Bega women's refuge future uncertain

WITH the lion’s share of NSW State Government funding for specialist homelessness services in the South East going to Mission Australia, the future of Bega’s Women’s Refuge is uncertain.

The Bega Women’s Refuge was founded and currently managed by the South East Women and Children’s Services (SEWACS).

Of the $4.87million delivered to the Southern NSW district, the Bega office of South East Women and Children’s Services (SEWACS) has only received $178,000 for its Bega Valley Youth Homeless Support Service, but not for its Bega-based domestic violence homelessness support.

SEWACS Eurobodalla office received $436,000 for its domestic violence homelessness support service.

The NSW Government recently began reforming special homelessness services (SHS) through its Going Home Staying Home policy.

The reforms have resulted in the consolidation of 336 individual services into 149 packages operated by 69 non-government organisations.

This has meant many smaller support services and women’s refuges have been absorbed into larger organisations.

In Bega, the majority of SHS money - $674,500 - has been awarded to Mission Australia and its partner Richmond PRA to deliver the Bega Valley Homeless Support Service package.

SEWACS did not respond to the BDN’s request for comment on the 2014-2015 SHS funding and future of the refuge.

However, the organisation provided the BDN with a copy of a letter sent to Member for Bega Andrew Constance before the tender winners were announced, asking him for his support in ensuring “our local women’s refuge continues to provide a vital, high quality service to women and children in our community”.

“Women and children escaping domestic violence or other abuse require a specialist response to meet their safety,” the letter stated.

“We believe that because of the specialist nature of women’s services and the work we undertake, our local women’s refuge should not be compromised in any way.”

In Sydney, several women’s refuges have already been placed under the management of generalist providers such as St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia, the Salvation Army and Wesley Mission after smaller local organisations missed out on funding through the SHS tender.

Women’s advocate Eva Cox told the Sydney Morning Herald she is not convinced the large providers will be able to replicate the intensive support offered by the smaller operators.

“I think the government is playing into that idea that you can take a cookie cutter approach to welfare when all the evidence shows it doesn’t work,” she said.

“The reason we set these refuges up in the first place is because they don’t fit under a generalist homelessness model.

“These women and their children need much more than just a roof over their heads.”

On Tuesday, the NSW Shadow Minister for Housing and Shadow Minister Assisting Women Sophie Cotsis will visit Bega to hear community concerns about potential impacts flowing from the SHS tender process and outcome. 

The meeting will be held at Bega Valley Shire Council chambers at 9am.

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