A MUM who endured horrific domestic abuse has praised The Sun on Sunday after our campaign forced the Government to guarantee the funding of refuges.

Mandy Thomas, who was nearly killed when her partner tortured her with a blowtorch, said: “This will save many lives. Thank you for being the voice of vulnerable women and children. Alone, we cannot shout to the masses — but you did it for us.”

Save Our Shelters highlighted the danger of Government proposals to remove refuges from the welfare system.

The changes would have meant women and children fleeing violence could no longer pay for refuge accommodation with housing benefit — which makes up 53 per cent of refuges’ funding.

This would have meant the last guaranteed income for refuges, run by charities in the Women’s Aid membership, was lost.

Women’s Aid said the reforms would have led to 39 per cent of the 270 refuges in England closing.

Mandy, 52, fled to refuges several times during 18 years of hell at the hands of partner Eustace Douglas. He was eventually jailed for nine years in 2003 for grievous bodily harm with intent and false imprisonment. He also received a concurrent six-year term for rapes.

She said: “The Sun on Sunday believed in us. You are the voice of many and you spoke for us in the right way.”

After pressure from The Sun on Sunday, Women’s Aid and other campaigners, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said on Thursday all supported housing funding would be retained in the welfare system.

The statement added: “Ministers recognise supported housing is a vital service for some of the most vulnerable people (in society).”

Mandy said of the worrying original plan: “Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.

“If the Government’s original proposals had gone through there would have been a serious rupture in the safety net.

“Without the right support, people fall, and when you fall in a violent relationship you risk death. Two women a week die in the UK at the hands of violent partners.

“I was losing faith in the system before this happened. This week I’ve felt a wave of happiness. It’s really something to celebrate. It will save lives and send a message to women that it is OK to leave a violent relationship because there is still a net to catch you.”

Mandy has endured unthinkable physical and emotional hardships as a domestic violence survivor.

In the first of many escape bids, she scooped up her children and ran to a refuge in 1994.

But Douglas tracked them to a safe house and later held Mandy’s head over an open coal fire.

Things peaked in 2002, after Mandy got a job at the Post Office. She said: “He told me I’d never get a job but I did — and I was promoted to manager. That pushed him over the edge.”

He imprisoned Mandy in her bedroom in Bath, Somerset, for four days, branded her with a blowtorch, slashed her with knives, dragged her around naked by her hair and threatened to kill her in front of their children.

Just five years after sentencing, her ex was released on a ten-year licence — and shortly afterwards, Mandy’s eldest son Daniel, 22, took his own life. Now she is a Women’s Aid ambassador, with son Jahmene, 27, the soul singer who wowed The X Factor in 2012 and is currently on tour with Gabrielle.

Mandy has written an autobiography, You Can’t Run, and advised writers of Radio 4’s The Archers on a controversial domestic violence storyline in 2016. She added: “We have to keep sending the message to women that they can leave violent relationships with somewhere to go. I went with 4p in my jacket and didn’t think about the consequences. But a lot of women worry about ‘What if’s?’

“When things such as refuge provision are in place, it allows them to just run. Ultimately, it’s often about staying alive.”

Women’s Aid patron Dame Julie Walters called The Sun on Sunday victory “fantastic news”, adding: “More refuge doors will be able to stay open to help women and children living with domestic abuse.

“I am proud to have supported the Save Our Shelter campaign with The Sun on Sunday, as this decision will save lives.”

Other campaign backers also welcomed the victory. Luke and Ryan Hart are the sons of Lance Hart, who shot dead their mum Claire and their sister Charlotte, 19, in Spalding, Lincs, in 2016 before killing himself.

Their book about the horror, Operation Lighthouse: Reflections On Our Family’s Devastating Story Of Coercive Control & Domestic Homicide, was published last month. The brothers said: “It is crucial our society chooses the side of innocent victims, rather than perpetrators. This is an important step in that direction.”

Devoted parents John and Penny Clough MBE also backed our campaign. Their nurse daughter Jane, 26, was stabbed to death by her ex Jonathan Vass, 30, as she arrived for work at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 2010. Vass was on bail accused of raping her. The couple, both 57, from Barrowford, Lancs, have since set up specialist refuge Jane’s Place, in Burnley. They warned the fight for secure funding isn’t over.

They said: “We still need a central core funding model which will allow refuges to deliver their lifesaving work. We are aware of people returning to their abuser because there was no refuge place available. Refuges save lives.”

Apprentice winner and telly host Michelle Dewberry, 38, witnessed 18 years of domestic abuse by her father, who once threatened to kill the whole family by burning down their house.

She said: “Refuges should only have to worry about helping people, not worry whether they can afford to operate.”

Work & Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said yesterday: “We paid close attention to The Sun on Sunday’s excellent campaign, to voices across the sector and to victims of domestic abuse. By working alongside organisations like Women’s Aid, Crisis and Refuge, we’re helping to safeguard access to secure accommodation for those who need it.”

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire added: “I am grateful to everyone who has worked with us over the last few months and for The Sun on Sunday’s tireless campaigning.

"I can assure your readers this Government will make sure good and safe homes are provided for those who need them most.”