Women's refuge closed by 'politically correct' council as it does not cater for abused men
By Andy Dolan
3rd August 2009
Supporters of a women's refuge were 'shocked and stunned' to be told it is being closed - because it does not cater for men. The emergency shelter was set up 13 years ago for women and children and adult males are not allowed to stay.
But council officials have now ruled that, because it does not serve both sexes equally, the money used to run the home would be better spent on an 'outreach service' to help battered husbands as well as wives in their own homes.
Brian Ellis, a councillor who helped set up the refuge in Weymouth, Dorset, in 1986, branded the move a 'step backwards'. 'It doesn't make sense,' he said. 'The women are there because of what men have done to them and their children. When people suffer from domestic violence they need an immediate escape and that's being taken away.'
Refuge, a charity for women and children affected by domestic violence, said: 'There are not enough refuges for women as it is. 'It's already difficult to get help and women often have to travel long distances. Losing beds that are already there is really devastating. It is a whole community that has lost that kind of safety.'
The shelter, which can accommodate six families, costs £82,780 a year to run. It is funded by Dorset Supporting People - a partnership of Dorset County Council, six local district and borough councils, NHS Dorset and Dorset Probation. The partnership said the refuge will close in March. A housing association which owns the building is working to find the women alternative accommodation.
One mother, 47, who used the refuge after being abused by her husband for years, said: 'I wasn't sure about where to go and what to do and then I found out about the Weycan't-mouth refuge. It was a place where I felt safe and I hadn't felt that for a long time. 'I can't believe they are going to close it - it's so important I can't even put it into words.'
A domestic violence outreach worker, who asked not to be named, said she was shocked and added: 'If there was a need for this 20 years ago then I see why not now. They are always full and there are women constantly trying to get in. I just don't understand it.'
In the last year, 6,323 people have reported domestic violence to Dorset Police. Dorset County Council confirmed that one reason for closure was the lack of facilities for men.
A spokesman said: 'We want to make sure both men and women are catered for and we are not able to do that within the small building.'
Anthony Wilsdon, spokesman for Supporting People, said the new outreach service would help more people. He said: 'We have identified a need to support more people in their own homes.
'There is also a need to make support open to male victims and families with older male children.'