The Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2016

Women’s Aid conducts a survey of all domestic abuse services in England each year.The findings of this survey make up the largest collection of such data in the country, giving invaluable insights into the work of the domestic abuse sector and the experiences and needs of the women and children it supports.

About the Survey

The Women’s Aid Annual Survey is the only national survey of the whole range of specialist domestic services for women and children in England. It collects data on domestic abuse services and on the women and children who use them. The 2016 annual survey questionnaire was sent to all domestic abuse services in England. We received responses from 179 domestic abuse services, of which 145 ran refuge support and 114 ran community-based support in 2015/16.[1] The survey questions were based around two main time periods:

  • the work of services in the preceding financial year (2015/16)
  • women and children using services on a Day to Count (for refuge services) and in a Week to Count (for community-based services) in October 2016


[1] It possible to run just refuge support, just community-based support or both. Response rates varied for different parts of the survey.

Key findings

This latest Women’s Aid Annual Survey clearly shows both why recent injections of government funding have been essential, and why without greater accountability for local commissioning decisions, and a sustainable new system of refuge funding, they can never be enough. The pressures on women and children seeking support to escape or recover from domestic abuse, and on the services that support them, are rising to intolerable levels.

This year’s survey tells a story about austerity and the impact of overall spending cuts. But that is not the only story, and it’s important to resist a defeatist response to these statistics. Issues about the way in which limited funding is allocated are at least as important.

Domestic Abuse Services

  • The funding landscape for domestic abuse services is fragmented in nature, with funding coming from a variety of sources and the proportion of local authority funding differing greatly from service to service. 10.2% of responding services received no funding at all from their local authority in 2015/16.
  • About half of respondents gave comments on their biggest challenge in 2015/16 as being funding cuts and uncertainties over future income.
  • About one in four referrals to refuge services in 2015/16 were declined due to lack of space/capacity; there are likely to have been many more potential referrals that weren’t made because the refuge was already known to be full.

Women and children

  • Domestic abuse services play a vital role in keeping women and children safe and aiding their recovery: nearly two thirds of women resident in refuge services on the Day to Count had children with them and about half of the women using community-based services in the Week to Count had children.
  • The annual survey results highlight the range of survivor support needs. Community-based service users most frequently had needs relating to health, justice, housing and their children. Refuge residents most commonly had needs relating to housing, health, finance, and their children.
  • Only about one in six survivors in community-based services and about one in five in refuge services had seen a criminal case or sanctions against the perpetrator.

© 2022 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

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