New Government must tackle cost of living crisis, as more barriers are being created for domestic abuse survivors to leave abusers
Following the announcement of Liz Truss as the new Prime Minister, Solace urges her to prioritise addressing the rising inflation, housing costs and energy bills which are significantly affecting domestic abuse survivors’ opportunity to flee and recover from abuse.
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. The increased financial insecurity people are facing is intensifying this economic abuse and we often see wider forms of violence and abuse escalate when people are going through financial struggles.
The rise in living costs is making it harder for women and their children to leave violent and abusive situations and when they do the impact of inflation and energy prices is making basics such as food, accommodation and gas and electricity bills increasingly unaffordable. Frontline workers in Solace’s services are hearing survivors increasingly report that leaving their abusive partner will leave them destitute, asking for help with energy bills or accessing foodbanks, and because of this they are making the dangerous decision to stay or return to abusive relationships.
Domestic abuse is a leading cause of homelessness in the UK. 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 survivors.
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
Reintroduce the Universal Credit uplift by increasing rates by £20 per week over the winter
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.
Introduce wider measures to tackle increased energy prices.
We are pleased that the new Prime Minister has already pledged to introduce a standalone law to criminalise street harassment and will work to accelerate the process for handling rape cases. 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 girls 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 the Government’s new homelessness strategy include specific actions to address women’s homelessness with a gendered approach.
Prioritise tackling the delays and backlog in the court system which is leading to continued traumatisation of victims of abuse and sexual violence.
Kirsty Telford, Interim Chair of Solace said “Survivors of domestic abuse are acutely affected by the impact of increased costs that we are all experiencing, and we are really concerned about the impact it’s having on women being able to flee abuse and beginning their journey to recovery.
“This new Government led by Liz Truss must urgently take further steps to address the increase costs being faced by households across the country. The exponential rise in costs is leading to women finding it even harder to find permanent housing and provide the basics for them and their children. The Government needs to bring in specific measures this winter to support these women and children who are facing the devastating choice of leaving and facing destitution or staying and being subjected to further and potentially escalating abuse.
“More broadly, a new Government is a real opportunity to ensure that our society recognises the impact of domestic abuse and makes a step change in the support that we provide to allow survivors to leave abusive situations and go on to live safe and independent lives. Specialist violence against women and girls services are facing significant shortfalls in funding as the complexity of women’s needs are increasing. We hope that the Victim’s Bill can be a way to address this gap in funding.
“We urge the new Prime Minister to look at challenges within our criminal justice system, and we don’t continue to see falling prosecution rates and for long and traumatising waits for those that do get to court.
Mili Acharya, Service Manager said “It is devastating to see more women coming to us for help but they don’t feel they have the financial security to actually leave their abuser, especially if they have children or no recourse to public funds.
“For those that have left, we are seeing women moving into empty temporary accommodation and are worried about how they will afford their first meal in their accommodation, let alone essentials like pots and pans and bedding. The grants that were available are depleting slowly which leaves women with no access to any support. We need to see the Government act quickly, so women aren’t having to make the impossible choice between an abusive relationship and destitution.”
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