Funding specialist support for domestic abuse survivors

Women’s Aid report says £393 million a year is needed to fund domestic abuse services in England

Monday 2nd December

A new report from Women’s Aid shows that funding life-saving specialist domestic abuse support, for every survivor who needs it, will cost £393 million per year. This investment in services that support women and children experiencing domestic abuse would be a fraction of the estimated £66 billion annual cost to society.

The previous government committed to delivering a statutory duty on local authorities to fund refuge services, alongside sustainable funding for wider specialist domestic abuse services. This report sets out how much investment is needed to fulfil this promise.

A crisis in funding has severely damaged specialist domestic abuse services over the last decade, with many life-saving services struggling to survive with lower levels of funding than they need to meet the support needs of women and children. 60% of refuge referrals were declined last year, and an estimated 1 in 10 refuges and 1 in 5 community-based services receive no local authority funding at all. Services led ‘by and for’ black and minority (BME) women have been disproportionately impacted by local budget reductions and competitive tendering processes which too often favour larger scale, general services but not the quality and expertise women need.

When specialist domestic abuse services are not securely funded and are unable to meet demand, the costs are displaced to public services such as the police and NHS, who face increased pressure in responding to acute crises and cannot provide the needs-led, trauma-informed support that women and children need to cope and recover.

Women’s Aid recommends that:

1.The next government commits to the funding settlement of at least £393,326,676 as set out in this report, working with the domestic abuse sector, local authorities and commissioning bodies to ensure it is delivered effectively, sustainably and secures the future of specialist provision for women and children escaping domestic abuse.

2. The government and Domestic Abuse Commissioner work in partnership with the ‘by and for’ sector – including providers working ‘by and for’ BME women, LGBT survivors and survivors who are disabled, deaf or blind – to develop the funding settlement, and model of delivery, required for specialist provision for groups with protected characteristics.

Adina Claire, Acting Co-Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“Our life-saving specialist domestic abuse services across the country cannot keep going from one funding crisis to the next – this is not a safe or sustainable way to support survivors of domestic abuse. Their expert support is vital in saving and changing lives, but it is currently not valued or funded properly under the current system. The £393 million investment needed to start funding the sector is small when compared to the £66 billion human cost of domestic abuse.

When we fail to properly fund specialist domestic abuse services, the costs of domestic abuse are displaced to public services such as the police and NHS, who are already facing unmanageable levels of acute crisis work. They cannot provide the needs-led, trauma informed support that women and children need to recover and rebuild their lives.

We call on the next government to do its duty to survivors of abuse and secure the funding future of life-saving refuges and wider specialist domestic abuse services. This report gives a practical breakdown of the costs of services that are needed across England.”  

Professor Sylvia Walby OBE, Director of the Violence and Society Centre at City, University of London, said:

“This admirable report from Women’s Aid estimates the gap between the current and needed provision of domestic violence services.  It addresses the challenges of providing such estimates with clarity, nuance and detail.  The sum of money required to close plug this gap is a small proportion of the cost of domestic violence estimated by Government.  This report deserves to be read.”

Notes to Editors:

In this report, Women’s Aid defines what refuge and community-based services deliver, calculating the costs of the support they provide using data from a representative sample of quality services, adjusting to reflect ‘true costs’ rather than the level of funding they currently receive, and scaling up to meet national demand.

The assessment includes all essential elements of provision required for a specialist service – such as dedicated support for children of survivors, therapeutic support and the costs of support staff, activities and central/management costs. For refuge services, this investment covers the support element of provision and not housing costs, which are largely met by housing benefit.

Women’s Aid is concerned that salaries in the domestic abuse sector are low and do not reflect the expertise and qualifications needed for this specialism. To account for this our assessment has used salaries benchmarked against other sectors rather than average salaries currently paid.

This report also sets out the following prerequisites for a sustainable specialist domestic abuse sector:

  1. Ring-fenced funding within the settlement for the ‘by and for’ expert sector.
  2. Availability of a full range of service types.
  3. Effective and sustainable funding of the wider support sector.
  4. Provision for women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
  5. Availability of housing benefit to cover housing costs for refuge services.
  6. Funded coordination and oversight/monitoring.

Women’s Aid welcomes the manifesto pledges from the three main political parties to deliver sustainable funding for refuges and community-based services. Read our full statement here.

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]

© 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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