By Robert Firth
Town hall housing bosses turned away 152 women fleeing domestic abuse due to a lack of beds in women’s refuges.
Lambeth council couldn’t provide living space for the women, who asked for help after leaving their abusive partners.
Lambeth has 52 council-funded refuge beds – more than any other London borough.
But it has been forced to turn many women away due to a high demand for accommodation. The rejected women are instead offered a bed elsewhere.
The shocking figures from 2020-21 were revealed in the council’s 2021 Safer Lambeth Partnership Scrutiny Report.
The report reads: “In 2020-21 we supported 81 women in our refuge accommodation; a lower number than previous years due to Covid-19 related social restrictions and the impact on moves. An additional 152 women and their children were turned away due to lack of capacity during this time frame.
“While those referred are provided with alternative refuge options and immediate support, this demonstrates the high levels of demand. We have raised this issue at a regional level as the demand is a concern that needs to be resolved nationally.”
Lambeth has twice the number of council-funded refuge beds as the London average, but a huge demand for the accommodation means there are rarely free spaces. Charity, Solace Women’s Aid, runs three of the four women’s refuges the council funds. Its refuges have beds for 37 women.
The charity runs the only refuge in England for Irish and Traveller women in the borough, which has space for 10 women. A further 19 beds are available at another refuge it runs in Lambeth for South Asian women and another eight beds in a general refuge. The charity Refuge also has space for 15 women from African or African Caribbean backgrounds in refuges across the borough.
Domestic abuse victims can get a bed in a refuge anywhere in England as long as there is space. They don’t have to have a connection to the local area because victims often have to get far away from the place where their abusive partner lives. Council documents explain: “It is at the point of leaving an abusive relationship that victims are often at the highest risk of future harm, which includes being killed. Often victims and survivors need to leave their local area, and their connections (including schools) to stay safe.”
A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “Lambeth Council funds the greatest number of refuge beds in London at nearly twice the London average. Further, Lambeth Council has maintained this funding despite cuts to our budget.
“Demand is rising and our services are open to residents of other London boroughs too, meaning that we are stretched. Where we are unable to provide a bed because of high demand, alternative refuge options and immediate support are provided.
“We are working with the mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to help meet London-wide demand for safe accommodation and extra funding has been made available.”