A REFUGE for victims of domestic abuse could be under threat, a meeting was told last night.
Claire Chatwin, chief executive officer of Southern Domestic Abuse Service (SDAS), warned the organisation was facing anxious times because its contract with Hampshire County Council is under review as part of a re-tendering process.
The service currently provides refuge accommodation in Havant and Alton and helped almost 1,900 victims and survivors last year.
A further 4,160 children across Havant, East Hampshire, Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport attended sessions to educate them about domestic abuse.
The annual general meeting of SDAS, held at St Francis Church Hall, in Leigh Park, attracted more than 50 people and heard the organisation had gone from strength to strength in recent years.
The service relies on donations and charitable activities, but a huge slice of its funding comes from the county council.
If it loses the contract, it would lose around £300,000 – about 40 per cent of its income.
Mrs Chatwin warned refuge services could be ‘decimated’.
She told the meeting: ‘The future does hold some anxiety for us.
‘Not only are we having to compete against national services, we are also having to extend the area where we deliver these services.’
Later she told The News: ‘We believe in community based services and deliver an inordinate amount.
‘But actually refuge accommodation is absolutely crucial for the safety of the most vulnerable victims.’
She added: ‘There’s a lot of ifs and buts at the moment. The bottom line is we don’t want to close refuges.’
Councillor Roy Perry, leader of the county council, told the meeting he had ‘no doubts’ of how important domestic abuse services are.
Leigh Park Cllr Liz Fairhurst, in charge of adult services, said there would be no cuts to any of county’s £1.5m domestic violence budget.
She said: ‘The re-tendering process is something that happens every five years.’
She said she would be making a decision early next year, based on officers’ recommendations.
She added that she had been impressed by the work of the Havant-based organisation.
‘I think they are doing an excellent service,’ she added.