Monday, 15 March 2010

No Recourse to Public Funds

Last Wednesday evening, our director, Chris Green, spoke at a panel event at Amnesty International. The other panelists were Heather Harvey, SVAW Campaign Manager for Amnesty International UK; Jo Clarke of Eaves; and Anthony Wills - Hammersmith & Fulham local government officer and Chief Executive of Standing Together Against Violence.

Here's what Amnesty International UK says about the issue of No Recourse to Public Funds:

As part of the Stop Violence Against Women campaign, AIUK has been lobbying for an exemption to the No Recourse to Public Funds rule for vulnerable women of insecure immigration status, such as those on a student, spousal or temporary visa. The current rule leaves women of insecure status in violent relationships with the choice of remaining with an abusive partner or risking destitution if they decide to leave by denying them access to public funding (housing, benefits, etc) because the rule could force shelters and refuges to turn away such women.

Following intensive lobbying, the Home Office has agreed to a three-month pilot scheme to grant women facing violence, and who have insecure immigration status, the ability to temporarily access a refuge and seek specialised support. While we welcome this, our long-term aim is to get a new ruling to grant women’s refuges the funds they need to offer protection from violence to all women suffering abuse, and to launch an integrated strategy to counter violence against women so as to prevent contradictory policies undermining women’s rights.
The event was attended by the WRC's intern, Selene Trivelli.

Heather Harvey began by saying that the first problem is due to rules, especially immigration rules, as it's very hard for immigrants (who are often illegal) to run away from violent situations. Difficulties are related to such things as economic and linguistic concerns. These women are especially vulnerable when in a violent situation as they have few options to escape.

Jo Clarke spoke about an Eaves project, the Sojourner Project, which supports women who have entered the UK on a spousal visa and are experiencing domestic abuse. It is a national project that provides affordable accommodation for women who need it. From November 25 until March 28, there is a phone line for this project, which has been a great success.

Chris Green spoke about mobilising men to wear a white ribbon, but that this is not enough. We need to do more regarding prevention, which is what the WRC focuses on. We need more materials, resources, and workshops delivered to young men.

Anthony Wills asserted that the government must support ALL women who are suffering domestic violence - "If you talk about domestic violence in terms of how much it will cost to the government, then they'll probably start to think about it."

* Notes provided by Selene Trivelli

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