Union members and workers in Salford domestic abuse services came together to highlight the risk of harm to abuse victims within the city following a change in contract holder.
Salford council has decided to award Salford Women’s Aid’s (SWA) contract and funding to Salford Foundation and their partners this year, starting April 1st, a move that will see workers for the service cut in half, having potentially life threatening impacts on victims.
At least 2 of Salford’s domestic abuse refuges will have to close their doors as a result of the move, as well as services dedicated to victims who fall under no recourse, meaning they are ineligible for government funded help, being at risk of closure due to lack of funding.
Dawn Redshaw, CEO at Salford Women’s Aid (SWA), said she has already been informed her job “is gone”, whilst others have been warned that the new service will not “need half of them”.
This came as a surprise to Salford’s Mayor, Paul Dennett, who greeted the protestors on the way into the budget meeting, telling them he had not been informed of these employment decisions.
“Salford Women’s Aid made me understand there was life after abuse” Said Jane Gregory, CEO of Salford Survivor Project (SSP), who is herself a survivor of domestic abuse.
“That for an abuse victim is really important because you feel helpless, you feel on your own, Salford Women’s Aid was there for me”
As council members entered the budget meeting, protesters stood outside holding banners, chanting “Save Salford Women’s Aid” and “shame on you” to councillors who wouldn’t listen to their concerns.
The closure of these refuges, and the potential loss of no recourse services, will have a massive impact on the women living in domestic abuse households.
It would mean victims may have to travel further to places such as Trafford and Manchester instead of having options available right on their doorstep.
“Salford Council are at risk of causing loss of life or people staying in abusive relationships, which has a long term effect on those victims and their families and children” continued SSP CEO, Jane.
All this comes at a time where domestic abuse across Salford is at an all time high. Salford Survivors Project helped sixteen-hundred victims across Salford last year alone, SSP CEO tells Mayor Paul Dennett.
SWA itself has over three-thousand victims under their care, says Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) working for the service, Gemma.
Paul Kelly, who’s Mother in law Jean Costello helped found the service, recalls times when they would be working through the night to make sure victims have a safe place to sleep and a way of escaping their abuser.
“They’re con merchants, they’ll say anything to get the women back.”
“I’ve seen grown men, 6ft tall, crying on the floor at the refuge door ‘I want my wife back, I’ll never do it again'”
“You know they’re gonna do it again – people need to be protected”
SWA has been providing dedicated care to domestic abuse victims within Salford since the 1970s, workers are also concerned that the process of switching providers now would cause some victims to ‘slip through the cracks’ of the system.
Paul continued: “This needs to be stopped, the council have gotten above themselves, they don’t know the real world, they haven’t spoken to the workers, they’ve gone right over their heads.”
Meetings were held on Wednesday, following the protest, where SWA workers and union members were able to discuss their concerns with council members to ensure the best possible service is available to victims.
“We want Salford Women’s Aid to keep it’s funding, it’s a fantastic service, it keeps women in this city safe, it keeps their children and their families safe” Said Steven North, the union representative for SWA workers, who attended the protest.
“This is not just me talking, this is the firsthand experience of survivors, the experience of staff who’ve put their entire lives into this”
“We want the city council to think again to maintain funding for these vital services”.