Women’s Aid calls for emergency cash injection during Covid-19 crisis

Women’s Aid calls for emergency funding of at least £48.2 million for domestic abuse services during Covid-19 crisis

Following the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, that charities providing vital services and helping vulnerable people through the current crisis will benefit from the £360 million allocated by government departments, including domestic abuse charities, national domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid is asking the government for an emergency cash injection of at least £48.2 million. This is following a survey of 45 local domestic abuse services, which includes women’s refuges, helplines and outreach services in England.

The survey showed that:

  • 84% of domestic abuse service providers said they’d had to reduce or cancel one or more services
  • Over a third of refuge providers had to reduce or cancel the refuge services they usually provide.
  • Just under 70% of responding services were concerned about future loss of income from fundraising
  • 67% stated they were concerned about future increases in demand.

Acting Chief Executive Nicki Norman said:

“Without urgent action, our lifesaving national network of domestic abuse services could be overwhelmed by the scale of need resulting from the pandemic. We are asking for an urgent package of support to cover costs over the next six months, to ensure that local domestic abuse services are able to continue running and meet the needs of women and children accessing support, as well as our national Live Chat service that currently receives no government funding. Demand for this service has risen by 41% since the lockdown has been imposed.

Local services desperately need funding to cope with both demand and the challenges of delivering services remotely, managing isolation within refuges, and having staff ill and in self-isolation.

Funding must be delivered simply, fairly and immediately to our national network of services. There must be a ring-fenced pot for services led ‘by and for’ BME women, migrant women, disabled women and LGBT survivors. These services face additional barriers and need our support during this time of crisis in the domestic abuse sector, as do many women and children trapped in their homes with their abuser. This is not a long-term funding solution, but it’s desperately needed now to ensure that services can continue to protect survivors and prevent harm during Covid-19.”

 

Women’s Aid’s two Patrons both support this call for urgent funding:

Women’s Aid Patron Dame Julie Walters said:

“Coronavirus is a crisis for domestic abuse services, with families spending almost all their time at home, and we have to act now to save lives. We know that women and children living with domestic abuse are living a real life nightmare, being trapped with their abusers as they isolate. We do not only need urgent funding from the government for the coming weeks, but afterwards when both national services and local services around the country are trying to help the hundreds of thousands of survivors who desperately need them.”

Women’s Aid Patron Melanie Brown said:

“I have spent time in local domestic abuse services and I know how much funding is desperately needed. I am not just a Patron of Women’s Aid. I’m also a survivor and this is why this is why I really want to help change this situation. Right now we are in a crisis situation, with women unable to escape their abusers in lockdown. That breaks my heart because it means being trapped 24/7 and subjected to endless suffering and feeling even more powerless. Funding the Live Chat service is now more vital than ever, as it means that women can have a conversation online with Women’s Aid without having to speak and risk being heard by their abusive partner. I call on the government to fund these lifesaving services, as they can mean the difference between life and death for those living with domestic abuse.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Women’s Aid is asking for at least £48.2 million for the domestic abuse sector,to cover additional costs over the six months and ensure women’s specialist domestic abuse services can cope with COVID 19. The emergency funding must be delivered alongside equivalent funding for Wales and wider VAWG services, and based on the following key principles:

  • Ring-fenced funding for services led ‘by and for’ black and minoritised women, migrant women, disabled women and LGBT survivors. These services are essential for fulfilling duties under the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty and meeting the specific support needs of marginalised groups, but over the past decade have suffered disproportionately from budget cuts and competitive tendering practices which fail to value their unique expertise. Their inclusion, through a specific ring-fence and the design of the funding system, is essential for an equitable funding system which does not entrench social injustice further.
  • A flexible pot of central funding, which is designed and delivered in partnership with the specialist sector. This must be delivered directly to services, and not through local authorities or Police and Crime Commissioners which risks additional bureaucracy, delay and the exclusion of ‘by and for’ services.
  • A fair funding allocation system for smaller services, as their size and level of income does not necessarily correspond to their need. Equitable funding must account for the fact that smaller services have less resource and capacity to cope with shocks and face the greatest challenges in adapting to remote working.
  • Additional staffing costs for professionals supporting women, children and young people, as well as a hardship fund for women and children and costs for remote working, childcare and staff wellbeing.
  • National funding to ensure Women’s Aid’s Live Chat service can extend opening hours, alongside monitoring and responding to increased demand for all national helplines.
  • A ban on competitive tendering for domestic abuse and VAWG services during COVID 19 and ensuring that funding for the sector is flexible to meet need
  • The immediate end to ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions to ensure migrant women, who face severe barriers to accessing refuges and statutory support, can access safety.

If you are worried that your partner, or that of a friend or family member, is controlling and abusive, you can 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.

For more information, please contact the Women’s Aid press office: 020 7566 2511 /[email protected]

Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. Over the past 45 years, Women’s Aid has been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic abuse through practice, research and policy. We empower survivors by keeping their voices at the heart of our work, working with and for women and children by listening to them and responding to their needs.

We are a federation of nearly 180 organisations which provide just under 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country. We provide expert training, qualifications and consultancy to a range of agencies and professionals working with survivors or commissioning domestic abuse services, and award a National Quality Mark for services which meet our quality standards. We hold the largest national data set on domestic abuse, and use research and evidence to inform all of our work. 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.

Our support services, which include our Live Chat Helpline, the Survivors’ Forum, the No Woman Turned Away Project, the Survivor’s Handbook, Love Respect (our dedicated website for young people in their first relationships), the national Domestic Abuse Directory and our advocacy projects, help thousands of women and children every year.

© 2019 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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