Mass protest expected as council meets to decide future of Weymouth women's refuge

STRONG OPINION: Mary Watson and other campaigners gather names for a petition against the closure of the women's refuge

STRONG OPINION: Mary Watson and other campaigners gather names for a petition against the closure of the women's refuge

First published in News by

CAMPAIGNERS say they will fight to the bitter end to save Weymouth’s women’s refuge from closure.

And they are hoping more than 1,000 people will turn out at a mass protest at County hall in Dorchester tomorrow when councillors meet to debate the issue.

The campaign to save the refuge from closure is gaining support across the political spectrum since it was revealed it would be axed.

Around 5,000 people have signed the petition which is being distributed throughout Dorset. Organisers hope to get a total of 10,000 signatures.

The petition was launched after the Dorset Supporting People Commissioning Group announced it would stop funding the women’s refuge and two youth hostels in the town in January, leaving them to close and their users to be relocated.

The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for South Dorset, Ros Kayes, has joined forces with South Dorset MP Jim Knight to fight the closure.

They are calling for Weymouth and Portland councillors and residents to make their voices heard.

Mrs Kayes hopes campaigners will be able to present the petition to Dorset County Council’s cabinet on September 2 before it is asked to endorse the commissioning group’s decision to stop funding the Weymouth facilities.

She said: “This is a Dorset-wide issue and I think this council would like to palm it off as a Weymouth-only issue in the hopes that no-one will kick up a fuss about it.

“But people seem to be really eager to take this on board.

“Every time we go out collecting signatures in Weymouth there are people literally queuing up to sign it.”

Criticisms were also been made of the way in which the commissioning group has consulted on and made its decision to close the refuge and youth hostels, with several Weymouth councillors and Ros Kayes saying it should have been more open to public scrutiny and input.

South Dorset MP Jim Knight has also organised an online campaign against the planned closure. In just 24 hours, dozens of people signed up to the email, Facebook and Twitter campaign.

Mr Knight is also urging people to protest outside County Hall at 9am tomorrow ahead of the meeting in which county councillors will decide the future of the refuge.

Mr Knight said: “I urge people to support our campaign, either by signing the petition or joining my online campaign, to stop the county council’s reckless decision to close the refuge.”

And Richard Drax, the prospective parliamentary candidate for South Dorset, also voiced his concerns over the proposed closure.

He said: “I appreciate the council’s predicament, trying to make less money stretch further and over a diverse and mainly rural area, but I hope the cabinet thinks very carefully about this proposal when it meets on Wednesday.

“I would ask the county council rather than closing the Weymouth refuge to improve it.”

Dorset County Council’s director for adult and community services, Steve Pitt, said: “The women’s refuge in Weymouth is set to be decommissioned as part of a move towards a new county-wide outreach service for all victims of domestic violence.

“While this would help many more people remain in their own homes, two refuges would be retained in West and North Dorset for people who need them.

“The Weymouth refuge is a very small one, with only six units of accommodation, and the building is not fully accessible.

“Again, we are working closely with current residents to ensure they will be moved on into appropriate accommodation if that is still relevant at the time of closure.”

Comments (8)

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9:16am Tue 1 Sep 09

Willow21 says...

"Decommissioned"? Why do these people attempt to hide behind fancy verbage?

The refuge is not a power station or a warship; it's a place where women (and their children) can be protected from being physically and mentally abused by their partners. The refuges are located across Dorset so that the women can be placed out of reach of their partners, so it's not just a Weymouth issue.
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The refuge costs £87K per year, and has six units of accommodation. Some might say that's a lot of money, but whether or not the refuge stays open, it will still cost money to provide the less-effective 'outreach' service. Also, because remaining in their own homes is a less-safe option, there will likely be the costs of medical treatment, police investigations and court proceedings when these women are assaulted by their partners.
.

