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Campaigners fight second Yorkshire Women's Aid closure in two years
Amy Cousens, Leeds Socialist Party
'Women's Lives Matter' campaigners took to the streets of Doncaster on 26 August to defend the last Women's Aid in south Yorkshire.
South Yorkshire Women's Aid (SYWA) was set up in January of this year after Doncaster Women's Aid closed in March 2016 due to funding cuts. The campaign, which was set up last year to defend the service, heroically fought Doncaster council and won a grant from them to re-set up a Women's Aid.
The hard-fought-for £30,000 grant pays for three part-time staff and limited resources - it does not cover the rent for their one-room office. Since setting up the service has had over 100 referrals and the case load of the staff is growing.
Despite the dire situation, Doncaster council has told SYWA that they will not be able to apply for any funds from the council as there will be no money for the voluntary sector at all now in Doncaster. This comes after Doncaster council has been told by central government that it needs to make a further £70 million worth of cuts.
Women's Lives Matter campaigners absolutely refute this 'no money' verdict from the council. A recent report by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition shows that Doncaster has £81.7 million in reserves.
Activists from Women's Lives Matter are absolutely clear that this is a part of the wider austerity agenda being implemented by the Tory government but being carried out by local authorities, 124 of which, including Doncaster, are Labour-controlled.
The campaign is made up of staff, volunteers, trustees, ex-clients (of SYWA), community campaigners, ex-Care UK strikers and the Socialist Party.
We are adamant that we will protest the council until they provide funds. However our demands go further than this. The cuts facing SYWA are just a part of the funding cuts that are happening to public services across the country.
The campaign not only demands funds to continue to run SYWA but an end to all austerity, which is a political and ideological decision against the poor, not a fiscal reality.
We demand that all public services, education and housing are funded adequately. All of these are essential in not only assisting domestic violence victims to have safe and secure lives, but for all working class people.
Without widening our fight to save this service to one that fights all austerity and argues for funding for all services, we will only win services that barely tread water to support domestic violence victims. For the women using SYWA we have no choice but to fight the cuts - when they cut, women bleed.
Last year, the Doncaster Free Press reported that Doncaster Children's Services Trust had released figures which showed that in the three month period between October and December 2015 there had been 2,057 incidents of domestic abuse reported in the town.
This works out to be the equivalent of one every hour. And this is just the ones that we know about. Refuge, a leading domestic violence charity, has found that a woman is assaulted on average 35 times before making her first call to the police. This means that in reality, domestic abuse rates could be much higher than what figures show.
Exact, up-to-date figures on domestic abuse are not available for Doncaster. But Women's Aid nationally reports that two women a week are murdered by a violent partner or ex-partner, and Refuge says three women a week die by suicide to escape abuse.
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