Domestic violence service is threatened by cutbacks

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A VITAL service offering support to victims of domestic violence is on the verge of being lost.

Lincolnshire Police released figures last week showing domestic violence in the county has reached record high levels. But the news comes as the district is set to lose its only domestic violence support worker.

Jenny Downey works for the charity Women’s Aid and has been based at Grantham Women’s Centre in the town centre for the past five years.

Jenny’s role is at serious risk of being scrapped as Women’s Aid faces serious cuts in funding from April. Funding comes from organisations such as the county council and Surestart - both of which are having to make major savings.

Jenny said: “I find the idea of there being no support incredibly worrying. We absolutely have a reason to be here, you just need to look at the statistics.”

Between April and December of last year Jenny helped 463 women who were victims of domestic violence including 180 one-to-one sessions at the women’s centre, 84 through outreach work across the district and 92 through Surestart.

Since the turn of the year Jenny has been receiving an average of six new referrals a week.

She said: “One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lives and a victim of domestic abuse is assaulted 35 times on average before she reports it. Two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner. Luckily we have never had any domestic homicide in this area so it is working I’m not saying that if we go out of the picture there will be homicides all over the place but it shows working with different agencies helps to keep women safe.”

Jenny believes it is the most vulnerable in society who are being most affected by the cuts while the economic situation itself could also be fuelling more domestic violence.

She said: “I don’t know if domestic violence is going up because of the financial situation but there has to be a reason for the rise in referrals everywhere.”

The funding for Jenny’s position and that of a colleague who deals with helping children runs out at the end of March and is unlikely to be renewed.

Jenny said: “It would be nice if a millionaire came forward but unfortunately we are not a cute and cuddly charity.

“Nobody particularly wants to see the reality of domestic abuse. That’s why it thrives behind closed doors. It’s not looking good after March but until we get those awful words saying there is no more funding we are just going to continue as we have done for the last five years.”

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