Women’s Aid programme cuts ‘could endanger women’s lives’

A local Women’s Aid worker has warned that cuts to a support programme would endanger the lives of women and children.

Services Manager for Women’s Aid Antrim, Ballymena, Carrick, Larne and Newtownabbey (ABCLN) Fran O’Boyle made the comments as a coalition of charities and voluntary organisations, including Council for the Homeless NI, called on the Northern Ireland Executive to strengthen the Supporting People (SP) programme.

The scheme provides vital support to help more than 26,000 people annually in Northern Ireland live as independently as possible.

However, funding for SP schemes has been frozen for seven years, which Women’s Aid says represents a ‘real terms’ cut of over 20 per cent.

Ms O’Boyle stated: “Supporting People funding enables the women and children we work with to rebuild their lives, regain their independence and live safely in the community.

“It gives victims of domestic violence the chance to live their life free from abuse.

“Any cuts to the Supporting People programme would be devastating and would put the lives of these women and children at risk.”

The SP programme provides some 882 housing related support services across NI, equips vulnerable people to live independently and helps prevent problems which can result in hospitalisation, institutional care or homelessness.

Research has demonstrated that it is an ‘invest to save’ programme delivering net financial benefits by reducing demand on health, criminal justice and other public services.

SP is also currently subject to a government review, and the coalition of supporters is concerned about the potential impact of NI Executive spending cuts on the programme.

Women’s Aid says that without strong measures in place to protect services, there is a danger that those in most need may lose out, despite empirical evidence of the programme’s impact.

The organisation is calling on members of the public to get involved in the “Let’s Keep on Supporting People” campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and by getting in touch with their local MLAs and Councillors to urge them to strengthen the funding of Supporting People and protect Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable people.

Support can be accessed locally by calling 07845445941, 07906041136, or the 24hr Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 802 1414.

To read about Women’s Aid’s services visit www.womens-aid.org.uk