Funding for services
What’s the problem?
Children’s services - Children who experience domestic violence are defined as children in need under the Children Act 1989. The Department of Health recently acknowledged that nearly 75% of children on the child protection register live in households where domestic violence occurs. Children make up roughly two thirds of the refuge population, however children’s services in refuge organisations are starved of funds. The Supporting People funding regime does not include funding for children’s services and the National Standards for Under 8s Day Care have set staffing ratios and minimum space standards that refuge organisations have a difficult time meeting, due to this lack of funding.
Women’s services – Since 2003, Supporting People has been the main funding source for the provision of refuge based domestic violence services and domestic violence floating support services. Although there has been no national study of the impact of this funding regime on refuge services, feedback from Women’s Aid organisations suggests that the programme has had a significant impact on the sector - at best services have been sustained and subject to an accreditation and a quality assurance process but these improvements are not universal or consistent across local authorities. In other areas services have found the programme bureaucratic and challenging to administer, and many local services have had their funding – and hence capacity to deliver services – cut, and some services have been forced to merge, or have been closed or taken over by larger Registered Social Landlords. We are concerned that the future of refuge provision is seriously threatened by proposals to change the national Supporting People programme, currently out for consultation.
What’s the solution?
Women’s Aid continues to lobby government for the need to ensure that all local domestic violence services (refuges, resettlement services, outreach, Independent Domestic Violence Advisers, children’ services, national helplines) are funded to provide effective responses that meet the needs of women and children experiencing domestic violence.
Supporting children affected by domestic violence requires providing safety to both the child and its non-abusing parent Government cannot hope to the meet the needs of children who have experienced domestic violence with universal services, as presumed in Every Child Matters and in the Children Act 2004. The long-term funding of children’s domestic violence services in every local area – community-based and refuge-based - will ensure that these children receive the support they require to recover from their trauma. Government must give serious consideration to finding a more long-term, funding commitment not only to maintain the existing services, but also to further develop the vital work with these children.
The rolling out of Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA) service in areas where specialist domestic violence courts are being developed must ensure recognise that existing Women’s Aid and other local domestic violence services are already providing some form of advocacy service in many areas, and that any development of an IDVA service must identify and assess existing provision and build on what already exists in the voluntary sector.
Women’s Aid has produced an interim briefing on the Supporting People consultation, including recommendations for further consideration.
What can you do?
- Please help us raise awareness of the risks facing local services by contacting your local MP. Ask your MP to raise these concerns with Ministers or to ask parliamentary questions to find out for example, how government plans to secure the provision of essential local refuge services, once the Supporting People funding regime changes.
- If you work in local public services, or in children’s services locally, ask your local Children’s Trust how they will be using the guidance for commissioning children’s domestic violence services, produced jointly by the Local Government Association / Association of Directors of Social Services / Women’s Aid and CAFCASS.
 Department of Health (2003), Women’s Mental Health: Into the Mainstream – Strategic Development of Mental Health Care for Women