New Bedford refuge is offering forward-thinking support for women fleeing domestic abuse

A new refuge in Bedford is providing a safe haven for women and their children, fleeing domestic abuse.

Inside Bedford Refuge Flat 1

Specialist housing provider Stonewater has been commissioned by Bedford Borough Council as the service provider of the new provision, which can accommodate up to ten women, either with or without dependant children.

Designed to be a secure home and built to a high-standard by Grand Union Housing Group – as part of its role as the specialist accommodation landlord – the refuge comprises self-contained flats that provide a safe and stable place for women and their children to live, whilst accessing therapeutic recovery support.

Refuges across Bedford accepted 111 referrals from survivors fleeing domestic abuse, between 2018 and 2021. Increasing provision and securing modern premises has been a strategic priority for Bedford Borough Council.

This particular scheme has been made possible by Grand Union’s expertise in building specialist supported accommodation, in particular the experience gained from their existing refuges in Central Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, as well as funding of £720k from Homes England.

Whilst support at the refuge is intended to be short-term, Stonewater’s approach is designed to equip survivors with actively rebuilding their confidence, overcoming crisis, as well as developing new skills and abilities – working towards the goal of being able to live free from the threat of violence and abuse.

Grand Union will also work alongside Stonewater to provide benefits advice and when the time is right, rehouse the women.

Stonewater currently supports women and children that are survivors of domestic abuse across three specialist refuges – including its South Asian Women's Refuge, South Hampshire Women's Refuge, Brighton and Hove Refuge. They also deliver a specialist outreach service (DAS+) for women with multiple support needs and a history of experiencing domestic abuse.

Stonewater’s LGBTQ+ Safe Space also provides short-term accommodation and support for members of the LGBTQ+ community who have experienced domestic abuse, discrimination, hate crime or family breakdown.

Helena Doyle, Stonewater’s Customer Experience Director, said: “Working in partnership with Bedford Borough Council and Grand Union Housing Group to deliver domestic abuse services in this brand-new purpose-built refuge is a real privilege.

“This well thought out accommodation is setting a new standard for provisions of this kind and will provide a great opportunity for survivors of domestic abuse to make a fresh start. It is an ideal environment to build on our existing experience to ensure women and children remain safe and progress at every stage of support to live a happy and safe life, free from abuse.”

Cllr James Valentine Portfolio Holder with responsibility for tackling domestic abuse and violence at Bedford Borough Council said: “Domestic abuse can impact the lives of residents, families and communities and we know that leaving the abuser and family home and seeking refuge can be literally lifesaving for some victims. It has been a priority for Bedford Borough Council to increase the provision of supported accommodation for domestic abuse survivors and I’m delighted we can offer a new safe space in the Borough for women and their children.”

Deborah Stuart, Director of Wellbeing & Safeguarding at Grand Union Housing Group added: “At Grand Union, we are committed to do all we can to tackle domestic abuse and support those in need so they can rebuild their lives. This new refuge, which is our fourth and part of a growing portfolio of supported housing, comes not long after we became the first housing association in the UK to have an online Safe Space – an untraceable area of our website where people can access information on domestic abuse helplines and specialist support services.

“Housing providers like ourselves have a duty to do all we can to prevent people suffering from violence and emotional abuse in their homes. That’s why we’re delighted that this partnership is resulting in another safe and secure place for women and their children to call home.”

If you, or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, please contact Refuge’s 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.