Lives will be saved thanks to new emergency aid for women fleeing abuse, Mel B says

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of former Spice Girl Melanie Brown (Mel B) during her interview with Victoria Derbyshire on the BBC programme Newsnight which will be aired on Wednesday. Ms Brown, 47, who is a patron of Women's Aid and campaigns with the charity on domestic abuse issues, said she would not report domestic abuse as she does not know if she can "trust the police". Issue date: Wednesday March 1, 2023. PA Photo. Ms Brown has urged the Government to reform "the whole entire system" of justice. She has previously spoken about being in an abusive relationship, which she claims left her without access to money or a support network. See PA story SHOWBIZ Brown. Photo credit should read: Robert Timothy/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.

LIVES will be saved thanks to a new emergency aid fund for domestic abuse survivors, Mel B said last night.

The Spice Girl and survivor thanked Women’s Aid and HOAR after ministers announced new lifeline payments for women fleeing their abusive partners.

Mel B had warned women were at risk as survivors won’t have access to money to leave their abusers

Minister for safeguarding Sarah Dines, pictured in the pink jacket, visited the women’s refuge

Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced a new £300,000 pot for immediate help for brave women.

Women fleeing will be able to access a £250 cash or voucher payment through the women’s charity – and £500 if they have children – carefully managed so it doesn’t go into the hands of abusers.

It could be used for essentials like food, nappies or rent, or a deposit on a new place to live.

Campaigners hailed the news last night and thanked HOAR for helping fight for the vital cash for women – many of whom leave their homes with nothing.

We visited a refuge in Sussex alongside Women’s Aid ambassadors, personal trainer Alice Liveing and Natalie Curtis, and Safeguarding minister Sarah Dines, where survivors will see the help first-hand.

Women’s Aid Patron, Mel B, who has bravely spoken about her own abuse, said: “After campaigning with HOAR as Patron of Women’s Aid, I am so happy that the emergency fund is being piloted. 

“£300k is a great start and we hope ministers can extend this emergency survivor funding on a permanent basis in future. 

“We know this fund is going to save lives.”

One woman, who cannot be named, living in a refuge, said: “It would have made a huge difference to me to have access to this – if it weren’t for Women’s Aid’s help, I would have gone back to him.”

Survivor Natalie told how when she left her abusive ex she had to borrow money from her dad for the bus just to get to work – and cash help like this would have made “all the difference” to her.

Ms Braverman said: “It is heart-breaking that vulnerable people find themselves trapped with their abusers without the financial means to leave and find safety.

“I am proud to be working closely with Women’s Aid to deliver these payments, which could change, and potentially save, the lives of hundreds of women.”

Minister for Safeguarding, Sarah Dines told HOAR: “This shows we are serious about tackling this – we are putting our money where our mouth is.

 “I’m committed to ensuring survivors get the support they need, and am pleased that we are working with Women’s Aid to offer these lifeline payments.”

Kids will be welcomed with toys and supplies if they are needed at the vital support centres

Women’s Aid Patron Alice Liveing with Safeguarding minister Sarah Dines in a room set up for those fleeing abuse

HOAR visited a refuge in Sussex to announce the new funding package

Women’s Aid will help further assistance for victims to set themselves up long term – with help finding a job or accessing benefits.

The cash can also be accessed by migrants fleeing abuse – many of whom have no access to public funding.

Three in four women living in abusive relationships said they were finding it harder to leave thanks to the soaring cost of living, the charity’s research found.

Two thirds of survivors also said that abusers are using the cost of living increase as a tool for coercive control, including to justify further restricting their access to money.

The new payments trial will come in next month – and payments could be in bank accounts in weeks.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said the cash would make a world of difference, adding: “This fund is an excellent start in supporting survivors who desperately need emergency funds to leave their abuser, and an important breakthrough moment.

“It could be the difference between life and death for the most vulnerable. 

“We thank HOAR for their incredible backing with this important campaign, it means so much to survivors.”

Natalie Curtis shares her story about fleeing her abuse former partner – who controlled her money

Minister Sarah Dines (second left) listens to Women’s Aid ambassadors tell their stories of leaving their abusers
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