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Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kathryn Holloway helped launch 16 days of action against domestic violence at one of the county’s leading support centres, which is funded by her office – and promised even more support.
The PCC joined staff at the Luton All Women’s Centre, together with clients who receive their help, on their open day to coincide with the start of the White Ribbon Campaign UK - part of a global movement to put a stop to male violence against women and girls, which runs until 10 December - Human Rights Day.  

“This is my first visit to Luton All Women’s Centre since committing to its funding, and it could not be more appropriate than for me to be here today. I’m absolutely blown away by the attitude of the staff and the quality of the building, which is a genuinely feminine and peaceful space offering women a real escape from their problems and practical assistance to tackle them,” said Commissioner Holloway.

“Women are drawn here through word of mouth.  The Centre has an incredible reputation for helping victims of Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage, Honour-based violence and Female Genital Mutilation.  It gives women the gift of language, computer skills and even twice-weekly sewing classes and craft lessons for an escape from the all too real traumas of their daily lives,” she said.

“It is not over-stating to say that I feel absolutely privileged to be associated with this wonderful place and the hope it offers, not only on a day like this, but every single day of the year.”

The Commissioner made tackling domestic violence her number one priority after coming into her role on 12 May 2016. She funds the Luton All Women’s Centre with £16,887 for counselling services, £36,451 for support regarding Domestic Violence and £22,132 for a service specifically assisting in cases of Forced Marriage and Honour-based violence.

Commissioner Holloway told the audience she hopes to do more in partnership with the centre adding: “This fantastic facility is offering support further and further afield in Bedfordshire as demand doesn’t stop and start at the Luton boundary. I have asked the management team to look ahead to try to source appropriate transport to bring more women here from further north in the county, from Bedford and central Bedfordshire and, in the south, from towns like Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard and the surrounding villages as it doesn’t make sense to duplicate or dilute what they do so brilliantly here, and it is a far better solution to bring women who desperately need this support to the centre instead.”

The PCC has committed her team at Bedfordshire’s Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to explore all grant possibilities, even before her own next tranche of Ministry of Justice funding is released in 2017, to try to extend the service through transport, at the earliest opportunity.

The Commissioner concluded: “There is the most enormous need for this support. When I have sat in the Control Room out of 20-25 life threatening emergencies coming through at any one time, around 15-18 of them feature Domestic Violence which is wholly unacceptable in the 21st century with supposedly higher levels of education and awareness.

“Across Bedfordshire, from both country villages and town centres, the Police Force Control Room monitors calls from desperate women every day which peak when they get home from dropping children off in the morning, at lunchtimes, when they return from school pick-up in the afternoons, and which climb steadily during the evening into the early hours, especially at weekends. It's a horrific pattern.  I want to do everything within my power and that of Bedfordshire Police to change,” she said.