Funding changes will 'decimate' abuse service
SOUTH Devon's domestic violence service today warned a revised funding package will still result in its support work being 'decimated'.
The reaction from Newton Abbot-based Domestic Violence and Abuse Service came after Devon County Council put forward a million-pound funding package for the county-wide abuse support service.
Campaigners from South Devon travelled to County Hall in Exeter yesterday as the funding for the service was discussed at the council's Cabinet meeting.
The service runs three domestic violence organisations in Devon, including the Domestic Violence and Abuse Service covering Teignbridge, South Hams and West Devon.
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The debate formed part of a wider discussion relating to the budget proposals for 2011 to 2012 and financial strategy up to 2015.
The council had initially proposed to cut its £1.2million ADVA funding entirely, as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise in light of Government cutbacks and less spending.
The proposal prompted a public backlash and the council was forced to rethink the cuts, bringing a revised package back to the Cabinet meeting yesterday.
The fresh funding, a total of £1.1million, is made up of £838,000 from Devon County Council, £43,400 from NHS Devon, £40,000 from police and £40,000 from districts.
In addition the council, NHS and police have agreed to commit an extra £25,000 each to qualify for Home Office match funding.
The money is on top of £470,000 the county council will continue to spend on supporting three refuges in Devon.
Speaking at the meeting council leader Cllr John Hart said the authority had worked hard to arrive at a compromise.
He said although ADVA's services were 'undoubtedly effective and valued' they do not form part of the council's statutory duties in relation to child protection and harm reduction. It is those duties which must take priority, he said.
"I have no desire to cut services but the fact remains that Devon, to its credit, has, over the years, funded, prioritised and supported a level of service to victims of domestic violence beyond that enjoyed anywhere else," he said.
"That is no longer sustainable given the spending cuts we are dealing with and we have to find a more equitable and sustainable solution for the future."
The doubt over funding triggered a storm with the authority receiving up to 60 letters relating to the original funding cut proposal.
Cllr Hart said the furore had seen Cllr Andrea Davis, the Tory Cabinet member with responsibilities for children and wellbeing, receive hostile phone calls to her home address. He branded it a 'disgrace'.
He called for a summit meeting with police and health chiefs so they can explore the possibility of establishing a domestic violence board to cover Devon and Cornwall and how services can be maintained in the future.
He added: "We need to ensure that funding for services is placed on a more sustainable and equable footing for the future and I believe there is a willingness to find a solution."
The Domestic Violence and Abuse Service, formerly known as Women's Aid, works with anyone affected by abuse through outreach work, educational courses, one-to-one help and counselling.
Speaking after the meeting its general manager Christine McKenna said: "This equates to a 42 per cent funding cut, as opposed to the 100 per cent originally proposed. It still represents a huge cut and will still have a massive impact on our services for vulnerable people.
"It is still absolutely devastating and we are disappointed because it means some services will be completely decimated.
"Across the board in South Devon it may mean us losing 50 per cent of services we provide to women and children."