Women's refuges in Somerset to be run by different charity

Woman in fear of domestic abuse
Image caption Chapter 1 runs two women's refuges in Somerset

Women's refuges in Somerset are to be run by a different company after a review raised concerns for the safety of people using them.

Somerset County Council gave a three-year contract to national housing charity Chapter 1 in July 2012.

An independent review commissioned by the council uncovered problems with the way the refuges, which help victims of domestic abuse, were being run.

The contract will now be transferred to the charity BCHA early next year.

'Unannounced inspection'

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: "We awarded the contract to a nationally-recognised provider with no reduction in funding.

"When awarding this contract we were aware that it would be challenging and difficult, with Chapter 1 asked to bring in modernisation and development.

"We were not satisfied with progress early on and worked with Chapter 1 to improve.

"Despite this we felt the need to commission an independent report on performance and carry out an unannounced inspection and a further inspection.

"After careful consideration, it has been mutually agreed that the contract should transfer to another provider, BCHA."

'No impact'

Rachel Sanders from Chapter 1 said: "The decision to transfer the contract was mutual and amicable.

"Chapter 1 is working closely with Somerset County Council and BCHA to ensure that there is no impact on the services provided to clients during the handover period.

"We remain contracted to deliver the services until April 2014, but are working towards an earlier handover date provided all the arrangements can be addressed more quickly."

Hilary Fisher from Women's Aid said: "I think it's shocking and I certainly think that the local council has something to answer.

"We know there are significant challenges to the commissioning of services, everybody knows we are in financial hard times, but you can't put women's lives and children's lives at risk."

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "The police raised concerns earlier last year with other agencies, I'm told.

"Now Somerset County Council have listened. They did an independent review, they've taken action and they're now putting things right."

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