SOS: Save Refuges, Save Lives

SOS Save our services

Since September 2014, we have been calling on the government to Save Our Services (SOS) by committing to preserving the national network of specialist refuges.

Our national network of specialist refuges is at risk when still three women every fortnight on average, are killed in England and Wales by a partner or former partner. Women’s Aid is leading the SOS Campaign to secure a long-term funding solution for life-saving services. 

The campaign so far:

During 2014-2021, the campaign successfully secured emergency funding investment of £70 million for life-saving refuges. Whilst we welcomed the landmark Domestic Abuse Act in 2021, which placed a legal duty on local councils to fund domestic abuse support in safe accommodation, we campaigned for changes to guarantee that councils must fund specialist women’s refuges and services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women. Sadly, the government didn’t accept these. Many refuges across the country are therefore facing funding challenges and struggling to deliver support to survivors. As a result, the number of initial referrals to refuge which are declined remains stubbornly high – at 62% – highlighted in our Annual Audit 2023. It’s also important to recognise that although we have seen an increase in spaces in recent years, the figure still falls short of the number of spaces recommended by the Council of Europe, a shortfall of 24%. 

Despite roughly £128 million awarded to local councils annually over the past three years, many specialist services, who provide life-saving support are seeing their services being decommissioned and having to rely on fundraising and external donors. 44.0% of services responding to our Annual Audit 2023, including community-based services, had been running an area of their domestic abuse service in 2021-22 without any dedicated funding at all. Specialist services in the community should include, but are not limited to: advocacy; outreach; support for children and young people; drop-in services; counselling and therapeutic services; group work and peer support; prevention, education and awareness-raising activities; and local helplines. We are calling for the victims and prisoners bill to improve commissioning processes for specialist women’s community-based domestic abuse and sexual violence support services.

Find out what our definition of a specialist service is by clicking the links below:

Women’s Aid Definitions (Plain text)

Women’s Aid Definitions (PDF)


The lack of clarity in the statutory duty also means survivors and their children risk being housed in unsafe and unsuitable accommodation without the expert support they need to cope and recover. It also fails to stop competitive and ‘gender-neutral’ commissioning processes which threaten the very existence of women’s services.

Take action 

Domestic abuse services are at risk of closure. Councillors have the power to change that.

For the local elections in May 2023, we asked councils to do three things to tackle domestic abuse in their local areas:  


Ask your council leader or  cabinet member for community safety to visit your local refuge or community service. Meet the amazing women who work tirelessly to support survivors. If you need help finding out who that is, please email DomesticAbuse


Include a dedicated section in your manifesto titled: Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and domestic abuse. This must include committing to prioritising funding of specialist services and increasing support for Black and minoritised women in your area. 


Appoint a VAWG champion within the council. They’ll help to hold the council to account on tackling VAWG in your local area and speak up for survivors.

Our SOS campaign continues until we secure a funding solution that works for the life-saving services women and children need. There are actions that can be taken at both national and local level to ensure we have a sustainably funded national network of refuges.

You can view our Local Election Manifesto here

Become a Campaign Champion

Support our national campaigns on a local level, give survivors of domestic violence a voice and help to ensure that politicians and other key decision makers are listening.

Scroll to Top