Protests over bid to close Torbay refuge for victims of domestic violence
PLANS to close Torbay's refuge for women and child victims of domestic violence have met with a storm of protest.
Bay MP Adrian Sanders, the refuge housing provider and unions in the Bay are all angry about the hurried way they claim the decision is being hurried through.
Westcountry Housing, which has provided the seven-bed refuge and emergency services for victims of domestic violence for a decade, has written a 'stinker' of a letter to the council about the way the decision has been made.
The hostel is located at a secret address in the Bay for the protection of its residents.
Torbay Council will decide on a proposal to replace it with emergency accommodation on October 17.
A spokesman for Westcountry Housing said: "Given that we have been the provider of both the refuge and the community based services for nearly a decade, why are we being excluded from the meeting and not allowed to speak?
"The whole process has shocked us in terms of how it has been done and the speed of the consultation, given that this is such a critical service and the high levels of domestic abuse in Torbay."
The refuge cost £106,779 to run last year and the predicted cost in the current financial year is £105,000.
Bay Lib Dem MP Mr Sanders said he has written to mayor Gordon Oliver because of his concerns about Torbay's many victims of domestic abuse: "If that is the cost of protecting people who are fleeing violence, you cannot look at the figure and say it is too expensive.
"This proposal does not appear in the council forward planning document. Why not? What are they afraid of?
"The consultation period was very brief and has been extended by a week, which seems odd. It should have been an extra month.
"This is a question that has been taken up by at least one of the housing associations who have copied me into a stinker of a letter to Torbay Council."
Paul Raybould, chairman of Torbay Trades Union Council, has also written to mayor Oliver and local MPs to object: "The council it seems has plenty of cash to pay towards the Riviera Centre, palm trees and talent competitions but is looking to cut financial support towards refuge places in Torbay.
"The money has been cut every year now for five years in a row.
"This may not be a vote winner, but it is a real need for women and children who are in need of a safe and secure place of sanctuary."
Sue Orwin, secretary of UNISON's Torbay health branch, has also written to councillors and MPs backing those comments.
Martin Oxley, housing director of Westward which provides the accommodation, said: "We oppose Torbay Council's proposal.
"We believe that it is unclear, untested, poor value for money and not based on supporting evidence."
Campaigner Fi Allen is urging people to fill in the online survey: "We need to protect victims and children. We need services to do this.
"You never know when you, a friend or relative, or neighbour will need the Refuge until the crisis strikes.
"If it's gone, who knows what will happen to the victims.
"Maybe someone will die, maybe children will be hurt, traumatised or worse."
Caroline Taylor, the council's director of adult services, said: "The proposal which we are consulting on is to change the accommodation provision from a refuge model to an emergency accommodation model."
She said the change would 'provide greater value for money for the local authority' by delivering emergency accommodation linked to specialist outreach support.
"All organisations will be provided with details of the proposals along with a set of questions for response.
"Consultation with women will take the form of focus groups so the proposals can be communicated and to enable the council to gauge their views about their proposal and what they feel any potential impacts might be."
To register your opinion about the closure go to: www.torbay.gov.uk/consultation