Domestic abuse services at risk this winter

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, has written to all council leaders in England, urging councils to provide vital support to specialist domestic abuse services this winter.  

The cost-of-living crisis is having an unprecedented impact on domestic abuse survivors and services across the country –and urgent action is required.    

Women’s Aid research shows96% of women who have experienced abuse are struggling financially. Women who have been trapped in households with abusers now can’t pay for basic essentials, with over a quarter having to access foodbanks with their children.    

After facing the COVID-19 pandemic, services across the country are now struggling with severe staffing pressures – inflation and low salaries mean women working in the sector are unable to make ends meet. One service manager said: “We’ve had to provide a wellbeing table with food for staff so at least they can eat two meals at work.”   

If you’re a council leader or commissioner and would like advice and support from the Women’s Aid policy team, please contact [email protected] to discuss your local area. 

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said:    

“Services are telling us that the rising cost of living is having an unprecedented impact on their ability to support women. Across England, our frontline domestic abuse services provide a lifeline to survivors – from refuges to community-based services. Without action now, many local services will risk going under, and many women will be forced to stay with their abuser, even when their lives are at risk. 

“Women’s Aid understands the significant pressures facing local authorities, but unprecedented times call for urgent action. We are asking local authorities to do everything in their power to protect women and children experiencing domestic abuse by supporting the services they depend on.”   

Farah’s full letter is below. 

Regional statistics:  

South East: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a38% refuge space shortfall, against the minimum recommended by Council of Europe, and 37 community domestic abuse servicesin desperate need of support.  

North West: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a35% refuge space shortfall against the minimum recommended by Council of Europe, and 35 community domestic abuse servicesin desperate need of support.   

Yorkshire and the Humberside: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a23% refuge space shortfall against the minimum recommended by Council of Europe, and 22 community domestic abuse servicesin desperate need of support.   

East Midlands: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a32% refuge space shortfall against the minimum recommended by Council of Europe, and 19 community domestic abuse servicesin desperate need of support.  

East of England: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a38% refuge space shortfall against the minimum recommended by Council of Europe, and 21 community domestic abuse servicesin desperate need of support.   

North East: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a31% refuge space shortfall against the minimum recommended by Council of Europe and 20 community domestic abuse servicesin desperate need of support.  

South West: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a42% refuge space shortfall against the minimum recommended by Council of Europe and19 community domestic abuse servicesin desperate need of support.   

London: Latest Women’s Aid data shows over 60 refuges and 53 community domestic abuse services are in desperate need of support.  

West Midlands: Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is 30 refuge services and22 community domestic abuse services in desperate need of support.   

Farah’s sample letter: 

Dear [local authority leader] 

Domestic abuse survivors and services in your area are facing crisis this winter.    

I am writing to ask you to take urgent action to prevent your local domestic abuse services from facing a crisis this winter. Agencies have told us that they will not be able to sustain their services without immediate support from their councils. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the horrific murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Zara Aleena and many more, the public are calling for urgent action on violence against women and girls.     

The cost-of-living crisis is already having an unprecedented effect on women experiencing or who have experienced domestic abuse.Our research shows96% of women who have experienced abuse are struggling: women who have been trapped in households with abusers now can’t pay for basic essentials – over a quarter are having to access foodbanks with their children.     

Across the country, our frontline domestic abuse services provide a lifeline to women – from refuges to community-based services.Latest Women’s Aid data shows there is a XXX refuge bed shortfall in your areaandXX community domestic abuse servicesthatdesperately need your help. Without specialist refuges and community services, many women will be forced to stay with their abusers, even when their lives are at risk. Services are telling us that the rising cost of living is having an unprecedented impact on their ability to support women. Without action now, many local services will risk going under.     

After facing the COVID-19 pandemic, services across the country are now struggling with severe staffing pressures – inflation and low salaries mean women working in the sector are unable to make ends meet. One service manager said: “we’ve had to providea wellbeing table with food for staff so at least they can eat two meals at work.”Another said: “This is heartbreaking; we are losing clever, resourceful, talented women and the impact on service users will be huge.”    

Women’s Aid understands the significant pressures facing local authorities, but unprecedented times call for urgent action. We are asking you to do everything in your power to protect women and children experiencing domestic abuse by supporting the services they depend on.     

Please consider which existing funds you can use to support survivors and both commissioned and non-commissioned domestic abuse services– such as Local Welfare Assistance Schemes and Discretionary Housing Payments.I ask that you makethe necessaryadjustments to existing contracts to reflect inflationary pressures and increasing costs, which isan urgent imperative to keep services running.    

Will you work with your local specialist domestic abuse services to save them from collapse?    

Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, you have astatutory duty to provide safe accommodation-based supportfor women who have experienced domestic abuse.There remains considerable variation in how this duty is being delivered across the country.       

Without specialist domestic abuse refuges, local authorities will not be able to achieve the ambitions set out in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, yourmanifestos,and your localdomestic abuse strategies.     

At a time when life-saving women’s refuges are needed more than ever,it isvital that you work with specialist local domestic abuse services and experts like Women’s Aid to deliver this duty effectively in your area. If you need help our team is always happy to offer support and advice:[email protected].    

Thank you for considering this letter. I hope we can work together to support survivors and life-saving services this winter.    

Yours sincerely,    

Farah Nazeer     

CEO     

Women’s Aid     

Ends.  

 

 

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