The Domestic Abuse Report 2023: The Annual Audit

annual audit 2023 report cover The Domestic Abuse Report 2023: The Annual Audit gives an overview of the domestic abuse support services available in England, including provision and usage, during the financial year 2021–22. This reporting period saw the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act (2021) and so the Annual Audit 2023 explores the impact of the statutory duty placed on local authorities to fund support in safe accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse. 

© Women’s Aid, January 2023

Please cite this report as:
Women’s Aid. (2023) The Domestic Abuse Report 2023: The Annual Audit, Bristol: Women’s Aid.

Key findings:

  • Many women struggled to access services equipped to meet their needs: Almost a quarter of survivors (22.3%) reported having a physical health disability, however, only 1.1% of refuge vacancies listed on Routes to Support in 2021-22 were suitable for a woman with limited mobility and just 0.9% of vacancies could accommodate a woman requiring a wheelchair accessible space. Whilst 4,611 (12.1%) service users were not British nationals and, of these, 30% did not have recourse to public funds (NRPF), only 9.1% of all vacancies could consider women with NRPF. Most women (62.0%) had children, with an average of 1.3 children per service user, and yet less than half of refuge vacancies could accommodate a woman with two children.  
  • Shortfalls persist in refuge bedspaces and vacancies: The increase we saw in the number of bedspaces during 2020-21 (largely as a result of emergency Covid-19 funding) appears to have been sustained over 2021-22 and bedspaces have increased (1st May 2022) by a further 55. There is, however, still a 23.2% shortfall. Meanwhile, despite this increase in the number of spaces, 229 fewer vacancies were made available during 2021-22 overall compared to 2020-21, when vacancies were already at significantly lower levels due to the impact of the pandemic. 
  • Experiences of service providers around the implementation of the duty were mixed: Some reported feeling optimism for service expansion from the increase in dedicated funding (49.2% of respondents running refuge services had received funding as a result of the statutory duty), however, there were also significant concerns around the commercialisation of commissioning and variation in the way that local authorities were interpreting the regulations and guidance. Services were concerned about decommissioning of specialist services, particularly those run ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, in favour of competitive tenders, more generic housing-focused providers and taking services ‘in-house’.  
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