget have been made for next year.
Council chiefs said that Government cuts to its funding meant that the authority is having to save £74million by 2020.
But city council leader Paul Watson has guaranteed that there will be a domestic violence service for the city, despite constraints on finances.
Coun Watson also criticised people for “scaremongering” on social media about the idea that there could be no domestic violence service at all from the next financial year.
Speaking about the issue at the council’s latest cabinet meeting, held at Sunderland Civic Centre, Coun Watson said: “Social media has been alive with the issue of domestic violence.
“Sunderland City Council will have a domestic violence service this year.
“There is some idea that we will not have a domestic violence service after April. We will.
“It will be the best that we can supply with the resource that we have available.
“People should not be scaremongering like they have.”
Although Coun Watson made no direct mention of WWIN and its future funding, Claire Phillipson, the charity’s director, hailed the news that help will be provided on Wearside for those suffering abuse and intimidation.
“This is news to us but it is fantastic that the council leader is offering reassurance that there will be domestic violences services from the next financial year,” she said.
“We are delighted to hear it and I’m ecstatic.
“We haven’t had any detail yet about what is planned, but they are essential services and we have been deeply worried about the future of everybody who needs support.”
WWIN have since gathered almost 5,000 signatures for a petition calling on the council not to cut the £586,000 annual funding.
There has not yet been a decision over whether the money will continue to be provided.
It costs £1million a year in total to run.
“We had no idea how much support we had out there and it has been heartwarming,” said Ms Phillipson.
“If it is the case that the threat of having no domestic violence service has been removed then the people of Sunderland will feel like they have been listened to.”