County council cuts threaten helpline for victims of abuse

Deborah Wiffen, front, and staff from the Time 2 Talk support group

Deborah Wiffen, front, and staff from the Time 2 Talk support group

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

A DOMESTIC abuse helpine that takes more than 350 calls a month is under threat as part of a £1.5m cuts package.

Council leaders are consulting on how they shave the amount off their spending to balance books to keep homeless hostels open.

In its budget, which was approved in February, Oxfordshire County Council decided to scrap the £1.5m grant which goes to a number of different services. This includes a proposed review of the need for a local domestic abuse helpline, as well as access and outreach services.

If the cuts do go ahead, £132,000 would be cut from money targeting domestic abuse – a reduction of 40 per cent.

The Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline gets an average of 351 calls a month and is one of the services under treat.

Trish Walsh, manager of charity Reducing the Risk of Domestic Violence, said: “I think it is essential that we maintain the helpline. It is staffed by assessors who know what advice to give and what services are available in the local area.

“It can be very difficult to get through to the national helpline because it is not manned all the time but this is a local service for local people.

“The most important thing is making sure the victims are safe when they call the helpline and I know useage of the helpline is up.

“Other counties are maintaining their domestic abuse service.”

Oxfordshire’s domestic abuse service – including the helpline and support – is run by A2Dominion, which also runs homeless hostel Simon House in Oxford.

It also gets funding from South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils, Oxford City Council and Children in Need.

Pam Vasir, A2Dominion’s group director of supported housing, said: “Our priority is to support the people who are in our care as best we can and, obviously, we have concerns about the impact the cuts may have on our services.

“However, it is not possible to comment on what the impact will be before we know the outcome of the consultation.”

Reports of domestic abuse in Oxfordshire have gone down in the last three years from 2,435 in 2011/12 and 2,336 in 2012/13 to 2,290 in 2013/14.

County council spokes-man Marcus Mabberley said that if the review went ahead, there would be a further public consultation before any changes were made.

The freephone helpline number is 0800 731 0055 and it is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm. It will not show on a telephone bill.

Deborah Wiffen, who has run the domestic abuse support group Time 2 Talk for four years, said the cuts threatened to remove a vital service which vulnerable people depended on.

Ms Wiffen said: “If we cut the resources to these people who might have the courage to ring up then they will be let down.

“There is a fine line between domestic abuse and sexual exploitation in women.”

Time 2 Talk meets from 10am to 1pm every Thursday, in High Street Methodist Church, Witney.

  • What would it mean to you if domestic abuse services were cut? Email news@oxfordmail.co.uk or call 01865 425500.
     
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