Everywoman Safe Everywhere

Labour Party

Since the Tory cuts began, women have been seen to bear the greatest impact in every area of life. One area of growing concern for me is the negative effect of the cuts on women’s safety. 

The safety of women across the country is increasingly at risk. It is at risk because of reductions in police numbers, as seen in my London constituency, and it is at risk because councils are cutting back on street lights in an effort to save money.

It is also at risk because organisations which support women to leave abusive relationships or jobs in which they are sexually exploited and abused have lost their funding. These are organisations like the Derby Women’s Centre which is currently under threat of closure as a result of cuts to its funding. My colleague Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s  Leader in Europe, spoke out against the cuts to its funding yesterday.

A number of women’s refuges and other specialist organisations which offer a safe space for women who have been abused are also suffering as a result of the cuts. Such organisations provide crucial support to victims of domestic violence, women who have been trafficked and the homeless. Last year I spoke a lot about the Poppy Project and the cuts to its funding. The Poppy project is an excellent organisation which provides support to survivors of trafficking.

For some of the most vulnerable women, like those who have recently left abusive relationships, access to a crisis loan can be an important resource. This is especially true if a woman has had to leave behind her possessions when escaping her abuser. This type of emergency loan can assist her in starting to rebuild her life.

Recent welfare reform proposals shift the control of such crisis funds to already stretched local authorities with no checks to ensure the funding is spent on providing crisis support.

They also rather ludicrously suggest that councils could provide support in kind rather than money to people who apply for crisis funds. Women who have taken the brave move of leaving abusive partners should not have to suffer the lack of autonomy and indignity associated with receiving food parcels.

A coalition of 20 charities, including Banardo’s and Women’s Aid, has called for the ring-fencing of funds to provide crisis loans in a letter to the Guardian last weekend. You can read the letter here.

In response to the ever increasing impact of Tory cuts on women’s safety, the Labour Party is carrying out a Public Consultation.

The Consultation was opened shortly before the Christmas break but I felt given the hectic holiday period it might be a good idea to revisit it with you now we are in the New Year.

The findings from the Consultation will be used get a clearer picture of the cumulative impact of tory decision making and to develop legislative measures that could be used to make women safer. It will also be used as an opportunity to consult on Labour’s proposals for a new Personal Safety Bill.

The consultation is chaired by Vera Baird QC who will be supported by Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Equalities) and Stella Creasy MP (Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention).

If you would like to find out more about the consultation or take part, please visit the Everywoman Safe Everywhere website. Together we can make Britain a safer place for women.

Women are safer with Labour

Labour Party

It was good to see that the commission on women’s safety chaired by former Solicitor General Vera Baird QC with assistance from Labour MPs Kate Green and Stella Creasey has just had its first meeting.

 Now it is established, Labour’s commission will scope out the key current issues on women’s safety with the leading national women’s sector groups. In the New Year, it will go nationwide to gather evidence and find out whether current concerns are justified and whether the reality is better or worse.

 The commission will be looking for fresh ideas and investigating what legislative measures might safeguard women in the future.

 Meanwhile, intense work has taken place in the European Parliament to safeguard the Daphne programme, the only EU programme combating violence against women, children and young people.

 Set up in 1997, the Daphne initiative supports small scale projects that bring NGOs together from at least two EU member states to co-operate on data collection, research, analysis, sharing good practice, training and raising awareness of domestic violence, amongst other things. Daphne funds NGOs public authorities and institutions such as universities. In recent years the annual Daphne budget has been around EUR 20 million.    

 It has generally been recognised that Daphne has been successful and has provided much needed funding and encouragement or projects tackling domestic violence.

 However, there have been attempts to reduce the reach of the Daphne programme. Many MEPs, including myself, were concerned a few months ago when the European Commission put forward plans to wrap Daphne up with other subjects under a catch-all heading of justice, rights and citizenship.

 The European Parliament Women’s Committee took up the baton on behalf of the Daphne programme, insisting that domestic violence be kept as a specific issue under the new proposals.

 Today the Women’s Committee passed a report defending Daphne, which included the following:

 “……..calls on the Commission, when promoting the programme Rights and Citizenship, to make it possible to still identify the projects concerning the objectives of the Daphne programme, which is wisely known, so as to keep the program me’s profile as high as possible.”

 The battle may not yet be won, but I am feeling more confident that the excellent work done by the Daphne programme will continue and that those women and children so desperately needing help will still be able to access EU funds.