Summer budget 2015: will it affect the prison system?

Refuge centre funding could help women that end up in prison

Assault victims domestic violence refuge centre

Tiles created by assault victims and other supporters of a women’s centre. Source: Cal OES .

Yesterday the chancellor, George Osborne, announced his summer budget. Key points were the introduction of a national living wage, changes to the inheritance tax system, and billions of cuts – or savings, depending on your perspective – to welfare over the next parliament. Ostensibly, there was little included that’s relevant to the world of prisons.

But the chancellor did pledge £3.2 million to support women fleeing domestic violence, which could impact a significant number of women in the criminal justice system. Almost half (46 per cent) of women in prison report having suffered domestic abuse.

Jackie Russell, director of Women’s Breakout, an umbrella organisation of centres that work with women involved in the criminal justice system, welcomed the news. She said that early support in the form of refuge centres can make a “such a difference” to these women.

“There are a number of women’s services across the country that provide effective and life changing services for vulnerable women, and these services are also facing very difficult financial challenges as the privatisation of probation services continues. It’s time that the whole offer for women was looked at across the spectrum to ensure that women get the services they need.’”

Of the money budgeted, £3.04million will be made available to refuges across the country to make up any shortfall in places until April 2016. A further £132,000 will fund case workers to follow women who are turned away from refuges due to a lack of space.

But over the last few years funding for these services has been severely cut. Refuge, a charity that provides safehouses for women and children fleeing domestic violence, says it has experienced a reduction in funding across 80% of its service contracts since 2011.

Polly Neate, chief executive of domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, has called for more measures from Mr. Osborne. Writing in the Telegraph, Neate said: “another short-term cash injection, to bring some refuges back from the brink of immediate disaster again, is not enough.”

“Only a long-term funding solution that recognises the need for a national network of refuges will stop the crisis from recurring repeatedly. We desperately need the Chancellor to pledge to introduce a new system of funding for the next financial year.”

Read more about concerns over funding for women’s centres.

Facts and stats on women in prison.

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