Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Half of Rape Crisis centres facing closure

The government talks a lot about victims of crime and ensuring they are supported and listened to.

That does not seem to extend to ensuring the survival of Rape Crisis Centres :

Victims of rape could be left without proper counselling or support because the Government has been unable to sustain reliable funding for support services. As many as half of England and Wales' Rape Crisis centres are facing closure or severe cuts this year as the Government pulls funds from the organisation.

Rape Crisis believes up to half of its 32 centres, which offer specialised help to victims of sexual abuse, will be forced to close, or left in "severe trouble" if the Ministry of Justice does not renew the Victim Fund grants that were provided last year.

The Victim Fund was established last year with a £1.25m government grant for distribution among organisations that help victims of sexual assault. The fund saved the support network from near collapse, but now, just one year from its inception, it has already cut funds from the charities it set out to help.

Nicole Westmarland, chairwoman of Rape Crisis in England and Wales explained that since the Government was offering no equivalent service, it was its responsibility to maintain reliable funding. "Most women who come to Rape Crisis wouldn't go to the police or the health services, and only 18 per cent have even reported the crime", said Dr Westmarland.

"The Government also doesn't provide an anonymous helpline. They never said the funding would be for ever but the new money created a demand for a service, and now we'll have to turn vulnerable women away." She said she believed that charities were withdrawing financial support because they felt it should be the Government's responsibility to provide it.

It is estimated that 80,000 women are victims of rape or attempted rape every year, yet the specialist support centres say the Government has never had a reliable scheme to fund their work. In 1985, there were 84 centres across England and Wales. Now there are 32, with only two to cover the whole of London.

The figures on the Rape Crisis website show this is a service that is needed as much as ever .