Sunderland's domestic violence charity '˜in danger of closing'

Sunderland's pioneering domestic violence charity fears it is in danger of closing if its funding is axed.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 18th November 2016, 6:56 am
Updated Monday, 21st November 2016, 12:27 pm

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Clare Phillipson of Wearside Women in Need
Clare Phillipson of Wearside Women in Need

Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women In Need says she is ‘sick with worry’ for the vulnerable women and children in the city amid fears it could see its £586,000 annual funding stop from June 2017.

The charity has held talks with Sunderland City Council, which insists no final decisions on its budget have been made for next year.

The charity, which has been running for 35 years and has seen Sunderland hailed nationally as a leader in the provision of domestic violence support, costs £1million a year to run, which Ms Phillipson says is impossible without the local authority’s contribution.

Wearside Women In Need has four houses across the city which every year provide a haven for more than 350 vulnerable women and children fleeing their homes.

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It also has three sets of offices where they run support projects. At any one time there are 800 cases on their outreach files and they get an average of 2,010 calls each year to the 24-hour helpline.

On top of this the charity also works with homeless people, those being forced into arranged marriages, people with mental health problems and much more and has helped drastically lower the number of domestic violence related deaths in the city.

Ms Phillipson said: “We are are in absolute shock. The staff are sick with worry about what will happen to the vulnerable women and children in the city if we are forced to close, where will these people go?

“This would be a devastating blow to victims of domestic violence in Sunderland and undoubtedly cost lives.

“Sunderland is known nationwide for its good practice and innovation in tackling domestic violence, and it could become the only city in the region to provide zero funding to help victims. It is so short-sighted.

“Our charity has already been hit by a cut of 33% over the last six years. We are now stretched to the limit, with more women and children than ever needing our help.

“I think they hope we will be able to pull some miracle funding from somewhere, but that’s not going to happen. We do get some funding from the health authority and the police authority, but we think absolutely that the local authority has a duty to look after victims of domestic violence.”

A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said: “We’re currently in the process of consulting on our budget for 2017/18.

“As part of this we have held a number of consultation events with providers to discuss and agree how we work together going forward.

“However, there is no doubt that we are certainly facing unprecedented cuts and cost pressures as a result of the Government’s austerity programme, with £74million of savings to find by 2020.

“This is on top of the £250m we have had to save over the last six years, as a result of which we are having to look at and review everything we do.”

Wearside Women In Need plans to fight to protect the services and is urging everyone in the city to support them by lobbying their local councillors and MPs and to also complete Sunderland City Council’s budget consulation by November 21 at https://goo.gl/LXTBFw.