Statistics have revealed the scale of domestic violence in the UK with 19,000 women seeking state help to find emergency housing in 2008-09. The figures, published this week, have revealed the true extent of the problem, and are especially concerning against the backdrop of cuts in staff and frontline services assisting victims of domestic violence.
Of course, it is not just women alone; often the female victims of violence in the home have children; who along with their mothers, are forced to flee with their from the violence they are witnessing at home. Sixty per cent of women (and children) find themselves seeking shelter in a women's refuge.
The statistics have highlighted major concerns regarding access services to help women escape such violence. Local Council funding cuts and a reduction in charity donations and contributions mean that staff services have been significantly reduced, with further reductions to the essential services and support required set for further cuts in funding. As a result, access to a local refuge for these women may become even scarcer.
In the Lancashire area we are reasonably fortunate in that essential services exist. However, they do require more support. Farleys have a good working relationship with the local WISH centre in Blackburn and Women's Centres in Accrington and Burnley. Our family law solicitors are increasingly referring women to these centres to access additional support on housing, employment, self-esteem counselling, budgeting etc.
What does strike me within the statistics is the sheer amount of women and children who flee their home every year as a result of domestic violence. The law does provide protection to women and children in their own home; under the Family Law Act 1996, an application can be made by a person to remain living in a property to the exclusion of the other person for a period of time. This is often coupled with a non-molestation order (commonly called an injunction) to prevent further domestic abuse.
At Farleys, our expert family law solicitors can offer assistance to women in either remaining in their home or alternatively, providing access to local services and organisations to try and help women break the cycle of domestic abuse.
By Clare Foster, family lawyer in Lancashire