Monday 24 November 2014

Women and children fleeing domestic abuse in Sheffield and beyond are being supported with a safe, private and welcoming place to live, as a new refuge has now opened.

The £2.5m purpose-built refuge includes 20 self-contained flats, with mainly two and three bedrooms, a children’s play room, and communal areas, including a large garden where families can meet and support each other.

The flats in the new refuge replace spaces in large shared houses, where women and their children had to share one bedroom. They also shared kitchens, bathrooms and lounges with others, without the privacy of a family home.

Sheffield City Council gifted the land for the refuge, which was developed by housing and care provider Sanctuary Group, and the Council funds the service. The service is delivered by Sheffield Area Refuge and Support (SARAS) who already manage 16 self-contained flats within an existing refuge.

Cllr Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living, said: “We wanted to improve the quality of our refuge places to meet the needs of the women and children that use them.

“The new refuge provides a safe, private and welcoming environment with lots of open space for women to get together, a fantastic garden, a homework room, play room and other communal areas. The self-contained flats mean that women and their children do not need to share bedrooms and they have the personal space they need, so it’s a massive improvement.

“Leaving an abusive situation can be incredibly difficult and, for many women, I know the decision about whether to leave or not can be even harder as it means taking their children away from their family home.

“I want women to know that there are refuges in Sheffield that meet their needs and provide a good temporary home for them and their family.”

Sheffield Area Refuge and Support (SARAS) was formed through a merger of the Sheffield refuge services previously run by Ashiana, Haven House and Sheffield Women’s Aid, and is running the service on behalf of the council.

Jaqui Devereux, Chair of SARAS said ‘’We are delighted with the new refuge which will provide a haven for women and children forced to leave their own homes, families and friends to be safe from abuse. We would also like to congratulate the Council for demonstrating their commitment to tackling domestic abuse and their continued support for the women’s voluntary sector organisations that have been working in Sheffield since 1974.”

Women staying at the refuge are full of praise for the new facility. Becky (not her real name), aged 29 from Sheffield, says “The refuge is a good place for me and my kids and is brilliant compared to what I was in before.

“The staff are amazing and so welcoming. It feels very nice to have my own kitchen and living room and all three of us don’t need to share a bedroom, just me and the baby with my son in his own room.

“It’s much better for him. When all three of us were sharing the same room he was very naughty and we were both fed up of being all squashed in together. We were so relieved when we came here and he’s a lot happier now, and so am I.

“I need my own space for me and my kids. Here I have actually got it.”

It is estimated that around 16,000 adults and 12,000 children are affected by domestic or sexual abuse or violence in Sheffield each year. More than one quarter of recorded violent crime in the city is related to domestic abuse, with over 11,000 incidents reported to the police in 2013/14.

As well as refuge support, Sheffield City Council provides a range of services for people experiencing domestic abuse, including male victims.

Contact the Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 808 2241, by email at help@sheffielddact.org.uk or visit www.sheffielddact.org.uk for more information.