Premier pledges to cut wait times for domestic violence victims seeking support

Premier John Horgan visited the Surrey Women’s Centre Friday and pledged to make support services more accessible for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The B.C. NDP is spending $5 million to improve access to counselling and other support services

Premier John Horgan speaks to reporters at a funding announcement in Surrey. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Premier John Horgan visited the Surrey Women's Centre Friday and pledged to make support services more accessible for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The centre provides counselling and other services to women and girls and it currently has a two year wait list.

"We simply don't have the staff to cover the kinds of needs that are out there," said interim executive director Alison Brewin.

Several other organizations that do similar work in B.C. are also struggling with staff shortages and increased case loads.

To help address their problems, Horgan is pledging $5 million in one time funding.

He acknowledges more money is needed but says the cash should help cut wait times in the short-term.

"This is an important first step," Horgan said.

The majority of the funding will be split between community groups, including the Surrey Women's Centre.

The remainder will go to frontline workers who provide victims safety in high risk domestic violence cases, education and prevention programs.

How far will $5 million go?

Brewin's staff routinely hear horrific stories of abuse and violence.

She says they do their best to help as many women and girls as they can, but they don't have enough resources to meet the demand for their services.

"Just yesterday, we got called out to support a 13 year old girl who'd been sexually assaulted and was at the hospital and needed support," she said.

"We'll put her high on the list, of course. But can you imagine if you're 13, and you can't get counselling until you're 15? It's horrific really."

Brewin says the new funding should allow the Surrey Women's Centre to add nighttime counseling services.

She believes that will help cut down wait times.

"This is a very short term response," Brewin said.

"We haven't had that long term commitment, so we don't know what that's going to look like yet."