WOMEN and children fleeing violent homes could be at risk following a shortfall in funding.

Clydebank Women's Aid (CWA), Dumbarton District Women's Aid (DDWA) and North Ayrshire Women's Aid (NAWA) are all facing cuts to their budgets due to council cuts.

CWA, which was founded 34 years ago, is facing a shortfall of £191,000 due to cuts by West Dunbartonshire Council.

Some 700 women were helped by CWA last year, either housed in supported accommodation or by accessing services provided by the charity.

Changes were made by West Dunbartonshire Council last August but a formal letter was sent to Scottish Women's Aid, an umbrella group, last week.

A crunch meeting will be held by West Dunbartonshire Council on February 4, giving just months before funding for the charity runs out.

DDWA faces a similar shortfall in funding with the council saying it will provide domestic abuse refuges in 50 flats scattered around the authority area.

It will then ask DDWA to provide outreach services to women in these homelessness flats.

There would be £100,000 split between Clydebank and Dumbarton District Women's Aid groups to provide this support.

Janine Jardine, of DDWA, said the new system could put lives at risk.

She said: "It is very difficult to be measured about these cuts because they have just come from nowhere.

"We are talking about women in high risk situations who have lived in fear for many, many years but who have been brave enough to leave.

"Now they are living in fear of this service being stopped. I cannot comprehend what they will do if this service isn't here."

Women's Aid organisations provide refuges for women and their children who are fleeing horrific abuse at home.

As well as shelter, the groups give counselling, follow-on support and welfare advice to help women rebuild their lives.

A spokeswoman for Clydebank Women's Aid said: "Specialised domestic abuse support provided by Clydebank Women's Aid since 1981 is to stop due to West Dunbartonshire Council refusing to fund this work.

"From April 1, families living in refuge as well as other residents within Clydebank will no longer be able to access women's aid support if the council doesn't

u-turn on its decision.

"This means that women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse will lose out on this vital support to recover from their experiences.

"We believe more suffering and deaths due to domestic abuse will occur if this service is eliminated."

Meanwhile, North Ayrshire Women's Aid (NAWA) says North Ayrshire Council has opted to cut funding for essential specialist services in the area.

The tender currently available to NAWA represents a 22% cut to the existing refuge, counselling support and outreach service fund and does not address the existing children's service and addiction support work.

The charity says there is a need for the variety of services the organisation offers beyond refuge accommodation, such as advice on financial and housing issues, advocacy and legal support, and outreach and follow-on support.

It says the cuts could prevent North Ayrshire Women's Aid from achieving its ambitions and could result in more women and children being harmed by domestic abuse.

Anne Paton, Chief Executive Officer of NAWA, said: "The funding cuts will almost certainly affect the sustainability of our service.

"Refuge is much more than a bed for the night - our services ensure that women and their children have a place of safety and support through their journey from crisis to recovery."

North Ayrshire Council said it has undertaken a review of its Housing Support Services to merge support plans together into four categories: Women at Risk of Violence; Housing Advice Advocacy and Education; Children's Integration & Housing Support and Housing Support for Temporary Accommodation.

Councillor Tony Gurney, Cabinet Member for Place, said: "We have undertaken a review of the current service provision in order to identify the most effective and efficient way of delivering services in the future.

"We continually aim to provide the best service for those in need and the reduction of duplication along with the application of equal provision across all our contracts will help implement that goal."

A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: "The council has historically supported vulnerable women in West Dunbartonshire as part of its homelessness responsibilities.

"Under the new funding arrangements we remain committed to supporting vulnerable women, in partnership with Women's Aid, to provide the dedicated refuge in Clydebank at no cost: by delivering specialist support to vulnerable women and children resident in dispersed refuge accommodation; and by supporting women and children in their own council tenancies.

"Negotiations to agree these services are progressing well.

"Given the financial challenges facing all councils, West Dunbartonshire is no longer in a position to fund what was previously identified by Women's Aid as the 'care' element of their service."

An online petition has been launched against the West Dunbartonshire funding cut and Clydebank Women's Aid will hold a demonstration at council offices on February 4 at 1.30pm.

See www.clydebankwomensaid.co.uk/news/petition-letter-template.aspx for more information.