Page last updated at 23:39 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 00:39 UK

Domestic abuse victims 'turned away' over lack of space

A refuge in Glasgow
There are fears about the impact of cuts on refuges like this Glasgow one

Up to 3,000 women fleeing domestic abuse are turned away from Scottish refuges every year because of a lack of space, a BBC investigation has found.

A Scottish Women's Aid census last year revealed 49 women and 25 children had asked for help in a one-day period, but more than half had to be turned away.

Experts have said there has been a "huge improvement" in domestic abuse services since devolution.

But it is claimed cuts are now putting refuges in a difficult position.

The women and children were turned away for a number of reasons - because the refuge was not suitable, because of their immigration status and because there was no space.

Across Britain, it is thought that 235 women every day are refused access to refuges because there is no space, equating to up to 58,000 a year.

Although many of these women may get help elsewhere, or from another refuge, experts have raised concerns about the situation.

You worry about what happens to them and you wonder where the kids have ended up
Lily Greenan
Scottish Women's Aid

Lily Greenan, director of Scottish Women's Aid, said: "We're not at what we need in terms of refuge provision. We turn away women and children every day.

"The prospect of further cuts, it just feels like we're going back. We've achieved so much and we don't want to lose that ground."

She added: "You worry about what happens to them and you wonder where the kids have ended up.

"You wonder if they found a friend's floor to sleep on. You wonder if they went back."

Dr Mairead Tagg, a psychologist who works with Glasgow East Women's Aid, said: "To be fair we have seen a huge improvement in the services for domestic abuse since the Scottish government came into being."

But she said she was concerned about the impact of economic hardship and cuts.

"Women will then come forward depending and relying on a service that may be truncated or cut or fractured or, God forbid, not there at all," she said.

Dr Mairead Tagg
Dr Tagg said services highlighted by advertising drives may not be available

It is thought one-in-four women and one-in-six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Among those not entitled to help in a refuge are those women who have come to Britain to marry from abroad.

Many of these women find that, although living in Britain legally, they are not entitled to help from public funds. This means that refuges have no money to help them.

A survey of Women's Aid refuges in Scotland found that 139 such women had to be refused help by refuges over the course of a year.

However, John Watson, Amnesty International's programme director in Scotland, said there was no accurate way of measuring how many women were being affected by this and that the real total could amount to many hundreds.

He said: "In the great majority of those cases they have to be turned away, either to go back to the abuser, or to be forced onto the charity of friends or forced onto the streets.

"We've heard of cases where people have ended up in prostitution."

Since the BBC investigation was carried out, a pilot scheme which offers some limited help to domestic abuse victims who have no recourse to public funds, has been extended until the end of August.


Hitting Home will be broadcast on BBC One Scotland at 2235 BST on Tuesday 11 May



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