Thursday, 17 February 2011

womens refuge cuts

Women's refuge chief returns OBE in protest over cuts

Denise Marshall says funding cuts will leave Eaves charity unable to support victims of violence and sex trafficking

The head of a leading women's refuge is handing back the OBE she received for services to disadvantaged women

because she believes government cuts will leave her unable to provide proper support to vulnerable women.

Denise Marshall, chief executive of Eaves charity, which specialises in helping women who have been victims of violence

and those who have been trafficked into prostitution, said the level of funding cuts to support organisations such as hers meant

they would soon be unable to function properly.

National and local government funding decisions have hit women's support services hard.

Preliminary research by the national charity Women's Aid shows that more than half of all domestic violence services

still do not know whether they will have enough money to remain fully open after March.

Marshall told the Guardian: "I received the OBE in 2007 specifically for providing services to disadvantaged women.

It was great to get it; it felt like recognition for the work the organisation has done."But recently it has been keeping me awake at night.

I feel like it would be dishonourable and wrong to keep it. I'm facing a future where I can't give women who come to my organisation the

services they deserve – I won't be able to provide the services for which I got the OBE."

Women's organisations have always struggled financially, but charities across the sector are reporting that the current round of public sector cuts

has left them facing unprecedented funding shortages. Earlier this year Devon county council proposed to scrap funding to its domestic violence support

services; after vigorous campaigning from women's groups a 42% cut was imposed instead.

"I've worked in this sector for almost 30 years. I don't want to sound melodramatic but I don't think I have ever felt as depressed and desperate as I do now," Marshall said.

"There has never been enough money, but we were able to scratch around to find some. I've always been reasonably pragmatic; I've been good at finding bits of money from

grants, local authorities and charities. Now it feels like there is nowhere to go to. I feel devastated.

"We have always worked on a shoestring, but now that shoestring has been cut. What is suffering is the quality of the service provision. What was already a barely

functioning sector is now in danger of dying on its feet."

Marshall called St James's Palace to find out how to return the OBE, and was told she could send it to either the Queen or the prime minister, with an explanation of why

she was giving it back. Last night she had dusted off the medal, which she had stored at the back of a cupboard, and was writing a letter to David Cameron.

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