Women’s Aid highlights the ongoing challenges that rising cost-of-living poses to specialist domestic abuse services at the Women and Equalities committee
Today, Women’s Aid gave evidence at the Women and Equalities committee, highlighting how the ongoing cost-of-living challenges are pushing specialist domestic abuse services to breaking point, with real concerns about services having to turn away survivors or reduce their current offering.
Speaking in Parliament earlier today, Women’s Aid chief executive, Farah Nazeer, was joined by colleagues from Surviving Economic Abuse and their partner, TSB, to highlight the ongoing challenges faced by services across the country. Women’s Aid research from 2023 found that the rising cost-of-living was especially keenly felt by ‘by and for’ services, which already face challenges when it comes to obtaining funding, with 85% saying that unless further support was provided, they would have to reduce the support available to survivors or even close down all together. Similarly, research from 2022 shows that one in five of Women’s Aid’s service, staff were having to use food banks.
While warmly welcoming the launch of the Flexible Fund earlier today, which will provide invaluable support to survivors and children fleeing abuse, Women’s Aid has also highlighted that the current system on domestic abuse spending is not sufficient. By providing specialist domestic abuse services with adequate funding, as well as ring-fencing funds for specialist ‘by and for’ services, not only would the pressure on health and mental health services be lessened, but for every £1 invested, there will be a saving to the public purse of at least £9. Women’s Aid is calling for £427 million of funding to be set aside per year, to ensure that services can meet demand and provide survivors and children with the life-changing help that they need to flee, and stay fled, from abuse.
The organisations have also issued a joint call for businesses to do more and use their resources to set up their own emergency flee funds, as has been demonstrated by TSB with its Flee Fund to such powerful effect. In particular, the organisations called for concerted action from businesses to support their employees with measures such as training to spot and support survivors, offering paid leave to attend appointments, colleague flee funds to help employees escape dangerous situations, and improved processes to ensure flexibility to help survivors change their routine and work from a safe environment.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, comments:
“I am pleased to have shared the experience of survivors and our members with the Women and Equalities Committee about the impact of the rising cost of living and how it affects both services and survivors. Specialist domestic abuse services in England have been facing a funding crisis for over a decade, leaving many at breaking point. Our research tells us that services across the country are facing unprecedented challenges, which are further exacerbated for those providing by and for support to survivors who face additional challenges. Our research tells us that 85% of our member services run by and for Black and minoritised women would be prevented from supporting survivors if no further support with the cost of living was provided.
“Significant steps are already being made to address these issues, with the government announcing the £2 million Flexible Fund aimed at helping survivors flee from abusers, and lead independent lives. This year’s funding will make life-changing improvements to the lives of countless adult and child survivors, allowing them to take those first steps towards a life free of abuse. We are immensely proud to be a part of this, especially during our 50th year, and believe that by allowing more survivors to escape their abusers, we are taking steps in the right direction to building a society in which domestic abuse is no longer tolerated.
“Nonetheless, more must be done. The system as it currently stands is not efficient or sustainable. We are calling on the government to commit at least £427 million of funding for specialist domestic abuse services per year to meet demand, as well as ring-fenced funding for by and for services, who face additional challenges during this time. Services must be supported to continue providing life-saving help to survivors and children, and it is only by working together that we can create a world free from domestic abuse.”
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO and Founder of Surviving Economic Abuse, said
“Without economic safety, there can be no physical safety. We’re delighted to see the Flexible Fund launch today, empowering more survivors to not only leave an abuser but to regain financial stability and rebuild their lives.
“Abusers make every day a cost-of-living crisis for victim-survivors and this is further intensified by skyrocketing living costs. As well as access to money, survivors need support to regain full control over their finances. Specialist economic advocacy support would enable survivors to maximise their income and safely separate all their finances and assets from the abuser. Businesses can also play their part in supporting their employees experiencing abuse by providing paid leave to attend appointments, employee flee funds and flexible working. These measures could all help keep a victim-survivor in stable employment and give them economic security when they need it most.”
Katie Osiadacz, Head of Responsible Business, TSB, said:
“Having offered the emergency flee fund to TSB customers for over a year, we know first-hand how important these payments are in helping an individual escape a dangerous and abusive situation.
“It’s clear that businesses can play a vital role in supporting their customers and employees, who might be suffering from the devastating impact of domestic abuse.”