As changes to housing benefit and general austerity cuts threaten the future of domestic violence refuges all over the country, Doncaster has seen a particularly determined and long-lasting campaign in defence of the local Women’s Aid shelter. Now, Louise Harrison, a worker at the service who has been heavily involved in campaigning to keep it open in the face of funding cuts, has received a letter threatening the future of her employment contract. According to reports from local campaigners:
“Since the campaign to save the service began, Louise and volunteers of the services have vocally opposed the council’s decision to not fund the service past December 2017.
The trustees however have opted to attempt to water down the campaign and work to silence Louise and others attached to the service, by putting pressure on Louise and others to stay positive about the council.
The trustees who are members of the labour party have clearly been put under pressure from the council and have bought the right wing labour line of the council – that Louise and other campaigners are what is scuppering the chances of SYWA funding.
A witness working on a big lotto bid for SYWA was present at a meeting with a Labour affiliated SYWA trustee and MP Rosie Winterton where Rosie alluded to volunteers and staff militantly leading a campaign to save the service and that this could make the service unattractive for funders and clients.
However Louise has received huge support from clients who were kept up to date by Louise about the funding status of their service. Clients asked to write letters to Ed Miliband, one ex-client in particular has been central to the campaign to save the service.
The trustees are working to distance SYWA’s image from campaigners. We think that it is a mistaken belief of the trustees that they and campaigners should placate the council. If all it took to save women’s specialised domestic violence services was difficult discussions with the council then we wouldn’t see VAW services disappearing from our towns and cities. This weak position could lead to SYWA trustees now in charge of negotiations with the council, folding to the position of the council that their ‘is no funds’.
The argument of lack of council funding has been at the heart of the fall out between campaigners fighting to save SYWA and the council. From the start Louise and other campaigners refused to accept that council had no money to renew the £30,000 SYWA grant. The campaign highlighted the 91 million in ‘usable’ council reserves and the inflated pay of the council senior officials (the pay of the top ten senior council officials equates to over £1 million – all of which can be found online).
Louise said “I am deeply shocked about the inference in the letter that I have let women down. For the past 7 months I have worked largely unpaid to try to secure funding for our service with little or no support from some of the Trustees. It is deeply upsetting to read that I would do anything that would harm the women who desperately need our services.””
“We ask that you show your opposition by immediately;
– Contacting the four trustees for South Yorkshire Women’s Aid- asking them to immediately re-consider their action against Louise Harrison and prevent them from failing to renew her contract – then publically releasing this statement.
Send your statements to:
SYWA at The Point
And to: SYWAdoncaster@outlook.com
Also to Amy Cousens who is campaigning on Louise’s behalf: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Contacting Doncaster Council – The Mayor Ros Jones is the best bet email@example.com – noting your protest at the trustee’s actions and arguing that they prevent the victimisation of Louise Harrison and also if you haven’t already, that they fund SYWA.
– There is an online petition, please circulate this with your members: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/…/stand-up-for-louise-harrison…
– We will also be holding a ‘Stand Up For Louise and Save SYWA’ protest in Doncaster, outside the Mansion House at 12 on Saturday the 27th of January – please rally your members and supporters to this.
– We ask that you reconsider donating in the future to the service if Louise is not a staff member. This is at your branch discretion; however please make it clear to the trustees that your donation and support were based on Louise’s work and campaign.”