Ahead of increased demand during the holiday season, the ACT Greens have called on the Government to provide more secure, long-term funding for dedicated family violence accommodation services in the ACT.
While additional funding (totalling $23.5m over four years) was provided to strengthen responses to family violence in the last two Budgets, no funds were directed to specialist crisis accommodation services assisting women and children escaping violence.
It’s inevitable that increasing awareness of domestic and family violence leads to an increase in demand for services.
“Fear of having nowhere to go can make it hard for women to leave violent relationships,” said Greens MLA and housing spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur.
We know that the ACT government already funds 321 crisis beds, with 84 of them specifically set aside for women with or without children. However, the average length of stay, including in transitional properties is 158 days. With a lack of exit points from crisis and transitional accommodation services, the bottleneck can mean that women and children fleeing violence have nowhere to go.
“Services often reach a peak during the festive season—and funding needs to be commensurate with need.
“The Beryl Women’s Service is one example. As the nation’s longest-serving specialist domestic violence women’s refuge, it’s organisations like these that step up at a time when women and children are taking enormous risks to escape family violence.
“We are extremely concerned that organisations like Beryl may face risk of closure ahead of the holiday season—when demand, already stretched, is likely to increase.
“Organisations like Beryl depend on government funding to survive,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“Despite increased demand, increased funding for Beryl over the past three years has been piecemeal at best. It has not provided certainty for the service to continue to assist women and children at this difficult time in their lives and nor is it sufficient for them to be able to provide the full range of services these women and children need.”
During the 2016 election campaign, the Greens called for an investment of $2m over four years into crisis accommodation services for those experiencing or fleeing from family violence.
The Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement (4.9) acknowledges the need to strengthen specialist homelessness and housing support services.