Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to end the “postcode lottery” for victims of domestic abuse.
Currently, people in England seeking refuge from abusive and violent relationships receive varying levels of support depending on their location.
But Mrs May has announced new plans – backed by funding – to create a legal duty for councils to provide secure homes for victims and their children.
The prime minister said the “abhorrent crime” had “no place” in the UK.
In a message to victims, she added: “Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe.”
Charities and councils say the government’s moves are positive, but they want to know how much money will be provided in the face of cuts to local authority budgets.
The Domestic Abuse Bill will also introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
The legislation will establish a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner and prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts.
Nicki Norman, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said many of her organisation’s member services were providing support on a “shoestring budget”, so a move to consistent, dedicated funding was “desperately needed”.
“We look forward to working with the government to ensure that this important move to fund refuges is safe, sustainable and delivers the resources that services urgently require to support all women and children fleeing domestic abuse,” she said.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, also welcomed Mrs May’s announcement, which she said could secure “life-saving services”.
“This has the potential to end the postcode lottery for refuge places and could put these life-saving services on a secure financial footing for the first time,” Ms Horley said.
Ministers have launched a consultation to determine how much funding is needed and where it should go by talking to victims and survivors, as well as organisations supporting victims and their children every day.
Funding totalling £22m has already been made available to local authorities to buy more than 2,000 beds in refuges and other safe accommodation – and to provide access to education and employment.
For information and support related to domestic abuse, visit the BBC Action Line.