Victims of domestic violence are being put in a desperate position because of swingeing cuts to support services, leading charities have warned.
An in-depth investigation by The Guardian newspaper has revealed that refuges are closing up and down the country, pushing services to the brink of the abyss.
Specialist safe houses – where women and children can take shelter – are being forced to shut their doors because they don’t take male victims.
And in other areas, the facilities are closing to make way for accommodation provided by housing associations, which experts argue does not provide the specialist support that vulnerable women require.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of the charity Refuge, said that the repeated cutbacks could put the provision for victims back decades.
“Refuge provision is under serious threat as a result of ongoing cuts to local funding and poor commissioning practices,” she said this week.
“Without adequate refuge provision, women experiencing domestic violence will be faced with a stark choice: flee to live rough on the streets or remain with their abuser and risk further violence or even worse.
“There are areas where there aren’t any refuges, other areas are specifying beds must be for local women only and some areas are commissioning so-called refuges which are not refuges.”
Among the areas to have suffered disruption are Gloucestershire, Cheshire, Dorset, Devon and Sheffield.
The scale of the problem has come to light following comments by Home Secretary Theresa May that there is a “great deal of ignorance” in the way that some local authorities commission services.