For women and children displaced from home by domestic violence, the holidays can be anything but happy. Taking safety in refuge, the familiar comforts and entertainments taken for granted by so many are not a primary concern. But everyone who celebrates Christmas deserves to share in the joy of the season, even if only as a brief respite from a very challenging situation.
On 23 December 2018, MP for Eastleigh, Mims Davies visited women, children, and workers at a refuge in Hampshire which is run by You First, the domestic violence and abuse service of The YOU Trust, working across West and North Hampshire, and in Dorset.
The Minister for Sport, Civil Society and Loneliness had an opportunity to bring some of Santa’s finest gifts to the refuge for all to enjoy following a chance run-in with Father Christmas at a recent meeting with representatives of the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA). The BTHA – with Santa’s authorisation! – donated a selection of board games and toys, which MP Mims Davies delivered to the refuge, along with some tasty treats.
Funded primarily by Hampshire County Council, You First Hampshire provides free and discreet support, advice, and refuge to victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse. Refuge services nationally face significant challenges due to a gap in resources to meet a sadly large demand and individuals’ complex individual needs.
Nationally during 2017/18, 39% of all referrals to refuge ended in access whereas in West Hampshire this figure was slightly lower, with 31% of all people referred taking up the offer of a space. However, West Hampshire is excellent at maintaining engagement with people referred for refuge spaces (91%) and being able to support people with no recourse to public funds (94%) compared to the national figures (49% and 68%, respectively).
On MP Mims Davies’ visit, Tonia Redvers, Head of Hidden Violence and Counselling Services at YOU said,
“YOU have been delivering domestic abuse accommodation services for over 30 years and are so grateful that, each year, the community gathers around to support women and children who are living in refuge over Christmas. This year, Mims visit, and the support and generosity of our community, will make a significant difference to children who are living away from their home. Being safe sometimes means being unable to speak with family or friends, and that is especially hard at this time of year when so many families come together. Knowing that someone cares means so much and helps us to support children and their mums over the festive period. Mims has been a great supporter of YOU and our domestic abuse services. It is wonderful that she is able to visit us again, and allow us to say a great big Thank You all so very much for bringing a little cheer during the festive season”
“It was such a pleasure to embrace the holiday spirit with the women, children, and workers at the refuge. We all share a wish for a brighter future, free from fear of domestic violence. Refuge services offer a safe haven on the journey toward that goal, and we should all take time to think of those who are unable to be home for Christmas.”
Anyone experiencing domestic abuse in Hampshire can access free, confidential support by calling 0330 016 5112. In an emergency, please dial 999.