Marking the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Oldham Liberal Democrats have written to government ministers asking for the Rail to Refuge scheme, which supplies free train tickets to enable women to flee domestic violence, to be made permanent.
The letter sent by the Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, on behalf of his colleagues to the Secretary of State for Transport, Garth Shapps MP, and the Home Office Minister responsible for safeguarding women and children, Victoria Atkins MP, suggests that retaining the scheme is both a ‘necessary and logical thing’ to do.
Councillor Sykes has also twice written to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, seeking his support.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic violence has hugely increased. Tragically, two women are killed every week in the UK by abusive partners and ex-partners. Often the only way they can escape a violent partner is to move to a place of safety across the country, but such women frequently do not have access to the money needed to pay for train tickets. At present, the scheme is time-limited and is currently due to end in March 2021.
Councillor Howard Sykes said: “Rail to Refuge is both brilliant and simple because it enables women to access free train tickets to allow them and their children to find a place of safety swiftly. The public money invested in this scheme will spare countless women and children from abuse or death, and it will enable them to transform their lives in a place of safety, so making this scheme permanent would be the only decent and humane choice to make.”