Community News

Award to trial ‘Respite Rooms’ for domestic abuse victims

£350,000 award for pilot offering safe accommodation and support

Bristol has been granted £350,000 to support vulnerable women – and will be piloting a year-long trial from the autumn offering safe accommodation to victims of domestic abuse and violence.

The award, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced on Monday, will allow Bristol City Council to work with partners to open a 12-bed ‘Respite Room’ project.

This will deliver several weeks of support for up to 100 women in need, including those sleeping rough, who have been in unsafe situations or with histories of domestic violence.

The female-staffed programme will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and include a wide range of input from city agencies.

It will offer help with issues such as substance misuse, benefits and financial independence, immigration and sex working as well as mental health, forced marriage and sexual violence – providing ongoing community support.

The project, which follows a successful bid led by the council’s Public Health and Housing Options teams, is expected to get under way in October of this year.

It will offer women short-term assistance to ensure they get the support they need – in advance of further guidance to help them towards longer-term solutions for their personal needs.

Deputy Mayor and Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for Equalities, Communities and Public Health, Councillor Asher Craig, said: “This additional resource will increase much needed safe house provision for those with complex needs, particularly for those who need a need a greater level of support.

“The last year has led to not only an increase in the reporting of domestic abuse, but also an increase in the complexity of cases and, in some cases, they need more care and support than traditional services can offer…

“This will complement the work of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) who have been funded by the Ministry of Justice and will be working around specific specialist areas such as drug and alcohol misuse, minorities and young people.’’

Among the partner organisations involved in setting up Bristol’s facility will be homelessness and domestic abuse support organisations St Mungo’s and Next Link.

Regional Director at St Mungo’s, Helen Denyer, said: “… At St Mungo’s we understand how important it is to deliver specialist and holistic homelessness services for women, ensuring that the right support is in place for survivors of domestic abuse and other associated trauma. 

“We will use our extensive experience of delivering city-wide women’s homelessness services in Bristol to ensure that everyone accessing ‘Respite Rooms’ is given the right support to move away from homelessness and to build a safe and secure future.”  

CEO at Missing Link, Next Link and Safe Link, Sarah O’Leary, said: “We are delighted that Bristol has been selected to deliver the Respite Rooms Trial Programme so we can work closely with our partners to provide a 24 hour safe accommodation service to vulnerable women in the city who are victims of domestic and sexual abuse…

“We also know from experience that with the right support women who face multiple disadvantage can go on to lead safe and fulfilling lives free from violence and abuse.”

The Respite Rooms Trial Programme was first announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of the Budget earlier this year – and will create a total of 140 bed spaces across England and support an estimated 1,100 people over a 12-month trial period.

Bristol is one of 12 areas across England to share £3.7 million, to provide safe housing and specialist support, following the government’s commitment to tackling domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.

Next Link domestic abuse telephone help lines are open 8.30am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9.30am – 1pm Saturday. Call 0800 470 0280.

Help is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the National Domestic Violence Helpline – Freephone 0808 2000 247.