KATE Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, joined BAFTA-winning actress Dame Julie Walters in petitioning for the Prime Minister to stop planned changes to funding for domestic abuse refuges which could put women and children at risk.

Representatives of Women’s Aid and 38 Degrees joined Kate, other MPs and Dame Julie to deliver their petition which calls for a halt on housing benefit changes which could lead to the closure of refuges.

The petition, titled ‘SOS: Save Refuges, Save Lives’ has so far received over 170,000 signatures.

The proposed funding model will remove housing benefit from refuges and devolve housing costs to local authorities to “fund services that meet the needs of their local areas”.

However, the campaigners say that domestic abuse is a problem that needs a national response; they say that over two thirds of women living in refuges escaped from outside of their local area, for fear that they would be hunted down by the perpetrator.

This means many women who have suffered domestic abuse and no longer remain in their local area could be left without any support.

A survey by Women’s Aid found that 39 per cent of refuge services said they could be forced to close their doors for good as a result of the proposed funding changes, and a further 13 per cent could be forced to reduce the number of bed spaces available.

Kate said: “Refuges are a crucial lifeline for women who’ve suffered abuse and need a safe, secure place to access support.

“Budget cuts from the government have already seen the provision of these services dwindle. This can’t go on if we want to protect vulnerable women and children. That’s why I’m pressing the Prime Minister to stop any funding cuts to these vital services and will continue to do so at every opportunity.”

Dame Julie Walters, a longstanding Women’s Aid patron, said: “For thousands of women and children across the country, home is the most dangerous place they can be. That’s why being able to escape to a refuge is a vital lifeline for women and children trying to escape domestic abuse.

“These shelters do extraordinary work on a shoestring budget, yet the government’s planned changes to the way they are funded threaten them with closure. These life-saving refuges must be protected so that every woman and child can escape domestic abuse.”