Back in February, a few of us travelled down the Trident Demo in London with members of Doncaster people’s assembly. As these long coach journeys are usually rather tedious, it has usually been a tradition to break it up, as it were, with an ‘open mic’ session. Representatives from various groups are invited up to talk about campaigns going on in their respective cities. One of the people who really stood out was Louise Harrison, who spoke eloquently and passionately about the campaign to save Doncaster women’s aid.
We were so impressed we decided to ask her, and others, to come to our next meeting, which coincidentally fell the night before international women’s day.
The closure of Doncaster women’s aid is one of the examples of how austerity has disproportionately affected women.
Since 2010, 54% of domestic violence services have been forced to close. With cuts to the police, and children’s centres closing down, Doncaster women’s aid is one of the last places of refuge left in South Yorkshire. It’s closure would mean vulnerable women and children, who previously relied on the service, would have no safe place to go. This would put them at great risk and could potentially cost many of them their lives.
Louise again spoke passionately about the campaign, which is something she cares deeply about. She has worked with vulnerable women and invested a great deal in women’s aid. The city has had domestic violence services in the city for over forty years, which were set up by women to get crimes against women recognised. Doncaster campaign groups have rallied to say that ‘women’s lives matter.’
The local council cut funding three years ago, blaming central government cuts. Since then they’ve relied on money from the Big Lottery, but that has recently been withdrawn, and without a consistent source of funding they would be forced to close their doors. They are due to shut on 31st March.
Since then, they have tirelessly campaigned. They’re held protests and rallies, lobbied MPs and Councillors and got the backing of other groups and unions.
The meeting, and indeed the whole campaign highlighted the devastating impact of austerity and the fact cuts have consequences. The campaign slogan is, ‘they cut, we bleed.’ Local authorities are deprived of money, plunging entire towns into poverty. With the ideological dismantling of the welfare state, and forced closures of services, vulnerable people are falling through the cracks and being failed by society more than ever. Effectively this current government are ‘turning back the clock.’
It was a lively and interactive meeting. Many people asked questions and were interested in getting involved. As well as hearing from the Doncaster group, we also discussed our own campaigns and got some valuable feedback and input from them. It also showed that we can learn from each other and come together.
The York Peoples assembly pledged our support to the campaign with a unanimous vote.
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