Women’s Aid welcomes the government’s new Vision for the Women’s Health Strategy
We are particularly pleased to see the impacts of violence against women and girls (VAWG), and mental health highlighted as two of the six priority health areas.
Isabelle Younane, head of policy, campaigns and public affairs, said:
“We know from our work with thousands of women each year that the effects of domestic abuse on women’s mental health can be both severe and long lasting. We have urged the government to prioritise this issue through our campaign – Deserve To Be Heard – and the new Vision for the upcoming Strategy is significant step in the right direction. We will continue to campaign and work alongside government to ensure that outcomes on survivors’ mental health are implemented, following the publication of the full strategy.
“The campaign highlights the huge barriers that survivors of domestic abuse face in accessing services – from long waiting times, victim-blaming and communication barriers, to the stigmatisation of mental health, and a lack of trauma-informed responses and services. All women deserve to be heard – but we know that those experiencing multiple forms of oppression, due to their race, sexuality, disability and other factors, face even greater barriers to being heard and accessing effective support. Through the Deserve To Be Heard campaign, we aim to uplift and amplify the voices of the most marginalised women, including Black and minoritised survivors, so that responses are reflective of these diverse experiences, and all women receive the support they need to heal.
“It is particularly positive to see women’s voices included as a key theme underpinning the Vision, as well as the recognition of the impact of domestic abuse and VAWG on the mental health of women across their life course, and the ways in which this intersection should be addressed. It is vital that this also reflects the distinct experiences and unique mental health needs of women facing multiple forms of oppression. Due to the fear and stigma around mental health and abuse, women often do not disclose problems – and in many cases, they are disbelieved and belittled when they do speak out. We are encouraged by the key ambitions laid out in the Vision, which include challenging the taboo around women’s health issues, and ensuring that women feel better listened to and heard by healthcare professionals, and women’s concerns and symptoms are taken seriously.
“We are pleased to see that the upcoming strategy will include plans to build the evidence base of trauma-informed practice and hope that there is sufficient funding attached to deliver on these ambitions. The appointment of the Women’s Health Ambassador is also welcomed, and we look forward to working together, alongside other specialist domestic abuse organisations and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to ensure that survivors of domestic abuse are prioritised in the delivery of the forthcoming strategy.
“We share the government’s concern that just 11% of those who responded to the public survey said that they were aware of any provision of policies and/or protection by their current or previous workplace regarding domestic abuse, and agree that more must be done in this area. In the section of education and training for healthcare professionals, we would like to have seen a more explicit recognition of the need for both medical professionals and students to receive specialist training in domestic abuse and undertake routine inquiry. It is vital that the government takes this opportunity for closer working between sectors – and particularly partnership between the health system and specialist domestic abuse services – to ensure a joined-up response to survivors.
“We look forward to the publication of the full strategy in Spring 2022 and hope to work with government to ensure concrete outcomes for survivors of VAWG.”