Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has intervened to support a key service for women that is under threat in South Yorkshire.
South Yorkshire Women’s Aid, based in Doncaster, faces closure after the Labour-run council refused to continue funding it.
It is the only Women’s Aid centre in the whole of South Yorkshire. Domestic violence workers and others have been campaigning to raise money to keep the service going.
Campaigners have been inundated by support from trade unions, campaign groups and others.
Last week McDonnell said, “I want to pass on a solidarity message to South Yorkshire Women’s Aid campaign. Your campaign is an inspiration. I will liaise with the three local Labour MPs and Doncaster council to seek to save this much needed service.
“I give this pledge that a Labour government will ensure funding for these vital women’s services will be provided because women’s lives matter.”
Louise Harrison, a domestic abuse worker and campaigner, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. She said campaigners are “overjoyed” at McDonnell’s support.
“We hope this will inspire domestic abuse services facing closure or cuts to start campaigning,” she added. “Our battle is not over. But we believe we are a huge step nearer to winning.”
The Tories are putting more women at risk. The government plans to stop women from claiming housing benefit to pay for accommodation in women’s refuges.
Housing benefit makes up over half of funding for women’s refuges.
Women’s Aid said the move would stop over 4,000 women and children accessing a refuge and that 39 percent of refuge services would close.
Another 13 percent will be forced to cut the number of beds available.
Tory cuts to council funding have slashed services to support women suffering abuse. Figures released earlier this year showed that London councils have cut funding for such services by an average of 38 percent since 2010.
And cops are ignoring more and more women who report domestic abuse. The number of incidents reported rose by 60 percent in the three years to June 2016.
But police failed to show up in 11 percent of cases last year. This is more than double the figure in 2012, which was 5 percent.
Some forces failed to respond to over a quarter of reports. Labour MP Jess Phillips has sponsored a debate on the issue of refuges in the House of Commons on Tuesday of this week.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has called for mandatory funding for refuges.
It’s good that prominent Labour figures are speaking out against attacks on refuges. Now Labour-run councils must back this up with action—and refuse to pass on Tory cuts to vulnerable women.