For International Women's Day, Councillor Claire Holland write on the importance of protecting specialist Violence Against Women and Girls services
On International Women’s Day, we are able to celebrate the courage and determination of ordinary women across the world who have done extraordinary things to advance the cause of gender equality. This celebration is important as we recognise the significant steps made by women towards equality across the globe. But it is also time to reflect on the scale of the work that still needs to be done and to continue to call for the changes we need to advance the cause of women’s rights.
No more so is this true than when it comes to violence against woman and girls. In the UK, we know that most of this violence takes place at home or by somebody the victim is close to.
Domestic violence is deadly. Two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a partner or former partner. If it doesn’t kill you, it will rip you apart.
If you escape the violence, you leave your home. You don’t know where you will sleep tonight. Or tomorrow. You won’t be near your support network, your children may have to change schools and weekend activities; they may have to lose contact to their dad, the abuser, and extended family, and they can’t tell their friends where they are.
If you stay, the risks are high and the physical and emotional harm continues.
As a legal aid Children’s lawyer I have witnessed violence against women and children decimate lives, as children go into care. The impact upon the family is devastating and the costs to our community are huge; in housing, Social Services, the Courts, youth offending, and health.
These are complex and difficult situations that require skilled, specialist intervention and support. They are not to be dabbled with.
That’s why I spoke at Lambeth Council’s meeting last month about our work as a Council in this area. In Lambeth, the prevalence of Violence Against Women & Children remains high; but so does our priority to tackle it. Whether it is domestic violence, stalking, Female Genital Mutilation, sexual violence, forced marriage, trafficking for sexual exploitation, prostitution, and so-called “honour” based violence, we are determined to protect the victims of these awful crimes.
In Lambeth, we were one of the first councils in the UK to develop an integrated strategy and we were the first Council to develop and deliver a service specifically addressing all forms of Violence Against Women & Girls under one roof. We have a high number of self-referrals and excellent outcomes.
We continue to deliver an exemplar programme of work across Lambeth. And we continue to look at how we can do things differently and better, and are currently reviewing and developing our strategy and services.
And this is why I was proud to support our budget last month. Despite the government’s cuts to Lambeth’s funding, we have continued to commit to funding our Violence Against Women and Girls Services. This commitment is so important, particularly when we see the impact of cuts on women’s refuges and domestic violence services by this Tory government across the country,
Our Labour values are to protect the most vulnerable, to keep our communities safe and strong. This is what our Violence Against Women and Girls strategy does and why I’m proud to support it.
Councillor Claire Holland
If you are experiencing domestic violence, you can get support by calling 020 773 8724 or visiting http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/social-support-and-health/abuse-and-violence/get-support-if-you-are-experiencing-domestic-violence