Monday, 30 March 2015

Women's refuges in NSW: destroyed last year - restored this year?

Call For Inquiry Into Women's Refuge Changes

By Wendy Bacon and Elise Dalley

Problems have continued to emerge since NSW handed a number of refuges over to faith-based organisations. Wendy Bacon and Elise Dalley report. 

As more evidence emerges of crises in women’s refuges around NSW, campaigning group Save Our Women’s Services (SOS) has called for an independent inquiry.
“When the Premier Mike Baird became leader in April last year, he said one of his three key commitments was protecting the vulnerable. Unfortunately, the devastation of women’s services in NSW has failed to live up to that commitment,” SOS said.

After the LNP government announced its ‘Going Home Staying Home’ policy in 2012 women’s refuges, including those that had operated successfully for years, were required to tender for funds to deliver their services. The result was that many refuges were handed over from feminist or community control to faith-based organisations.

“Faith-based organisations do a lot of important work but women’s refuges were set up separately from church-based organisations more than 40 years ago to provide choice in the system, and gendered expertise,” SOS said.

The coalition of women and women’s services has released a set of five requests for the incoming Parliament to help improve on the ground services for women and children. 

These include:
1. A Parliamentary Inquiry to be held into the impact of Going Home Staying Home on women and children.
2. All refuges to be funded appropriately to have a mandatory staff member on site or on call 24/7.
3. Youth refuges and Service Support Fund Services to receive the funding necessary to cover their operating costs, ie. Indexation and mandatory Award pay increases.
4. Contracts to be extended to five years instead of three.
5. Community services should not be put out to competitive tender in future.

Further reading:
Long-term women's advocate Eva Cox is not convinced the large providers will be able to replicate the intensive support offered by the smaller operators.
''The big agencies are the Walmarts of the welfare sector,'' she said. ''They are doing exactly the same thing to the smaller agencies as Walmart does to the high-street shops. They just absorb them. I think the government is playing into that idea that you can take a cookie-cutter approach to welfare when all the evidence shows it doesn't work.''
She points out that the women's refuge movement was established in the 1970s because large providers could not offer the specialist support required by women and children leaving abusive homes.
''The reason we set these refuges up in the first place is because they don't fit under a generalist homelessness model,'' she said. ''These women and their children need much more than just a roof over their heads.''

Total Pageviews