Domestic abuse survivors denied safe refuge due to mental health needs
Read the latest No Women Turned Away report here
Domestic abuse charity publishes new findings:
Friday 10th June 2022
The latest report from Women’s Aid’s No Woman Turned Away Project reveals the extent of the challenges in accessing refuge services or safe housing, after the Covid-19 pandemic heightened existing inequalities. The project, which since 2016 has provided vital support for women and children unable to access refuge provision, has been working alongside local services to ensure the most vulnerable survivors have access to the support they need when they need it the most.
Based on the support the project provided to survivors during 2020, the report lays bare the impact of these challenges and the fundamental measures needed in order to break down the barriers faced by survivors of domestic abuse.
The report adds to Women’s Aid’s evidence of the devastating impact of Covid-19 on experiences of domestic abuse. Survivors supported by the project are experiencing worsening abuse and more controlling behaviour – including economic abuse, stalking and harassment – they are feeling more isolated than they were before the pandemic, and a fifth have felt triggered or had PTSD symptoms as a result.
The new Domestic Abuse Act brought many welcome changes when it was passed earlier this year, yet this report highlights that these changes will not be effective or sustainable without the support of sufficient funding and training. Where the act will give “priority need” status to those made homeless from fleeing domestic abuse, the report reveals statutory agencies are still failing to uphold their duties to survivors. Training and statutory guidance for those implementing these provisions are crucial.
The act also introduces a statutory duty for local authorities to fund support in refuge services and other forms of safe accommodation. This legislation cannot be delivered without sufficient and secure funding, robust national oversight and stronger obligations to ensure local authorities fund women’s refuge services which have the expertise to meet the support needs of all women and children. This includes expert services led by and for Black and minoritised women and other marginalised groups.
The £125 million allocated to local authorities to fund all accommodation-based services falls £50 million short of Women’s Aid’s estimate of what’s needed for women’s refuge services alone, and there is no ring-fenced funding for by and for services.
This shortfall and the fact that councils are not required to fund specialist support services, in spite of government recommendation they do so, means survivors are at greater risk of being housed in poor quality and unsafe accommodation under the duty. It is also vital the Act delivers equal protection and support for all women experiencing domestic abuse, regardless of their immigration status.
Women’s Aid is incredibly grateful for the No Woman Turned Away project and we will continue to support it in its work to both hold councils to account and assist them. The Domestic Abuse Act may be law but there is still much work to do before women and children are safe.
We look forward to seeing the No Woman Turned Away project go from strength to strength as this unique service supports local services and survivors to improve access to refuge provision.
Farah Nazeer chief executive at Women’s Aid said:
“Our latest No Woman Turned Away report reveals the extent of the barriers faced by survivors when trying to access refuge services or safe housing. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the survivors supported by the project who shared their experiences and provided the data that this report draws on.
“While the report shows the key role that No Woman Turned Away plays in helping survivors when they need it most, it also highlights how much more needs to be done to ensure all women and children are safe: expert training, statutory guidance and sufficient and secure funding for all domestic abuse services is crucial if we are to effectively and safely support survivors.
“We know how vital specialist organisations are, including those led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, so prioritising funding for these services will enable more survivors to receive the specialised support they require- which can be lifesaving.
“We are incredibly grateful for the No Woman Turned Away project and we will continue to support its work in assisting local services and survivors to improve access to refuge space, helping to keep more women and children safe.”
Notes to editors
- Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. Since 1974 we have been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic abuse, with survivors at the heart of our work. We are a federation of over 170 organisations which provide just under 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country.
- Women’s Aid provides expert training, qualifications and consultancy to a range of agencies and professionals working with survivors or commissioning domestic abuse services. Our campaigns achieve change in policy, practice and awareness, encouraging healthy relationships and helping to build a future where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated.
An estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales have experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020 with young women aged 16-24 years continuing to be the age group at most risk (ONS 2020).
- If you are worried that your partner, or that of a friend or family member, is controlling and abusive, go to www.womensaid.org.uk for support and information, including Live Chat, the Survivors’ Forum, The Survivor’s Handbook and the Domestic Abuse Directory. Live Chat is open from 10 am – 6 pm seven days a week for confidential expert support from specialised support workers.
- Press office: [email protected] 020 7566 2511 / 07517 132 943