South Yorkshire Women’s Aid under threat again

Last March, the Women’s Aid centre in Doncaster was closed down after the Labour-run local council cut its funding, but was then able to reopen due to a successful campaign by service users and staff members — but the centre is now being threatened with closure for a second time.

Doncaster Council, whose 2106/7 financial statement showed £97.3 million in “usable reserves”, have said that there is no money to keep the centre open past December. Workers and service users are refusing to take this lying down, and visited a council meeting in September to bring councillors face-to-face with the suffering their cuts are causingAt 11:30am on Monday November 6th, they’ll be paying a return visit to Doncaster council at the Civic Building, and they’ve invited any supporters who can make it to join them, as they intend to keep on turning up to council meetings every Monday until the Women’s Aid centre, which is the only domestic violence service of its kind in South Yorkshire, is guaranteed adequate funding to stay open in future.

As well as helping turn up in person, there are a number of other ways to support their campaign, as they’re asking people to sign a petition, as well as crowdfunding donations to try and keep the service open. You can keep up with news from the campaign by checking the Women’s Lives Matter and Yorkshire Socialist Women and Non-Binary pages on facebook, or Save SY Women’s Aid on Twitter, or if you don’t do social media you can get in touch by emailing to [email protected] Messages of support and solidarity via any of those channels will be appreciated by the campaigners. They’ve also sent the following message around appealing for support:

Dear Sisters, non-binary siblings and Brothers,We send this letter requesting your support for our campaign. If you’ve not learned of the campaign yet, we’ve included article links below.

Initially, as quoted in the articles below, Cllr Chris McGuiness cited the reason for funding withdrawal from the council to South Yorkshire Women’s Aid as lack of funds due to Tory spending cuts.  Since then we investigated and published proof that there was over £90 million in council reserves. This week Cllr Chris McGuiness DMBC cited this campaign as the reason that the council are not able to fund Women’s Aid! This campaign was only formed because the council withdrew funding and his comments are an attempt to drive a wedge between the supporting public and the brave staff who are speaking out about cuts. His comments are also an attempt to silence these courageous workers. These are the only front line workers who have been brave enough to go on record and publicly speak about cuts to Women’s Aid centres in the UK. This is the last Women’s Aid in South Yorkshire. It serves communities from Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and the surrounding villages.

The campaign has recieved huge support from constituents as well as Union Branches and Political Party Branches across our region and further afield.

We ask that you reply with your name, trade union and any position held as a show of Solidarity and support.

Yours, in Solidarity, Jen, Amy and the Women’s Lives Matter Yorkshire campaigners:-

Please sign this statement and email to [email protected]

We the undersigned support the campaign to save the last Women’s Aid in South Yorkshire.

While ever domestic violence and abuse exist in our communities, there simply must be adequate services in place to support the victims.

We are aware that Women’s Aid offers support services, empowering educational courses and in addition has dedicated support worker for women from BAME community that the generic Council services in Doncaster simply don’t offer.

Two women a week die at the hands of their abuser.

Three women a week take their own lives as a result of being abused.

During the eight months that the service was previously closed by Doncaster Met Borough Council, 6623 cases of domestic abuse were reported to police in Doncaster alone.

Domestic abuse is prevalent in Doncaster and wider South Yorkshire region. The council domestic abuse support services have suffered cuts within their own service and cannot support the sheer volume of caseloads that they are presented with.

We are aware that the council’s own domestic abuse support service refers cases to South Yorkshire Womens Aid frequently, for the council to then deny any funding support to a service that they use themselves due to the inadequacy of their own service is nothing short of a shameful state of affairs.

Along with campaigners we ask that Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council reinstate funding to Doncaster South Yorkshire Womens Aid with immediate effect.

We ask this for the protection and support of women and girls across the community as well as for the protection and support of our own members within the community in Doncaster and surrounding South Yorkshire region.

Signed:

[your name here]

Campaigners celebrating success in the campaign to keep the centre open earlier this year

In an earlier email, they suggested a few different ways to support the campaign:

  • Invite us to send a speaker to your union, group, organisation meetings.
  • Print off one of the the campaign slogans, “Save Women’s Aid, Which side are you on?” take selfies on your own or your entire group, and tweet the photos to: @SaveWomensAid … Don’t forget to tag Doncaster Council @myDoncaster in your tweets.
  • Collect and donate toiletries and sanitary products. Often when someone flees their abuser they are left with only the clothes that they are standing in.
  • Collect and Donate raffle prizes, anything exciting or interesting that someone would feel encouraged to buy a ticket for.  The more unusual the better.
  • Hold a collection for us at your meetings. We really need your support to keep the rent paid and the phone line running. For financial donations, here is the link to our crowd fund page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/savesywa  Or you can pass donations physically to the campaign in person.
  • Send us your Solidarity. We are holding our heads up but this is a very emotional campaign for us all and we will appreciate any and every message of support.
  • Keep an eye out for upcoming emails with details of events and demonstrations and please share the information via your online networks.”

Pics: Actions from the previous campaign, from Sisters Uncut