All-women activist group Sisters Uncut took to the streets to protest cuts to domestic violence services. The group took direct action in central London to publicly warn the next government and local authorities that violence against women can no longer be ignored and women’s needs must be met.

Around 600 women assembled outside City Hall, central London, to commemorate women murdered by violent partners and family members. The group then moved to the London Councils Building, creating a roadblock and occupying the roof.

The protest fell just three days after May Day and reflects Sisters’ links with the labour movement. Both women’s safety and the value of women’s labour has been eroded by the cuts. Under austerity, specialist services have lost funding and highly qualified workers have had wages cut or lost their jobs completely.

Local authorities have been encouraged to trade as individuals, creating competition between agencies bidding for domestic violence service provision contracts. This has resulted in domestic violence services being handed over to agencies that run them on a shoestring, giving little regard to women’s interests and complex needs.

The smallest organisations have been the worst hit: among those with local authority funding of less than £20,000, the average cut was 70%. For those receiving over £100,000, the average cut was 29%.

31% of local authority funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector was cut between 2010 and 2012.

The most drastic cuts have been to the most marginalised groups – between 2010 and 2014, 32 specialist refuges were closed.

Sisters Uncut believe that austerity is unfair, austerity is sexist, and austerity doesn’t work. With 2 women a week currently murdered by a partner or ex-partner in the UK, we need to restore lost funding and safeguard further funding for services that can help women to live a life free from violence.

Image courtesy of Isabel Marler.

Rachel, a domestic violence worker attending the protest, says: “I’ve seen first hand both the life-saving impact of specialist domestic violence services, and enormous strain on the staff when funding is cut. In order to prevent further compromise to these services, we need adequate funding now”

Joanna is a survivor attending the protest, she fled an abusive relationship 5 years ago and says: “I genuinely believe that without a domestic violence support worker I would be dead – I was lucky – there was someone on the phone who knew what to say, who believed in me and who gave me time to work out what I wanted. I’m protesting because everyone should be allowed access and support from people who understand.”