Jo was alerted to heavy-handed TV licence enforcement at her local women’s refuge
Jo Swinson has called for women fleeing domestic violence to be granted TV licence fee concessions.
Domestic abuse refuges do not currently qualify for TV licence concessions, unlike hotels, guest houses and residential care homes. Jo has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament and written to Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport James Purnell to call for women’s refuges to be included in the concession scheme.
“The idea of a refuge is to offer shelter and a safe environment. Television can have an important and helpful role to play for victims of abuse, especially for children who can be caught in the middle of abusive relationships.
“For women trying to escape domestic abuse at the hands of a violent partner, finding the money for a full TV licence, and receiving demands for payment, is an unnecessary cause of stress at a time when support is crucial.
“If hotels are paying their licence fee at a reduced rate, why should refuges providing care and support to victims of domestic abuse not be given at least the same level of discount? The current situation is an anomaly – the Government must review the TV licence concession scheme with a view to including women’s refuges.
“The TV licensing authorities must also look at how they handle enforcement activities at refuges. I have come across cases of extremely heavy-handed and totally inappropriate treatment of vulnerable young women by enforcement officers. These can be deeply distressing for the women involved and can risk the anonymity of refuge locations.”
A spokesperson for East Dunbartonshire Women’s Aid, added:
“A hotel like Gleneagles, with hundreds of bedrooms, pays a greatly reduced sum for its TV licences. However, we are currently paying for 6 TV licences at our refuge in Bishopbriggs at a cost of £813.
“Our view is that if organisations like luxury hotels get preferential treatment, why shouldn’t hard-pressed charities providing accommodation for homeless women and children? Having access to a television is by no means a luxury for women and children who have had to leave their homes because of domestic abuse.
“The cost of individual licences places a considerable financial burden on our resources and there is no way that women in refuge could or should be expected to pay for the licences personally.
“We are delighted that Jo Swinson, our local MP, who is a great supporter of our work, has decided to campaign against this injustice.”
Sandra Horley OBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said:
“Women fleeing domestic violence often arrive at Refuge with little more than the clothes on their back and their child’s favourite toy. They have a great deal to come to terms with and a television can provide valuable respite for both mother and child. Expecting a woman who has nothing to pay for a personal television licence is both insensitive and impractical – a single licence for a refuge should be enough.
“Refuge applauds Jo Swinson MP for addressing the issue of television licences within refuges. We support any initiative which makes life more tolerable for women and children who are rebuilding their lives free from violence.”
A TV licence costs £135.50 and is a legal requirement for anyone who owns a television. Hotels and guest houses need one licence for the first 15 units in the property, then an additional licence for five units in the property. For example, a hotel with 27 rooms needs just 4 TV licences. People who live in residential care, who are over 60 or disabled and have TV in their private room, receive a concessionary fee of £7.50 per year.
The 2001 British Crime Survey revealed that 45% of women have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking at least once in their lifetimes:http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs04/hors276.pdf
Early Day Motion tabled by Jo Swinson MP:
TELEVISION LICENCE FEE AND DOMESTIC ABUSE REFUGES
That this House expresses concern that women who move into women’s refuges to escape domestic abuse are responsible for purchasing a full-price television licence should they wish to use a television in their room; notes that hotels and guesthouses benefit from a TV licence concession; further notes that many women in such a distressed and displaced position are particularly reliant upon television, especially to entertain their children; believes that normal means of enforcement by TV licence officers are inappropriate at refuges where women have fled violent partners and where anonymity is vital for their safety; expresses concern that funds from organisations which run refuges are being diverted to pay for television licences; and therefore calls for women’s refuges to be included in the same television licence fee scheme as the hospitality industry.