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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Opening Pearl House

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Meg was invited to open Pearl House, a new refuge for women and children in Wolverhampton. Her opening remarks are below.


Thank you for inviting me to open Pearl House, and a particular thank you to Ken Purchase, your local MP, who issued the invitation on your behalf.


Coming in to this beautiful, spacious, new building this morning I was reminded of an interview I had for a job at a women’s refuge over twenty years ago. It was a big rambling old Victorian house, cluttered with women, children and furniture. There was no space, no room to be private and nowhere to deal properly with the distress that many families were experiencing. Despite the best efforts of the staff, the physical arrangements did not give the women what they needed. Places like Pearl House do.


Women escaping domestic violence will have experienced physical, mental and emotional abuse often over extended periods of time. They will inevitably have associated physical and mental health problems.


Responding to the needs of these women inevitably puts pressure on the limited resources of refuges, and often there is not the knowledge or expertise available within refuges. In some cases, refuges have had to establish policies which exclude women with mental health problems.


It is therefore unusual - and perhaps unique - to have a refuge opening which includes women with mental health problems resulting from domestic violence, as Pearl House does.


Government welcomes this, and the Department of Health will want to consider this as a possible model for similar services elsewhere. This as part of its Victims of Violence and Abuse Prevention Programme survey of domestic violence services currently being conducted.


Tackling domestic violence is a priority for Government. We are committed to tackling this crime, which devastates families and ruins lives. Building on the new laws, our National Report (published March 2005) outlines how we will ensure the best possible help for victims, to encourage them to come forward in the certainty that they will get the help, protection and the support they need.


The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 was the biggest overhaul of domestic violence legislation for 30 years. It heralded tough new powers for the police and the courts to tackle offenders, while ensuring victims are supported and protected.


We all need to take responsibility for helping to bring about change, and keep our friends, colleagues and communities safe from domestic violence.


Specialist courts, such as the one in Wolverhampton, reinforce our work by giving victims more confidence in the law and bringing offences to justice.  Improving the Criminal Justice System to take better account of the needs of victims is one of our key aims, and the evidence shows that it pays off too.


Today is a tribute to the hard work of many people from many different organisations to at last see their vision become reality. Your efforts will benefit hundreds of women and their children in the coming years. It gives me great pleasure to open Pearl House.

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