A new refuge in Bedford is providing a safe haven and providing “forward-thinking” support for women and their children, fleeing domestic abuse.
Bedford Borough Council has commissioned social housing provider Stonewater to manage the secure refuge, which can accommodate up to ten women with or without dependant children in self-contained flats.
While at the centre, residents will also have access to therapeutic recovery support to help survivors of domestic abuse make a fresh start.
“This well thought out accommodation is setting a new standard for provisions of this kind,” said Helena Doyle, Stonewater’s Customer Experience Director.
“It is an ideal environment to build on our existing experience to ensure women and children remain safe and progress at every stage of support to live a happy and safe life, free from abuse.”
Members of the LGBTQ+ community who have experienced domestic abuse, discrimination, hate crime or family breakdown can also access support and accommodation.
Refuges across Bedford accepted 111 referrals from survivors fleeing domestic abuse between 2018 and 2021.
Increasing provision and securing modern premises has become a strategic priority for Bedford Borough Council.
Cllr James Valentine (Kempston West) Portfolio Holder for Education and Children’s Services said this refuge can be “literally lifesaving for some victims”.
With the short-term support available at the refuge, Stonewater says they hope to help survivors rebuild their confidence and develop new skills and abilities.
This will then help them to live free from the threat of violence and abuse.
Grand Union Housing Group, who built the centre, will also work with Stonewater to provide benefits advice and rehouse women when the time is right.
Grand Union were chosen to build the refuge because of their expertise in building specialist supported accommodation, and experience gained from their existing refuges in Central Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.
£720,000 from Homes England also helped fund the project.
Deborah Stuart, Director of Wellbeing & Safeguarding at Grand Union Housing Group, said: “Housing providers like ourselves have a duty to do all we can to prevent people suffering from violence and emotional abuse in their homes”.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, please contact Refuge’s 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.