Regressive government policies have disproportiona

Regressive government policies have disproportiona

first_imgRegressive government policies have disproportionately affected the ability of disabled women who have experienced violence and abuse to access the services they need, according to a new report.Shaping Our Lives (SOL), which has written the report, sayssome services have been discriminating against disabled women under theEquality Act because of a lack of knowledge and training, and a “pitiful” lackof accessible buildings.It says thatthese failures are a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Personswith Disabilities.The report, A Refuge for All, was published this week after twoyears of research led by disabled women with experience of violence and abuse.It comparesthe situation with the findings of the Making the Links report published 10years ago by Women’s Aid, which found that although disabled women were twiceas likely to experience domestic violence and abuse as non-disabled women, theyfaced significant barriers in accessing services.SOL’s reportconcludes that little has changed in the last 10 years and in some cases provisionhas worsened.Because of cutsto services, disabled women have often not been able to secure local support, andthey have faced lengthy waiting-times and have had to travel long distances tosecure support.Just as therewas 10 years ago, there is a lack of accessible information; refuges and otherbuildings providing services are still inaccessible; and there is still a lackof knowledge and understanding by professionals.Disabledwomen also still face the risk of having their children removed by socialservices if they escape an abusive or violent partner.Research suggests that the number of disabled womenexperiencing violence and abuse has been increasing, says the report, while disabledvictims of domesticabuse “suffer more severe and frequent abuse over longer periods of time thannon-disabled victims”.The project worked in two areas, Bexley in south-eastLondon, and Birmingham, to examine how local services could be made moreinclusive for disabled women. The report concludes: “The pilot site interventions demonstrate that trainingand advice from disabled women and user-led organisations can have an enormousimpact on services’ readiness to work confidently with disabled women and thata number of small inexpensive adaptations can improve the accessibility of theservice delivery.”SOL’s BeckiMeakin, the project manager and author of the report, said: “It was veryworrying to hear about the experiences of disabled women seeking support fromviolence and abuse. “I expectedto see progress in the last 10 years, but instead access to services hasworsened and sometimes was non-existent in a woman’s local area.”She added: “Theregressive funding policies for violence and abuse services has reducedprovision for all women, but it has disproportionately affected access fordisabled women who in turn are almost three times more likely to experienceviolence and abuse.”The reportwas funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Tampon TaxFund.Among itsrecommendations for improvements, the report calls for a central resource ofinformation for disabled women; investment in more accessible refuge spaces; disabilityequality training for staff; access action plans for each service; andco-production of services with disabled women.Meakin said:“I believe that only by listening to and working equally with disabled womenexperiencing violence and abuse will we be able to increase their sense ofself-worth and remove the practical, prejudicial and systemic barriers thatexclude them from using violence and abuse services.”The project has also published a toolkit which can be used by services toassess themselves against best practice and devise a plan of action forimprovement, often at low cost.AshleyStephen, co-founder of Disabled Survivors Unite, who helped with the project, said:“This project is vitally important and showcases the unique barriers thatdisabled women face in accessing domestic abuse services. “One disabledwoman being turned away due to an inaccessible refuge is too many.”DisabilityLabour also said the report was of vital importance.FranSpringfield, co-chair of Disability Labour, said: “As someone who is a survivorof domestic violence, I know how inaccessible refuges can be.“It isimportant that women fleeing domestic violence have a safe space, not only interms of physical and emotional safety, but also that it meets theiraccessibility needs.“We knowthat domestic violence services are receiving far less money than they need tobe able to provide these crucial services, which undoubtedly save lives. “We would encouragecouncils to ringfence such funding and look to supporting refuges to enablemuch-needed adaptations to be made.”last_img

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