Campaigners fighting to save a ‘vital’ domestic violence charity in Sunderland have handed over a petition with thousands of signatures amidst fears that the lives of thousands women and children could be at risk.
Earlier this week, we reported that Wearside Women in Need (WWIN) had received official confirmation from Sunderland City Council that its £586,000 contract would not be renewed when it comes to an end in July.
The organisations’ director Claire Phillipson fears that the closure of its refuges, outreach groups and helpline could lead to the death of victims.
However, council chiefs have hit back at suggestions the city will be left without a service to help victims of domestic violence and insist this is simply a contract coming to an end to make way for a “new model of the service” and that there was no question of putting any lives at risk.
WWIN hope that the petition – featuring 6,333 signatures - will be considered by members at the next full council meeting.
Ms Phillipson and a number of supporters handed over the document to Coun Graeme Miller, the authority’s portfolio holder of Health, Housing and Adult Services.
Our staff mantra these days is that we can get another job, but these women and children cannot get another life – you cannot resurrect the deadClaire Phillipson, director Wearside Women in Need
She said: “It’s absolutely vital – our staff mantra these days is that we can get another job, but these women and children annot get another life – you cannot resurrect the dead.
“You can’t undo the trauma of being trapped in an abusive relationship – terrorised every day and having nowhere to go.
“Lives are undoubtedly at stake, that’s not an exaggeration, that’s not me trying to drum up support, it’s just a fact.
“Two women a week in the UK are murdered by their partners or their ex-partners.
“We have managed for the last 10 years to keep murders out of this city.
“If our services are rolled back, if our helpline closes, the outreach groups go, if our refuges are gone, then there will be no sanctuary for these women who are running to us, and it is inevitable that someone will die.
“None of our staff team want to be in this position of fighting with the council but we have to do it.
“We are here on behalf of the people who haven’t got a voice.
“We are hoping the council will think again. We are hoping the 75 councillors who hold the lives of thousands – literally – of women and children in their hands, that they can decide this is the wrong decision and that domestic violence is a priority in this city.”
But Coun Miller hit back at Ms Phillipson’s suggestion that the city would be left without domestic violence services.
He said it was merely a contract coming to an end to make way for a new model of the service and that there was no question of putting any lives at risk.
He said: “This service is important to the whole of Sunderland – there has never been a question mark with that.
“The service isn’t going anywhere.
“What we have here is when the contract ends in June, the domestic violence services in Sunderland continue.
“There is a procurement exercise for the service that will be done for July, which is the start of that new contract, but the council has been working in partnership with a number of organisations.”
Coun Miller said funding has been secured from various directions.
“The service is protected,” he added. “We will have the best domestic violence service we can in Sunderland going forward, and we are held as a national exemplar of good domestic violence services, so we are not looking to damage any of that, but there has been a confusion or a conflation over a contract ending and the service, and, I do understand people being upset about that, but we never said we were going to close domestic violence services.”