The closure of @EavesCharity
We are devastated by the closure of Eaves: a charity dedicated to supporting some of the most vulnerable women. They were one of the few avowedly feminist organisations and one which made it clear, over and over, that men's violence against women and girls are both a cause and a consequence of women's inequality.
Eaves closure comes only months after the death of their former CEO Denise Marshall who fought tirelessly for the very basic recognition that women are human too. The loss of both Denise and Eaves are a tragedy for vulnerable women.
As the formal statement from Eaves makes clear, their closure is a direct result of government 'austerity' policies which disproportionately impact women :
Cuts, reductions and closures have of course hit a whole range of non-governmental organisations. However, there is much evidence to suggest that women are bearing the brunt. Fair Deal for Women found that it is women who have paid off 79% of the deficit to date. It is more likely to be women in low-paid, insecure, part-time and public sector work, it is more likely to be women with caring responsibilities who may have to top up their incomes or rely exclusively on benefits and it is more likely to be women who need to rely on public, voluntary sector and specialist services. Yet these are precisely the areas being cut.
But it is not purely and simply cuts that are at play. It is abysmal commissioning whereby commissioners either do not know or do not care what they should be looking for or how to assess a bid other than by lowest unit cost with no regard to quality.
This is evidenced by the fact that large, generic, non-specialist organisations are winning tenders, expanding, accumulating vast reserves and specialist, smaller organisations with 40+ years of history with high levels of self referrals from women (a sure sign of the value of the service to the women) – are shrinking and having to use their scarce reserves to survive.
As Karen Ingala Smith makes clear in her moving tribute to Eaves and Denise: "The lack of recognition of the value of the specialist independent women’s sector reflects the lack of value of women."
Make no mistake, the closure of Eaves following chronic underfunding and the loss of government contracts to non-specialist organisations who are cheaper because they lack the training and quality of work is a travesty. It makes a mockery of the idea of an equal society.
The decimation of women's services is part of a war on women: a war that is destroying not only women's specialist services but also women's access to justice. The decimation of tax credits, child benefit, and housing benefit has seen a surge in women living in poverty - many of whom have children. The withdrawal of legal aid in divorce and child custody cases is putting women and children at risk of continuing abuse by the father. The closure of adult education and training programs, as well as community centres will also have a detrimental impact on women's lives. The loss of specialist women's services like rape crisis centres, refuges, and exiting programs are simply compounding the damage done by so-called 'austerity' cuts.
We cannot afford to lose an organisation like Eaves. We cannot afford to lose any other women's specialist services. This weekend, we ask our women followers to donate just £1 to a specialist service to help support vulnerable women. We ask men to donate £1.50 to reflect the consequences of the pay gap on women's lives.
We need to save our services.