"Decommissioned"? Why do these people attempt to hide behind fancy verbage? The refuge is not a power station or a warship; it's a place where women (and their children) can be protected from being physically and mentally abused by their partners. The refuges are located across Dorset so that the women can be placed out of reach of their partners, so it's not just a Weymouth issue. . The refuge costs £87K per year, and has six units of accommodation. Some might say that's a lot of money, but whether or not the refuge stays open, it will still cost money to provide the less-effective 'outreach' service. Also, because remaining in their own homes is a less-safe option, there will likely be the costs of medical treatment, police investigations and court proceedings when these women are assaulted by their partners. . Willow21
  • Score: 0

1:18pm Tue 1 Sep 09

biggestoaf says...

Hope Mr Drax doesn't get splinters from sitting on that fence. Difficult for a Conservative candidate when a Conservative council wants to close such an important resource.
Hope Mr Drax doesn't get splinters from sitting on that fence. Difficult for a Conservative candidate when a Conservative council wants to close such an important resource. biggestoaf
  • Score: 0

2:01pm Tue 1 Sep 09

Wessex Lass says...

Why do they always want to close places that take care of people. I am sure a lot of money could be saved if the council did away with lunches, bottled water etc given to their employees. You would not get the same perks working in the private sector. Then places like this could stay open. Just a though!
Why do they always want to close places that take care of people. I am sure a lot of money could be saved if the council did away with lunches, bottled water etc given to their employees. You would not get the same perks working in the private sector. Then places like this could stay open. Just a though! Wessex Lass
  • Score: 0

5:13pm Tue 1 Sep 09

Portland Pixi says...

A women's refuge is needed and anyone who has been involved in setting one up/working in one/ or living in one will testify.

The council should stop trying to be politically correct and start serving women and children in need.....if men need a separate refuge then so be it - let them campaign for one like we all had to before the Dorset refuges were set up in the first place.
A women's refuge is needed and anyone who has been involved in setting one up/working in one/ or living in one will testify. The council should stop trying to be politically correct and start serving women and children in need.....if men need a separate refuge then so be it - let them campaign for one like we all had to before the Dorset refuges were set up in the first place. Portland Pixi
  • Score: 0

5:34pm Tue 1 Sep 09

staffs says...

Equality works both ways, other wise it is a contradiction in the very name itself.

The reason you don't hear more men claiming to be abused is due to the humiliation involved, something which these protestors are only furthering.
Equality works both ways, other wise it is a contradiction in the very name itself. The reason you don't hear more men claiming to be abused is due to the humiliation involved, something which these protestors are only furthering. staffs
  • Score: 0

7:12pm Tue 1 Sep 09

Get a grip says...

Look it is a simple fact that more men abuse women than women men.
Look it is a simple fact that more men abuse women than women men. Get a grip
  • Score: 0

8:33pm Tue 1 Sep 09

biggestoaf says...

It's got nothing to do with equality or whether there should be a refuge for men - this was just a smokescreen to distract from the real reason. It's a Conservative council cutting services in order to save money. This is what happens when the people of Dorset choose not to elect any Labour councillors.
It's got nothing to do with equality or whether there should be a refuge for men - this was just a smokescreen to distract from the real reason. It's a Conservative council cutting services in order to save money. This is what happens when the people of Dorset choose not to elect any Labour councillors. biggestoaf
  • Score: 0

8:39pm Tue 1 Sep 09

Timmy3 says...

Without a women's refuge, I don't know what sort of a life I'd be living now.The refuge is essential, not just for West Dorset but for a wider network of safehouses.
I'd protest in Weymouth to help save the refuge, but the town's bail hostels and half-way houses currently make it impossible for me to visit - because the person I was helped away from is in one of them!
I have found the outreach service to be a really good support.
Without a women's refuge, I don't know what sort of a life I'd be living now.The refuge is essential, not just for West Dorset but for a wider network of safehouses. I'd protest in Weymouth to help save the refuge, but the town's bail hostels and half-way houses currently make it impossible for me to visit - because the person I was helped away from is in one of them! I have found the outreach service to be a really good support. Timmy3
  • Score: 0

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