OPINION: The East Yorkshire Labour Party column with Catherine Minnis – We are listening on the issue of women’s safety

I recently attended Labour’s first ever online Women’s Conference. Despite the occasional, inevitable technical hitches, the conference was a success, bringing together women from all over the country, without any of us having to leave our homes.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 12:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 4:26 pm
Many concerns were expressed around the issue of women’s safety. Photo posed by models.
Many concerns were expressed around the issue of women’s safety. Photo posed by models.

I recently attended Labour’s first ever online Women’s Conference. Despite the occasional, inevitable technical hitches, the conference was a success, bringing together women from all over the country, without any of us having to leave our homes.

The downside was that we missed out on the social side of party conferences: the debates over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee; the face-to-face meeting of like minds; waving our flags and banners.

As a delegate for East Yorkshire, I was chosen to speak at conference in favour of a composite motion to which our local women members had contributed, on the subject of Violence Against Women and Girls.

Catherine Minnis.

At an online meeting shortly after the murder of Sarah Everard, our members had expressed many concerns and recounted shared experiences around the issue of women’s safety.

Out of our discussions came a motion to send to Women’s Conference.

Our motion concerned domestic abuse, which saw a massive increase by 23% during the coronavirus pandemic.

Closer to home, the East Riding Council’s Domestic Violence and Abuse Partnership reported that last year saw a 50% increase in referred cases compared to 2019.

Every fortnight in England and Wales, three women are killed by their partner or ex-partner.

This has aggravated the already stretched services that councils and voluntary organisations offer to women seeking help, be it protected secret accommodation, counselling, or advice.

Nearly two-thirds of referrals to refuges for victims of domestic abuse had to be declined last year because of a “sustained funding crisis” says a report from Women’s Aid and the National Domestic Abuse Help Line.

Demand for all domestic abuse services continues to exceed available provision, leading to dangerous outcomes when women are left with impossible choices of either returning to their perpetrator or becoming homeless on the streets, with their children taken away.

Women’s Aid reported after the Chancellor’s 2021 budget that the £165million allocated is nowhere near the £393million needed to sustain refuges and community-based services and ironically, is a fraction of the £66billion estimated cost to society of domestic abuse.

So, there’s false economy and a lack of forward thinking and proactive planning.

As in many areas, it has fallen to charities to cover what the Government should be doing.

Through listening to women, the Labour Party has launched a Green Paper on how to end the pandemic of violence against women and girls and we want to hear your views.

With this in mind, once we are allowed to hold public events, our local Labour women plan to organise some drop-in, cafe style sessions to find out what the issues facing women and girls are in our area, including issues around safety.

Everyone will be welcome to call in and chat. There will be refreshments!

We are pleased that our conference motion was taken up and comforted to know that we have made an impact and something will be achieved.

It shows that however small we may feel sometimes, we do have a voice.

If you’d like to know more or to contribute to the discussion, please contact me at [email protected] or watch out for details of our events.