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A new national 24-hour free helpline to help women and children...
A new national 24-hour free helpline to help women and children

fleeing domestic violence will be set up, in a groundbreaking deal

with Comic Relief, announced the government today.

The partnership forms a£2m initiative to help families in

danger at home and at risk of homelessness because of violent

partners. The helpline will offer support and information, including

safety planning and translation services, to women at risk in

England. It will be backed by a new 'refuges on-line' database, which

will provide touch of a button information on refuge accommodation

and specialist services for domestic violence professionals, across

the whole of the UK.

The government will spend a further£7m to develop new refuges

in partnership with local authorities around the country, to ensure

better availability of safe accommodation for women and children

forced to leave their homes.

The announcement comes as the latest homelessness statistics show

that in the past three months, out of the 33,640 households accepted

as homeless by local authorities, 23 per cent was due to relationship

breakdown, with domestic violence an issue in 7 out of 10 cases.

Barbara Roche, minister for social exclusion and equality who today

visited the Field Lane Homeless Families Centre in Kings Cross and

Hackney's Women's Aid, said:

'There is a clear link between domestic violence and homelessness.

Domestic violence accounts for 16 per cent of those on local

authority homelessness lists. Many of these families are in

unsuitable B&B hotels, which don't provide safety or security.

'Setting up a national helpline and developing more refuge space is a

major step forward both in terms of the government's commitment to

tackling homelessness more effectively and increasing safety and

protection for women and children experiencing domestic violence.'

Comic Relief supporter Davina McCall said:

'Far too many women struggle for years to cope with violence in the

home and often they don't tell anyone. When they do find the courage

to leave, it can be difficult to find somewhere safe for children and

themselves. This new freephone and vacancy service will ensure that

help is at hand quickly and easily and it's brilliant that Comic

Relief has awarded its biggest grant ever in the UK for these new


Michelle, 29, a survivor of domestic violence said:

'I left home with my two children, after 13 years of abuse from my

partner. It took a long time for me to get the courage to call a

helpline. But once I did, I knew there was help out there. It made me

understand I could go - and I was able to get a place at a refuge.

That was a year ago, and I haven't looked back.'

Domestic violence accounts for around a quarter of all recorded crime

in England and Wales, with an incident being reported to police every

minute. The charities Refuge and Women's Aid will run the new 24-hour

helpline. The 'refuges on line' system will also include Scottish

Women's Aid, Welsh Women's Aid and Northern Ireland Women's Aid to

ensure UK wide coverage.

John Denham, chair of the ministerial group on domestic violence


'This helpline is an important step forward in protecting vulnerable

women and children from violence in the home. Domestic violence is an

unacceptable crime that claims the lives of two women a week, and the

Government is determined to tackle it.

'Another important step will be our public consultation paper, due to

be published by spring 2003. The aim of this is to generate a

comprehensive response from the public, voluntary sector and others,

to ensure the widest possible agreement on what needs to be done to

prevent and deal with domestic violence and to bring perpetrators to



1. The Homelessness Directorate in the ODPM and Comic Relief will both be allocating£1m to the deal. It is anticipated that the full system will be fully

operational in the autumn of 2003.

2. The Homelessness Directorate is spending£125m this year to

help local authorities develop new schemes to tackle homelessness.

These include mediation services for family and couples in

relationship difficulties; additional support for women fleeing

domestic violence; rent deposit guarantee schemes to help homeless

people find housing in the private sector; court and landlord advice

services to reduce evictions; and debt and welfare counselling to

help people sustain their tenancies.£7m from this allocation

will be given to the Housing Corporation to increase safe

accommodation choices for women and children.

3. The government has set up a ministerial group on domestic

violence to ensure co-ordinated and concerted action at the highest

level. Today's announcement is part of a wider government strategy

to improve safety and protection for victims, bring perpetrators to

justice, and change our culture so that domestic violence is no

longer tolerated, excused or ignored. Last month the government

announced that it would publish a wide ranging consultation paper on

proposals to tackle domestic violence.

4. Comic Relief is seriously committed to helping end poverty and

social injustice in the UK and the poorest countries in the world.

Comic Relief has always had an interest in supporting services for

women and children facing domestic violence. Since Comic Relief began

it has awarded over£5m to the domestic violence sector, this

includes the 'Get Connected' initiative, which put computers and

Internet connections into nearly 300 domestic violence services

across the UK.

5. One in four women will face domestic abuse at some point in their

lives, and thousands of children witness violence and abuse. It

crosses all social divides and affects rich and poor, black and white


6. The ODPM is also today publishing a

policy briefing on the links between homelessness and domestic

violence. This can be found here. Latest

statistics relating to homelessness in England indicate that at

September 2002, 84,800 households are in temporary. This is a nine

per cent increase on the same time last year. Included in this are

around 6,500 families with children living in B&B hotels. This has

not increased over the last six months. This is a nine per cent

increase on the same time last year.

7. New research published today 'The Provision of Accommodation and

Support for Households Experiencing Domestic Violence in England',

ISBN 1 85112 607 4 is available from: ODPM Publications Sales Centre,

Cambertown House, Goldthorpe Industrial Estate Goldthorpe, Rotherham

S63 9BL Tel: 01709 891318; Fax: 01709 881673 or via

The summary: Housing

Research Summary Number 176 is available on the website:

8. Two Supporting People guides have also been published today which

give information and advice to local authorities and service

providers on how the needs of households experiencing domestic

violence might be met by housing related support services

commissioned under Supporting People. These can be found at

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