BOSSES at a Hampshire domestic abuse charity have hit back at government proposals to scale back funding changes for refuges.

It claims the cuts could put the lives of vulnerable women and children at risk.

The Southern Domestic Abuse Service has criticised the plans which have been proposed by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department of Work and Pensions.

The department has said that it wants to remove refuges and other short-term supported housing from the welfare system.

But the charity, which offers support and temporary accommodation to women and children escaping domestic abuse across Hampshire, says the changes will mean vulnerable women will not be able to pay for placements using housing benefit and could be left homeless as a result.

Consequently, charity chief executive Claire Lambon has registered her concern prior to a backbench debate later this month on the future of the funding.

In a strongly-worded statement, Ms Lambon points out that refuges are “more than just a bed for the night”.

She said: “Refugees specialist services, providing safe and anonymous shelter and support for women and children escaping domestic abuse.

“Demand for refuge remains high; on just one day this year, 90 women and 94 children were turned away.

“Currently, housing benefit provides around half of a refuge’s total income.

“The Government’s proposed model would end a woman’s entitlement to housing benefit – or Universal Credit – when in refuge, and devolve this ‘housing funding’ to local authorities.

“This would end the last sustainable national income that refuges receive, and result in the full devolution of responsibility and resourcing - at a time when we already have a ‘postcode lottery’ of refuge provision.”

The charity runs four refuges across Hampshire.

It can house 24 women and up to 57 children at any one time.

All the accommodation is shared and each family has their own bedroom and shares kitchen, dining, utility and living facilities with the other families.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman: "Until 2020, the government is providing £100m of dedicated funding for tackling violence against women and girls."

It said it would publish a "landmark" draft domestic violence and abuse bill.