To this day, the support system for women affected by violence is characterised by serious shortcomings. For example, women who become victims of violence in rural regions have often trouble finding a specific facility, and about 90 German municipalities still do not have their own women’s shelter. In metropolitan areas, women often have to put up with long waiting lists until they receive accommodation or a counselling appointment, because the facilities do not have enough capacities.
The existing service offers especially fail to meet the needs of women with additional burdens, for example, disabled or mentally handicapped women, migrant women, or women with older sons. This is the conclusion at which a report (in German) issued in 2012 by the federal government arrives. What is more, the organisations responsible for the operations of women’s shelters cannot draw on a reliable funding basis and have to face considerable funding gaps.
The funding landscape for women’s shelters and specialised counselling centres in Germany resembles a hodgepodge: The funding is derived from states and municipalities, usage fees paid by the women, funds provided by the organisations running the women’s shelters, as well as donations and contributions from fines.
Many municipalities finance the stay in a women’s shelter through the benefit claims that women are entitled to according to the German Social Code (Books II and XIII).
But this kind of funding is problematic, because it excludes certain groups of women or limits the support possibilities. This is the case, for example, with female EU citizens, students, apprentices, asylum applicants, or employed women. Women without benefit claims according the Social Code can only draw on protection and support when they cover the costs for counselling and accommodation on their own.
Further barriers arise when, for example, women escape to a women’s shelter in another municipality for reasons of safety. These women will often be rejected there, since the compensation of costs among municipalities is complicated.
The organisations responsible for operating women’s shelters and specialised counselling centres have no planning security. The funds provided by federal states and municipalities are voluntary payments, which are dependent on the budget situation and can be reduced at any time. This is why a legal framework has to be developed that obliges federal states and municipalities to provide sufficient funding for women’s shelters and counselling centres.
FHK thus advocates a federal legal provision that entitles victims of violence to make a legal claim to protection and support. The persons concerned should have the right to consult support facilities throughout Germany and to make use of support services, no matter in which municipality or state they usually reside.
Such a legal claim would ensure low-threshold access to protection and support, regardless of income and assets, place of origin, residential status, and health situation of the affected women. Support services for concerned women and their children should be ensured, but but without the women having to make a financial contribution.
This legal framework is necessary in order to develop a comprehensive distribution of facilities that offer reliable and needs-oriented support, such as women’s shelters and specialised counselling centres.
Quality Recommendations for Women’s Shelters and Counselling Centres for Women Affected by Violence, Association of Women’s Shelters 2014 (PDF, in German).
Federal Government Report on the Situation of Women’s Shelters, Counselling Centres, and Other Support Services for Women Affected by Violence and Their Children, published by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Berlin 2012 (PDF, in German).
FHK: Frequently Asked Questions on the Legal Claim to Protection and Support in Cases of Violence 2017