AN East Lancashire charity has received a £500,000 grant to help women suffering domestic abuse.

The Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Domestic Violence Team, based in Accrington, has seen the number of women it works with increase by 300 to 1,000 in the past year.

Cash for the project has come from the Big Lottery Fund’s programme, which helps those most in need in the community.

The grant will be used to provide frontline workers to protect women at risk of serious harm.

Funding will also be specifically aimed at black and minority ethnic families, particularly those in the local Pakistani community.

The project has seen an increase in referrals from that community, including cases of so-called ‘honour’ crimes, female circumcision, and forced marriages.

Debbie Fawcett, team manager, said: “This funding comes as a relief. It secures our future for another four years.

“It will help us respond to the increase in referrals we have experienced. Last year we helped 1,000 women, the year before it was 700.

“We think there has been an increase because what we are doing is working, and word is spreading.

“The team will be focusing on high-risk families – where a family is known to social services, or a perpetrator has a criminal history.

“Services for ethnic minority families will be developed to respond to an increase in referrals involving honour- based violence and forced marriages.

“Cases of female genital mutilation have involved teenage girls who have entered into a relationship and the mutilation was performed by an elder to protect their virtue.

“Some of the women can’t speak English and are therefore more isolated and vulnerable.”

The project will provide access to safe accommodation, support in criminal and civil court proceedings, and address other issues like housing, drug and alcohol use, parenting skills, and counselling.