Domestic abuse £35m-a-year cost to Coventry

Generic image of domestic abuse Charities fear funding cuts could risk lives

The problem of domestic violence and abuse in Coventry is costing more than £35m a year to deal with, the city council has revealed.

More than £22m of that is spent on housing, civil, legal and employment costs, according to a council report based on Home Office estimates.

However, two Coventry charities which offer support for victims of domestic violence and abuse have said they believe the figure is a ''massive underestimate" and the real cost could be three times higher.

Elaine Yates, manager of charity Coventry Haven which provides emergency help and support, said: "I think the real figure is probably much greater than that.

"That figure is based on the number of women who are reporting domestic abuse, of which our agency sees around 70% of women who choose not to report.

"So I would say that that figure could probably be grossed up significantly and that the cost to society is much greater than the £35m in the report."

'Bleakest picture'

More than 4,717 cases of domestic violence and abuse were reported to officers in the city in 2011, West Midlands Police figures reveal.

Cost of domestic violence and abuse in Coventry

Physical and mental healthcare -costs of £7,695,989

Criminal Justice - costs of £4,847,439

Social Services - costs of £912,867

Housing, civil, legal and employment - costs of £22,258,301

Total: £35,714,595

Source: Home Office

This makes the city the third worst area for domestic violence per 1,000 population in the West Midlands.

Coventry City Council is conducting a review of the problem, which means that charities like Coventry Haven will have to compete for contracts to continue to offer services in the future.

Fears of funding cuts over the next few months have led some charities to raise concerns about what that might mean for the service.

Ms Yates said: "I think the risk is women will die.

"The number of women we see in the city who die because of domestic abuse will increase and that's a risk I don't think any of us want to consider."

Miles Lamour, who is project director at Valley House which provides accommodation for people who suffer domestic abuse, is also worried about future cuts.

"I've been in this field for more than 30 years and I've never seen a bleaker picture as we have at the moment in terms of how we are going to resource services to the most vulnerable members of society," he said.

Anne Lucas, cabinet member at the Labour-run city council, said: "We've been looking at this for the past couple of years, we are not reducing funding.

"Nothing's set in stone, but those of us working with domestic violence will be fighting hard to keep budgets as they are."

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