This International Women’s Day, Women’s Aid celebrates the unsung heroes who help save women and children’s lives in their escape from domestic abuse

Wednesday 7 March 2018

To mark International Women’s Day (8th March 2018), Women’s Aid is celebrating the unsung heroes in our society: the extraordinary women who run the national network of refuges and outreach support services who help save the lives of women and their children who are experiencing domestic abuse every day.

Today, Women’s Aid releases new data from Survival and Beyond: the domestic abuse report to bring to light the lifesaving work that is often hidden away within our communities.

Through their work in our member services in England, refuge workers provided an estimated 13,414 women and their 14,353 children fleeing domestic abuse with a place of safety, while an estimated 154,306 survivors were supported in community-based support services during the year 2016/17.

This lifesaving work was achieved despite the challenging environment domestic abuse support staff work in. As the Survival and Beyond report shows, survivors are being referred to domestic abuse services with increasingly complex needs set against the backdrop of funding uncertainties for these services and the resultant decrease in staffing levels.

The Survival and Beyond report reveals that:

60% of responding services cited funding cuts/uncertainties as their biggest challenge in 2016/17.
Over one in ten of responding services reported that they had experienced a decrease in staffing levels during the year 2016/17.
• Of the services who reported an increase in one or more types of support provision being offered, only 35% of these services reported an increase to their staff number.
• There was a 13% decrease in the number of organisations who were able to provide counselling as part of their support provision during 2016/17.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“Behind every survivor, whose life has been turned around by the support of a refuge or outreach service, are the unsung heroes who help women and their children fleeing domestic abuse day in, day out. It is not easy work but the reward – saving women and their children’s lives – is priceless.

“A refuge is more than just a bed for the night; it is a lifeline for thousands of women and children fleeing domestic abuse. When women arrive at a refuge, they often have nothing but the clothes on their back; but when they leave a refuge, they leave with their freedom, independence and a family of sisters who will always be there for them. Refuges not only save lives but transform them.

“Yet these women are doing extraordinary work set to the backdrop of short-term, uncertain funding, staffing shortages and survivors coming to their service with increasingly complex needs and nowhere else to turn. That’s why this International Women’s Day, we’re asking you to join us in celebration of the lifesaving work that these remarkable women do against the odds helping women and their children escape domestic abuse every day of the year.”

Catherine*, a survivor who escaped domestic abuse to the safety of a Women’s Aid refuge, said:

“I left with no money, no friends, limited family but the knowledge that I had done the right thing. It wasn’t until I was offered a space in a Women’s Aid refuge that my life began to turn around. I received support for housing, counselling, empathy and most of all they gave me the time and space to recover in safety with my daughter and discover that life was worth living again.”

Refuge staff not only provide survivors and their children with a safe haven but, like community-based outreach services, also support them in their recovery from domestic abuse. In 2016/17, domestic abuse services reported that survivors are being referred to their services with increasingly complex needs. Nine in ten of all women in refuge needed help with housing, four in five women in refuge needed help with finances and almost 40% of women in refuge had mental health support needs.

This increase in survivors reporting with complex needs is set against the backdrop of a funding crisis for refuges and outreach support services. 60% of responding services said that their biggest challenge in 2016/17 was funding cuts and uncertainty. This uncertainty around funding negatively impacts staffing levels as well as what support provision services can offer to survivors. Over one in ten of all services reported that they had experienced a decrease in staffing levels during the year 2016/17. One of the largest drops in support provision was in services’ capacity to provide counselling, which fell by over 13% during the year. While other services are being pushed to deliver more with existing or reduced staff numbers. Of the services who reported an increase in one or more types of support provision being offered, only 35% of these services reported an increase to their staff number.

This International Women’s Day, join Women’s Aid in our campaign to protect women’s refuges and stop dangerous planned changes to their funding, which would put women & children’s lives at risk, by signing our petition here.

For more information or to arrange interviews with a Women’s Aid spokeswomen,

please contact Sara D’Arcy in the Women’s Aid Press Office:

020 7566 2511 / 07807 218687 / [email protected]

* Name has been changed to protect the survivor’s identity

© 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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