- Coalition of women’s sector organisations have launched a petition to the Secretary of State for Justice.
- Petition calls for funding of at least £238 million per year for specialist domestic abuse community-based services in the Victims and Prisoners Bill.
A coalition of 11 women’s sector organisations have launched a petition calling for more funding for community-based domestic abuse services.
Refuge, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Women’s Aid, SafeLives, Solace Women’s Aid, Southall Black Sisters, IDAS, IRISi, Imkaan, Agenda Alliance and LAWRS are together calling for the Secretary of State for Justice to act now to help survivors of domestic abuse struggling to access the support they need in local communities around the country.
The petition asks for funding of at least £238 million per year to specialist domestic abuse community-based services to be delivered through the Victims and Prisoners Bill. The funding is needed to reach survivors including some of the most marginalised women and their children who experience significant barriers in seeking help.
This includes a call for a separate, national ‘by and for’ funding pot to be established alongside this to provide long overdue investment for specialist services for D/deaf and disabled, LGBTQ+, Black, minoritised, and migrant women, including those with no recourse to public funds.
Research by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner found that, in 2022, less than 50% of survivors who wanted to access community-based services were able to.
The estimated annual funding shortfall for organisations led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women is between £63m and £114m.
Tina*, a survivor of domestic abuse who accessed community-based services, said:
“My IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor) was, without a doubt, the reason I was able to access support to deal with the impacts of my ex’s abuse. While I was entangled with the criminal justice system my support network was cut off from me for two years, which left me feeling so alone. My IDVA was able to get me the emotional, medical, economic and physical support I needed after leaving my abuser.
“It was thanks to community-based services that I got the debt my ex accrued in my name cleared, had someone with me to help process information in court, and had emotional support to cope with my PTSD, anxiety and depression. These services are so important for survivors, so I hope the government will hear the experiences of women like me and make sure they’re safeguarded.”
Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, said:
“Community-based services are a lifeline for so many survivors of domestic abuse. At Refuge, 95% of the survivors we supported last year utilised these services, which offer support throughout the survivor’s journey to a life free from abuse. However, for so many services up and down the country, current financial pressures mean that it’s becoming harder for frontline service providers to meet the rising demand for support.
“We need a commitment from the government that they will allocate sustainable, ring-fenced funding to community-based services so that every survivor can access specialist support when they need it.”
Elizabeth Jiménez-Yáñez, Policy and Communications Manager on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) at Latin American Women’s Rights Service, said:
“For many survivors, community-based services, especially those led ‘by and for’, are their only haven when fleeing abuse. Accessing specialist services makes a significant difference in the lives of those harmed by violence against women and girls and institutional abuse. However, chronic underfunding limits the opportunity for the most vulnerable to be supported whilst creating unfair pressure on these life-saving services. The Victims and Prisoners Bill offers an opportunity to make things right by providing sustainable funding to benefit survivors and the public interest.”
Farah Nazeer, CEO, Women’s Aid said:
“The Victims and Prisoners Bill could be an opportunity to place victims at the heart of the justice system however, we are concerned that it does not go far enough to lead to meaningful change for survivors of domestic abuse. In particular the lack of any recognition of the need to prioritise specialist support for victims in this Bill. Women’s Aid’s recent report shows that every pound invested in domestic abuse support services represents a £9 saving to the public purse – demonstrating a clear economic case for commissioning specialist local services, on top of the immense benefits of these services having the knowledge and expertise to properly support survivors.”
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“The Victims Bill was supposed to transform victims’ experiences, but in its current form does nothing to address the uncertainty around funding for vital community-based support services. The work of these services is crucial to longer term recovery, resilience, self-esteem and therapeutic work for survivors of violence against women and girls, as well as having massive direct cost saving implications for other parts of the state. Instead of delivering the sustainable funding specialist support services desperately need, the government are resourcing new proposals on parole that shoehorn in objectives from the widely criticised Bill of Rights. This should alarm anyone who cares about victims’ rights to access support, recovery and justice.”
Nahar Choudhary, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid said:
“Our research shows us that survivors experience abuse for nearly 7 years, on average, before they reach Solace. The impact and trauma of this abuse affects them for very long time. Sadly, 42% of those accessing our community services reach crisis point more than once and often need our repeated support. With better funded services, more survivors are likely to end the cycle of abuse and get the longer-term support they deserve.”
Indy Cross, Chief Executive of Agenda Alliance, said:
“Community-based services are a bedrock for women fleeing domestic abuse, but with increasing financial pressures, services are unable to keep up with the growing rate of women needing support. The Victims and Prisoners Bill is a clear opportunity to provide the funding they need to deliver these services and response better to women with multiple unmet needs, by providing trauma-, gender-, age-, and culturally- responsive support. An additional funding pot must be created for organisations led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women.”
Medina Johnson, CEO at IRISi, said:
“From a healthcare standpoint, investing more in domestic abuse community-based services not only brings societal benefits but also has a significant impact on the healthcare system. When patients are identified and referred to the right support services quickly, their chances of developing serious illnesses or constantly visiting the doctor decrease considerably. So, it’s essential to support and expand domestic abuse community-based services to tackle gender-based violence locally and effectively. The “by and for” organisations also play a crucial role here. Understanding the challenges faced by each minority group can make a real difference in providing the most appropriate support to domestic abuse victims and survivors. It’s time for the government to recognise that violence against women and girls affects our society as a whole. Everyone suffers the consequences.”
Ellen Miller, Interim CEO of SafeLives, said:
“At the moment, the system we’ve got is like having an NHS that is just Accident and Emergency. We are never going to solve the systemic issues around domestic abuse unless we have adequate and sustainable funding for community-based services to ensure that adult and child victims of domestic abuse can get safe and recover, and perpetrators of domestic abuse are challenged to change their behaviour. Providing access to community-based services, with a focus on supporting victims to stay safely in their own home, is the right thing to do, practically and ethically. The Government should support the right of someone who has experienced abuse to stay where they belong, in their own surroundings, close to family and friends, GPs, children’s schools, and work. With the right provisions in the Victims and Prisoners Bill, that is possible.”
Selma Taha, Director of Southall Black Sisters, said:
“By and for specialist services are the reason why some of the most vulnerable victims of gender-based and institutional violence don’t fall through the cracks. Yet, our energies are constantly drained by a lack of sustainable, long-term funding. This government must harness the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the Victims and Prisoners Bill presents and commit to adequate, ring-fenced funding for the by and for sector.”
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Notes to editors
- The joint petition to the Secretary of State can be seen here
- £238m per year funding ask has been calculated by Women’s Aid: Investing to save: The economic case for funding specialist domestic abuse support (womensaid.org.uk)
- “Less than 50% of survivors who wanted to access community-based services were able to” taken from Domestic Abuse Commissioner (2023) A patchwork of provision
- “The estimated annual funding shortfall for organisations led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women is between £63m and £114m” taken from Imkaan (2020) Unpublished.