Domestic abuse services

Domestic abuse services provide a wide range of information and support including refuge accommodation, helplines, outreach support, floating support, resettlement support, specialist children and young people services, Domestic Abuse Prevention Advocates and drop-in support.

  • There are 365 domestic abuse services in England run by 229 different organisations. 276 of these services include refuge services.[1]

The demand for domestic abuse services is high. It is difficult to exactly demonstrate demand as the only numbers available are for those referrals declined. There are likely to be many women who could have benefited from a referral but are not counted in these figures. This is perhaps because the woman was too frightened to disclose the abuse she was experiencing or a referring agency already knew a refuge was full or not able to support that particular woman’s needs, so did not make the referral.

  • Findings from our annual survey showed that:
    • The refuge services responding to our survey had received 19, 854 referrals to their services in 2015/16. Of these referrals over half (57.1%) were declined and just over a third (38%) were accepted.
    • Many women are unable to get the crisis accommodation they need for safety and support. Nearly a quarter (23.6%) of referrals in 2015/16 to those refuges responding to our annual survey were declined because of lack of space (19,854 referrals received, data provided by 120 services).
    • 78 women and their 78 children were turned away from the refuge services responding to our annual survey on just one day in 2016 because they could not be accommodated (data provided by 131 refuges).
    • 424 women were turned away from outreach services in just one week in 2016 (data provided by 91 services).[2]
  • Women often have to travel many miles and uproot their lives in order to escape a violent perpetrator. There are around 10, 000 migration journeys a year, across local authority boundaries, to access services in England because of domestic abuse. There were 10,161 migration journeys in 2008–2009.[3]
  • On one day in 2016, around three quarters of women accommodated in refuges responding to our annual survey came from a different local authority area to the refuge.[4]
  • A survey of women using specialist BMER (Black, Minority Ethnic and Refugee) domestic abuse services found that 89% of women (126 women) said they preferred to use abuse services with a BMER specialism. They particularly valued being with other BMER women who had experienced abuse, being able to communicate in their own language and the specialist expertise of staff.[5]

The funding of domestic abuse services

Women’s organisations have been disproportionately impacted by recent and current public spending cuts and efficiency savings.

  • Over a third of services responding to the Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2016 were running an area of work without dedicated funding during the previous financial year (34.1%; 61 respondents).[6]
  • Around half (50.4%) of services responding to the Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2016 said that their most challenging issue in 2015/16 was a lack of funding or uncertainty about funding.[7]
  • A 2011 survey by the Women’s Resource Centre found that 95% of women’s organisations faced funding cuts or a funding crisis in the next year. WRC also found that 152 councils across England had cut their spending on services for vulnerable women by an average of £44,914 per council.[8]

Further information and support

If would like more information about domestic abuse go to:  The Survivor’s Handbook

If you or a friend need help call the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership with Refuge) 0808 2000 247


[1] Routes to Support (previously UK Refuges Online), May 2017

[2] Women’s Aid Annual Survey, 2016. Please note that the figures refer to the number of referrals declined rather than the number of women, a woman may have been referred or self-referred to more than one service and so be counted more than once.

[3] Bowstead, JC, Why women’s domestic violence refuges are not local services, Critical Social Policy, Vol. 35(3): 327–349, 2015, p. 335

[4] Women’s Aid Annual Survey, 2016: 76.9% – 1,551 of 2.017 women staying in refuge on the census day, data provided by 131 services

[5] Thiara, R and Roy, S Vital Statistics2 Key Findings Report on Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & Refugee women & children facing violence & abuse (London: Imkaan, 2012), p. 17

[6] Women’s Aid Annual Survey, 2016

[7] Women’s Aid Annual Survey, 2016. Responses from 121 services to this question. Free-text responses were analysed and categorised according to themes. A response could be allocated to more than one category.

[8] Women’s Resource Centre, Surviving the Crisis: The impact of public spending cuts on women’s organisations (Published online: Women’s Resource Centre, 2013), p. 8


© 2015 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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