ROTHERHAM’S women’s refuge has been given a helping hand — as councillors pledged an extra £150,000 a year to fight domestic abuse.
The extra cash from RMBC’s general budget will take its annual investment in support services to £660,000.
Estimates from national data suggest 27,000 women and girls in the Rotherham area have suffered abuse.
The ten-unit refuge, which is currently run by Rotherham Rise, costs £220,000 a year — and three-quarters of placements are women from outside the borough.
Cllr Emma Hoddinott, cabinet member for community safety, said: “For their safety, it’s normal that women access refuges outside their local authority area.
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“We don’t have to provide a refuge. I’m proud that we are still one of the places that still does it.
“No, we don’t get that recompense, it is at a cost to us but it’s a reciprocal arrangement with other local authorities. We will have Rotherham residents going elsewhere and people coming here.”
Demand for the refuge has never been higher. It has seen 90 per cent usage this year — up from 86 per cent in 2019/20.
And Rotherham’s commitment comes as many other places have seen cuts because of austerity.
RMBC leader Cllr Chris Read said: “We know that domestic abuse services have been hit hard. By some reckoning, two-thirds of councils have had to cut funding and as many as one in six women’s refuges have closed across the country since 2010.
“Members here have rightly given this a high priority. We have been successful in drawing in grant funding which has bolstered that effort.
“I’m pleased that we have added to that from our own resources to ensure these services are protected in Rotherham.”
Opposition member Cllr Alan Napper said: “I’m glad that we are doing what we are doing in Rotherham with regards the refuge.”
The current service contracts come to an end in September, when they will be combined into one with the aim of providing “seamless” support.
This means an aim of ensuring more flexibility to meet the needs of all communities, including ethnic minorities, refugees, those in same-sex relationships and transgender people.
Scrutiny board member Cllr Jeanette Mallinder called the 27,000 figure a “massive amount” — but wondered: “Are we a victim of our own success in a really good way? Is it high because we are being given a good service and it’s talked about now which it never was before?
“I find it really encouraging that people have come forward now, whereas before it was a very hidden, taboo subject.”
Sam Barstow, RMBC head of community safety, said there were about 6,000 police incidents in Rotherham a year related to domestic abuse.
He added: “It’s really encouraging that the funding will be increased to allow us to continue to manage and respond to victims.”