Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1082/30613
Unite the Union opposes all cuts to domestic violence services
Jon Dale, secretary, Unite union EM/NG32 Nottinghamshire Health branch (personal capacity)
Tension is growing in many locked-down homes. It's no surprise domestic violence is increasing too. Calls to Refuge's helpline, the domestic abuse charity, are up 120% since the lockdown began.
The Respect helpline website, which gives confidential advice to perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse, saw a 125% increase in the week beginning 30 March.
Services for women and children fleeing domestic violence have been slashed. Since 2010 almost a quarter of the funding for council services have been cut - almost half in some areas.
Over a six-month period in 2018 1,000 women and children were turned away from refuges due to lack of funding.
Domestic violence is also a workplace issue. Victims may have anxiety, affecting their performance at work, higher sickness absence and experience stalking. Employers need policies to support workers - not push them through standard capability or sickness absence procedures.
Women's Lives Matter was set up in 2018 by campaigners from womens' refuges fighting cuts by local councils and other activists, including Socialist Party members. It produced a model motion for trade unions. This calls for union campaigns to oppose all cuts to domestic violence services, linked to the fight for decent jobs and pay, council homes and public services for all.
The motion also calls on unions to work with campaigners and supportive local councillors to hold people's budget meetings to produce a no-cuts budget which is necessary to prevent the destruction of domestic violence services and the lives they protect.
Unite, like many other unions, had a policy on domestic violence which contains many good points. However, it was written ten years ago and did not reflect a decade of massive cuts from government, passed on by local councils.
In March last year, Unite Nottinghamshire Health Service branch discussed the Women's Lives Matters motion. The branch added an amendment that men can also be victims of domestic abuse, and need to be able to access appropriate services.
The motion was sent to the East Midlands regional committee which passed it to Unite's executive council. They referred it back to the regional committee saying it should also include the need for appropriate agreements to be negotiated in the workplace.
After the motion was sent back to the branch we amended it and sent it back to the regional committee, which then passed it back to the executive council. Twelve months after the first discussion at Nottinghamshire Health Branch this is now Unite's national policy!
Where domestic abuse services are being cut by councils, campaigners should approach Unite for support. Local councillors should refuse to implement any further cuts and demand the money needed for these vital services from the government, as part of a campaign to protect all public services.
As the Covid-19 crisis is showing, years of cuts have left services unable to cope with our needs.
In The Socialist 14 April 2020:
What we think
Lessons from history