The refuge centre for battered women here has suffered a double blow with a reduction in Government funding and dwindling donor grants, forcing it to slash its services to those in need.
Over the last three years, the crisis centre run by the local chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Club Over has been feeling the effects of Government cuts, Coordinator Marlene Hewitt told Barbados TODAY.
Hewitt would not say how much the centre had been receiving since the centre opened in 1999, nor would she disclose the depth of the cuts.
However, she said it was deep enough to force the voluntary organization to reduce its staff complement from six to two fulltime employees.
“We’re barely hanging in there. We’re trying to provide the most important things, but some things had to go. It means that the few members that we have, have to put in a lot more work. And it’s not easy for us because we all work.
“So we try to get that extra money from grants, from people making donations. What we’ve seen though is that the grants budget has fallen, especially grants from international donors. They are being redirected to other causes. So the domestic violence and HIV grants have fallen,” Hewitt said.
One of the casualties of the cuts is the centre’s domestic violence counselling programme. Not only has it been reduced significantly, but the child psychologist has had to be released.
In addition, the skills training programme has also been affected, Hewitt told Barbados TODAY.
“We always do the domestic violence counselling but we did a lot more counselling. We can’t [anymore because] we don’t have the personnel. At one time we had a child psychologist, we had gotten a grant for that but we don’t have that anymore.
“And we could do a lot more things. If we had more money we could send people to get some skills. If they’re not working, if they say ‘well I’m interested in that’, you can send them out to get training. But if you don’t have any money that’s reduced,” Hewitt lamented.
The coordinator said the authorities had not given the issue of domestic violence the attention it deserves, suggesting that this was the reason for the cuts.
In fact, she complained that women’s issues on a whole were not seen as priorities.
“It should be a priority but I don’t think it is. I don’t think anything to do with women is that much a priority. It’s gotten better, but I think once you use the word ‘gender’ or ‘women’ the priority falls.
“I suppose the Government decides they have to cut. Not that I think they don’t recognize or stop to think if they run it [the crisis centre] themselves it would cost them more money because you wouldn’t have the kind of volunteer work that is done as a backup for the services and the management. If you run it yourself you would have to pay everyone. Nobody is going to leave their house in the middle of the night when there is an issue as the volunteers would do now,” she said.