Rape Crisis Centres

Women and Equality – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 10th March 2009.

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Photo of Christopher Fraser Christopher Fraser Conservative, South West Norfolk 2:30 pm, 10th March 2009

What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of funding arrangements for rape crisis centres.

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Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Minister of State (Government Equalities Office), The Leader of the House of Commons , Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

This financial year—in addition to local authority funding and £1.25 million from the victims fund—the Government have paid out £900,000 from a £1.1 million special fund for rape crisis centres. Since the special fund was announced in March 2008, no rape crisis centre has closed. My officials have been working closely with Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Survivors Trust to shape how this year's special fund will work. We will announce details of the fund shortly.

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Photo of Christopher Fraser Christopher Fraser Conservative, South West Norfolk

Many local authorities do not receive the funding that they need to establish rape crisis centres. Will the Minister commit to instituting a three-year funding cycle for rape crisis centres in all local authorities?

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Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Minister of State (Government Equalities Office), The Leader of the House of Commons , Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

As I have said, we have increased the funding to local authorities and through special funds. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that it is important that he and all hon. Members look at what their own local authorities are doing and whether they are providing the services for which they have been financed. I would also say that the money and the investment in those much-needed services come from the Department for Communities and Local Government budget and the Home Office budget. Those are two budgets on which his party has not offered to match the funding that we are promising to put in. We want more funds to go in, but Opposition Members express concerns while not even being prepared to match our spending. I think that that lacks conviction.

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Photo of Laura Moffatt Laura Moffatt Labour, Crawley

The horror of rape goes on for many years, as my right hon. and learned Friend knows. The crisis arises at the beginning, but the pain goes on. Within that examination and the welcomed increased spending, has she looked at excellent services such as that provided by the rape and sexual abuse centre in Guildford, which serves my area and many others in helping women through many years of after-effects following the original rape?

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Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Minister of State (Government Equalities Office), The Leader of the House of Commons , Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

I pay tribute to the Guildford centre, which my hon. Friend mentions. We need not only a prompt criminal justice response if the woman reports an incident to the police, but prompt and good health services. That is why our sexual assault referral centres are so important. Often, the trauma following a sexual assault or a rape can last a lifetime, and the overwhelming majority of such assaults are never reported, so we need a system that deals effectively with those assaults that are reported, but also supports women who cannot bring themselves to report but need help to find a way forward after such trauma.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Minister really needs to get herself up to date on Conservative party policy, because we have announced £2.5 million for up to 15 new rape crisis centres. I welcome the fact that today she has said that the £1 million extra funding will continue into the next financial year, but we are three weeks away from the end of this financial year. Many rape crisis centres do not know whether they can continue, such as Rape Crisis in Wycombe, which serves my constituency. It has had to cut staff hours and reduce its services because it does not know its future financial position. When will the Government adopt our policy of three-year stable funding for rape crisis centres?

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C

I wonder if Conservative party promises are more reliable than the promises of the Conservative London Mayor? During his campaign Boris Johnson promised £744,000 for 4 new rape crisis centres in London. On election he cut £500,000 from that funding, leaving the only remaining Rape Crisis Centre in London in jeopardy.

Submitted by C Whitehouse

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Minister of State (Government Equalities Office), The Leader of the House of Commons , Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

I am sorry, but I really am not going to accept that from the right hon. Lady: her party would cut funding to local government and to the Home Office, but we are being told that we are not spending enough. We have rolled out sexual assault referral centres and set up a special fund, and we are working with the umbrella organisations. Since we set up the special fund, not one single rape crisis centre has closed. If she is saying that more money should be put into this sector, she should say where it would come from because her party's policies would see it cut. Unless the Conservatives can put their money where their mouth is on this, I am not going to be listening.

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