Women’s Aid reveals domestic abuse services funding crisis

By agency reporter
November 24, 2018

Women’s Aid has released new statistics revealing that domestic abuse services are being forced to run their vital therapeutic support without any dedicated funding, while survivors desperate for help are unable to access the support they need to rebuild their lives after experiencing domestic abuse.

The government is set to announce draft legislation for its domestic abuse bill at any moment. To coincide with 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, commencing on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (Sunday 25 November 2018), Women’s Aid has released ‘A Bill for Survivors’, based on survivors’ and Women’s Aid member services’ needs, setting out the priorities for the forthcoming legislation.

The government’s domestic abuse bill, which will drive further demand as more survivors than ever build up the courage to report domestic abuse, comes at a time of crisis for survivors and the struggling domestic abuse support services they rely on.

To mark 16 Days, Women’s Aid is highlighting the importance of delivering sustainable funding for domestic abuse services with national oversight so that every survivor can access the support she needs as part of its forthcoming domestic abuse bill.

Over half of domestic abuse services who responded to Women’s Aid 2018 Annual Survey reported that they are running an area of their service without any dedicated funding. Nearly one quarter of responding services are running vital therapeutic support without any allocated funding.

Figures show 84 per cent of survivors supported by Women’s Aid member services had experienced emotional abuse and 61 per cent of survivors had experienced controlling behaviour, of which 37 per cent had also experienced threats to kill as part of a pattern of coercive control.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “No survivor should face domestic abuse alone. All too often abuse that does not leave bruises is not taken seriously enough. Yet we know from our work with survivors that emotional abuse and coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse. It can take months, years, sometimes even a lifetime, to heal from if she cannot get the specialist support she needs to help rebuild her life after experiencing abuse.

“In recent years, domestic abuse services have been lurching from funding crisis to funding crisis, with many services closing, changing hands or paring back on the level of support they can provide in the community. Although emergency government funding has been much welcomed, our member domestic abuse services continue to do their extraordinary support work on uncertain, shoestring budget. This is simply not sustainable as demand continues to grow following increased awareness as a result of the forthcoming domestic abuse bill. These life-saving services are not an optional extra but an essential piece of the jigsaw in our response to domestic abuse. They not only provide survivors and their children with the life-transforming support they need to escape abuse and rebuild their lives, but they are also often the key to survivors having the confidence to report the abuse to the police and support a prosecution.

“The government listened to our SOS: Save Our Services campaign and acted to keep refuges’ housing costs within the welfare system, saving these life-saving services from closure. Now we call for the protection of the life-transforming support work that domestic abuse services offer to survivors and their children – whether they need to flee to a refuge or need support to stay in their own homes safely. We hope the forthcoming domestic abuse bill will deliver both the legislation and the resources needed to transform the response to domestic abuse and ensure that every survivor and her child can rebuild their life free from fear and abuse.”

Recent statistics show that, despite coercive and controlling behaviour being made a criminal offence in 2015, perpetrators of this harmful form of abuse are still not feeling the full force of the law. In 2016 and 2017, less than 300 offenders were convicted for coercive and controlling behaviour. While the police have made some progress in how they respond to this crime, in the year 2017/18, police forces recorded just 9,053 coercive control offences.

Domestic abuse services are often being left to pick up the pieces. Yet in recent years, they have been faced with a funding crisis which has meant that some services have been forced to close or reduce their support provision. In 2017/18, one in five respondents to Women’s Aid 2018 Annual Survey received no local authority funding for their community-based services at all. This is having a clear impact on survivors being able to access the support they need. There was a 17 per cent decline in the number of support groups available in England between May 2017 and May 2018.

The government has promised to transform the national approach to tackling domestic abuse through its domestic abuse bill. But survivors will not be able to access the support they need if the bill does not come with the resources required to ensure that domestic abuse support services can meet the demand driven by the new legislation. Women’s Aid would like to continue to work with the government to deliver sustainable funding for all domestic abuse services with national oversight in its domestic abuse bill to ensure that every survivor and her child can access the support they need to escape domestic abuse and rebuild their lives.

* If you are worried about your relationship or that of a friend or family member, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge: 0808 2000 247

* Women's Aid https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

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