With Rishi Sunak becoming Prime Minister today, Solace urges him to prioritise addressing the rising living costs which are making it harder for women and their children to leave violent and abusive situations.
Solace figures highlight that 92% of survivors have been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis and we are calling on the new Government to provide urgent support for survivors of domestic abuse who are once again at the sharp end of a national crisis.
The impact of inflation and energy prices is making basics such as food, accommodation and gas and electricity bills increasingly unaffordable for those women who do leave. 43% of Solace survivors are affected by economic abuse and perpetrators control of household income, and forcing women into debt without their consent is regularly a barrier to women fleeing abuse. We have already seen that 31% of women we support have reported increased levels of debt and the increased financial insecurity people are facing is likely to intensify economic abuse.
We also need to see urgent action to tackle the housing crisis - domestic abuse is a leading cause of homelessness in the UK and the rising costs of housing, particularly in the private rented sector, and the continuing poor quality of housing are also creating barriers to women fleeing abuse. Our research found that 70% of our survivors have a housing need and survivors regularly tell us the risk of becoming homeless led to them staying in abusive relationships. When housing is in poor condition or becomes unaffordable, survivors can also feel they have no choice but to return to their abuser.
To support survivors with the increasing financial challenges and associated risks to their safety and recovery, the new Government should:
Return Local Housing Allowance to being linked to actual market rent levels
Ensure that benefits are brought in line with inflation
Lift the benefit cap and two-child limit for Universal Credit for domestic abuse survivors
Introduce an Emergency Domestic Abuse Fund to support survivors of domestic abuse through this crisis period, to pay for essential items and energy bills, as recommended by Women’s Aid
Review existing funding streams to support violence against women and girls and provide uplifts that recognise the increased costs for survivors, frontline staff, and services.
In the leadership contest we were pleased to see that Rishi Sunak recognised that sexual violence against women and girls should be treated as a national emergency and pledged to support victims of sexual assault by ensuring they have life-long access to mental health treatment. More broadly to support survivors of male violence against women and girls (VAWG) survivors, the new Government should:
Ensure that a reformed Victim’s Bill is passed and includes a statutory duty for community-based violence against women and girl's services accompanied by sustainable funding commitments.
Commit to ring-fenced funding for specialist ‘led by and for’ services for Black and minoritised women, Deaf and disabled women, LGBT+ survivors
Ensure that migrant victims can report abuse and violence by creating a firewall between the police and immigration enforcement
Prioritise tackling the delays and backlog in the court system which is leading to continued traumatisation of victims of abuse and sexual violence.
Judith Banjoko, Interim CEO, said “Over half of survivors have already seen essential resources restricted by their abuser, and we fear that this will only increase over the coming months. We need the new Government led by Rishi Sunak to urgently take further steps to address the increase costs being faced by domestic abuse survivors.
“We fear that without specific measures to support domestic abuse survivors, more women will face the choice of leaving and facing destitution or staying and being subjected to further and potentially escalating abuse.
“We urge the new Government to recognise the impact of violence against women and girls and ensure that survivors get the support they need to leave abusive situations and go on to live safe and independent lives. Specialist violence against women and girls' services are facing significant gaps in funding as the complexity of women’s needs are increasing. We urge the new Prime Minister to introduce the Victim’s Bill soon and ensure that it can address the significant shortfall in funding.”
“We also urge the new Prime Minister to not shy away from the real challenges for victims of domestic abuse in getting justice through our criminal justice system and getting access to safe and affordable housing to move on with their lives.”