Women’s refuge to open in city

Members of Cornerstone celebrate news of funding which will allow the building to be refurbished in January.
Members of Cornerstone celebrate news of funding which will allow the building to be refurbished in January.

A new women’s refuge in Lancaster is among projects which will receive a share of more than £283,000.

Applications from 97 organisations for cash from the new Take Pride Community Fund were received by Lancaster City Council.

The council’s cabinet this week agreed to grant cash to 26 of them following recommendations from an advisory panel of city and county councillors, but not all of the winning bidders will receive the full amount they requested.

The two biggest beneficiaries are the East Lancashire Women’s Refuge Association, which wants to open the new refuge, and Lancaster Methodist Church, which is planning to renovate community hub The Cornerstone on Sulyard Street.

The women’s refuge association, which had asked for £49,800, will receive £25,200.

Lancaster has not had a women’s refuge for around 10 years but domestic violence support workers say there is a real need for the facility.

The number of referrals of women classed as being at high risk of domestic violence to Lancaster and District Women’s Aid has substantially increased.

During 2011/12, there were 172 referrals, but in just six months from April this year there have already been 121 referrals.

Work on the refuge, which will be launched next spring, will cost several hundred thousand pounds.

It will be staffed 24-7 and will house five women and any children they have for up to six months.

Domestic violence practitioners will offer a full support plan to help them in recovering from the trauma and abuse they have faced.

“Women’s Aid provide support for women in the community in the Lancaster district, but what has been missing is a local accommodation base,” said a spokeswoman for the women’s refuge association.

“Women can stay in the district but they would not have access to a specialist facility.

Dee Conlon, domestic abuse manager at Blackpool Advocacy, which is providing management support to Lancaster and District Women’s Aid, said: “Three or four women a month are leaving the Lancaster district because there is no safe accommodation for them here, so the new refuge will be a welcome addition to our resources.

“It’s fairly unusual for there to be no refuge provision in a place the size of Lancaster. Areas like Blackpool, Preston, Wyre, Fylde, Burnley and Rossendale all have refuges.”

The Cornerstone houses groups including Thumbprint, which helps people with learning disabilities to set up projects, as well as the methodist church and Lancaster Street Pastors.

It will receive £40,000 of the £50,000 requested to help fund a £435,000 refurbishment which will include toilets accessible to the most severely disabled people, office space and a computer suite.

Temporary accommodation is being sought for users for when the three-month revamp begins in January.

Cornerstone coordinator, Peter Brophy, who believes the new facilities could result in the number of users doubling from the current 8,000 a year, said: “This is a huge boost to disabled and marginalised people.”