Domestic violence protesters barricade Treasury entrance

Campaigners urge George Osborne to ringfence funding in this week’s budget to help survivors flee abuse

Campaigners against domestic violence blocked the entrance to the Treasury with a fence in a protest over cuts to services for vulnerable people before this week’s budget, calling such austerity measures a “sexist, racist choice”.

Domestic violence services across the UK have lost more than 30% of their funding since 2010, according to Sisters Uncut, the feminist direct action group behind the protest in Westminster on Monday morning.

Am at the @SistersUncut action, who are fencing the entrance to the Treasury ahead of the budget:

— Aisha S Gani (@aishagani) March 14, 2016

The group, which was formed in 2014 and has a number of regional branches, said the ability of domestic violence survivors to flee abuse now depended on their postcode.

Kat Vail, a member of Sisters Uncut, said: “We have a very basic demand: the government must ringfence funding for domestic violence services. This is the only way to make sure they can stay running.

“Domestic violence is high in the UK – one in three women will experience it – yet services that support survivors are being forced to close because the government won’t put a secure funding plan in place.”

Campaigners from across the UK, many of them survivors of domestic abuse, gathered and used a wooden fence to barricade the entrance to the Treasury at Horse Guards Road, symbolising their plea to the chancellor, George Osborne.

Protesters wearing T-shirts and badges bearing the Sisters Uncut logo chanted slogans such as “hey mister, get your hands off our sister” as employees entered the building. . After the Treasury’s front door was shut, the group dispersed.

Campaigners chant: "two women a week murdered" as the doors of the treasury are shut

— Aisha S Gani (@aishagani) March 14, 2016

The group said: “Sisters Uncut maintain that austerity is a sexist, racist choice. Domestic violence support services are a vital lifeline for women fleeing domestic violence: they need secure funding in order to continue their life-saving work.”

Specialist domestic violence services are funded by local councils, whose budgets have been halved by Osborne, the group added. “Vital services and the women they support face a precarious future, and already areas of the country are returning to a time before refuges existed.”

Although some services remained open, such as the specialist LGBT service Broken Rainbow, there was no guarantee that they would be running in a year, campaigners said.

Some groups would be harder hit: between 2010 and 2014, specialist domestic violence services supporting women from minority groups decreased by 17%, the group said.

Imkaan, a feminist group which supports a membership of refuges and other services for black and minority ethnic groups, has seen members struggling to stay open amid significant statutory funding cuts. A recent report from Imkaan detailed what they claim is a funding crisis affecting such services.

Sisters Uncut said the chancellor had announced “short-term gestures” towards domestic violence services in his 2015 budgets. In the July budget, Osborne pledged £13m for domestic violence refuges; in November 2015, he announced a £15m “tampon tax” fund that domestic violence services could apply to over the next four years.

The group described this measure as “a sticking plaster” and said the only adequate model to guarantee women’s safety was long-term, ringfenced funding for domestic violence services.


Aisha Gani

The GuardianTramp

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