West women’s services at risk without funds

Vulnerable women at risk of family violence could be in greater danger without an urgent injection of funding.

Footscray-based Women’s Health West (WHW) is one of a number of domestic violence services with programs at risk because of uncertainty surrounding a homelessness funding agreement between state and federal governments that runs out in June.

The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) funds a range of homelessness prevention and family violence programs; in 2009, it provided $210 million funding in Victoria.

The Weekly last week revealed a 46 per cent rise in family violence reports in Maribyrnong last year compared with the previous year, and a 24 per cent jump in Hobsons Bay.

WHW chief executive Robyn Gregory has written to MPs warning the service received 2990 police referrals from July to December last year compared with 2207 for the same period the previous year – a 35.5 per cent increase.

Women’s Health West has used NPAH funds to help dozens of women improve home security and obtain court intervention orders as well as supporting families with crisis accommodation.

NPAH money also funds a weekend worker who responded to 737 referrals from Victoria Police in 2012-13.

“Without NPAH funding this program will end,” Dr Gregory said.

Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack said family violence was the main driver of homelessness in Victoria.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said ripping funding from homelessness services would force more women and children to sleep in cars and rooming houses or “couch hop”.

A spokeswoman for Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews said the previous government did not commit to a new NPAH after the current agreement expires on June 30. “The Australian government continues to work with the sector and the states and territories on the future of homelessness funding.”

By Ben Millar, Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay Weekly
15:28:PM 11/03/2014