Solace, the largest domestic abuse charity in London have said that they support the ambition of the Home Office’s new VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) strategy aiming to reduce prevalence of VAWG, increase the number of perpetrators brought to justice and increase support for victims and survivors, but they think the strategy fails to address key complexities affecting women.
Rebecca Goshawk, Head of Partnerships and Public Affairs at Solace says, ‘We welcome the new National Policing Lead for VAWG, the introduction of pathfinder projects for trauma-informed mental health support and the need to create an evidence base on what works to prevent VAWG. However, without an implementation plan and multi-year funding commitment, it is challenging to see the long-term impact of the strategy.’
The charity welcome the commitment to an additional £1.5 million funding this year. However, they feel it is crucial that the Government’s upcoming Spending Review delivers a multi-year funding settlement for the specialist VAWG sector, delivered by all government departments responsible for VAWG. It is crucial this includes ring-fenced funding for specialist VAWG services including those led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, Deaf and disabled women and LGBT+ survivors.
Fiona Dwyer, Solace CEO explains, ‘We are disappointed to see that the Government has split up its approach to VAWG and domestic abuse into separate strategies. The women we support have lives that can be complex and many experience multiple forms of VAWG at one time or during their lives, and will not benefit from this fragmented approach.’
In addition, the charity believe that the strategy should have addressed the link with housing more directly, ‘We are disappointed to see that there are few new actions taken by Government to address the chronic lack of safe and affordable accommodation for those that are fleeing abuse. Nearly three quarters of the survivors Solace supports have a housing need,’ Dwyer adds.
Solace are delighted to see the successful campaigns of colleagues across the sector to change the raising the age of marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales from 16 to 18, and a ban on ‘virginity testing’ and urge that legislative steps are taken urgently along with the ban on ‘conversion therapy’.
Goshawk says, ‘We are pleased to see the importance of perpetrator programmes within the Strategy and would also call for the expansion of the range of options for perpetrators to include provision for young perpetrators, high harm and prolific perpetrators, and those perpetrating abuse outside of heterosexual relationships. There is so much more work to be done.’
The Domestic Abuse Act has a significant gap in providing support for migrant women, but the charity feel that the new VAWG strategy takes no steps to fill this gap.
They suggest that future funding should seek to address the mental health needs of survivors. As the Strategy recognises, the largest cost of domestic abuse is the physical and emotional harms incurred by victims (£47 billion), particularly the fear, anxiety and depression experienced by victims and more needs to be done to respond to this.
Solace reports that calls for their advice line more than doubled during the last year and are pleased that the strategy recognises the clear increase in demand for domestic abuse victim services during the pandemic, but they want to see a plan that reflects the impact of the pandemic and the medium and long-term effects of the economic recession on VAWG.
Dwyer adds, ‘VAWG is a multi-area issue that affects women, and wider society in ways that are complex, hard to differentiate and difficult to untangle, we feel that the strategy needs to reflect that VAWG is rarely a stand-alone issue, and that to be successful the strategy needs to go further to address this.’
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Solace is a leading specialist VAWG charity in the UK, with over 45 years’ experience working with survivors of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). We deliver eight core multi-disciplinary empowering services that support women and children from the moment of crisis to recovery and independence. We offer ongoing support to survivors, helping them to rebuild their lives through advice advocacy and support. We also provide safe refuge and move-on accommodation to women and children made homeless through VAWG. Our 1 – 1 counselling, group work and specialist holistic therapies help survivors recover after experiencing traumatic abuse. Our rape crisis service offers a range of services to women and girls 13+ who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any time in their lives. Our Children and Young People’s (CYP) team delivers a range of services, including prevention work, for families and young people living in the community. Through our national training courses and consultancy, we help other organisations to improve their response to VAWG.
Website – www.solacewomensaid.org
Twitter – @SolaceWomensAid
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Solace Women’s Aid is a charity registered in England and Wales. Charity number 1082450 Company number 3376716
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