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Cost of living crisis ‘preventing women from escaping abuse’

The continued impact of the cost of living crisis means that women who are unable to find a place in a suitable refuge are facing greater risks, including homelessness or being forced to remain with the perpetrator, according to a new Women’s Aid report.

15.4% of women supported by the charity’s No Woman Turned Away project report not having enough money to pay for essentials such as food for themselves and their children, phone bills, or transportation whilst waiting for a refuge space. This is an increase of 4% from the previous year.

The No Woman Turned Away project, which since 2016 has provided vital support for women and children unable to access refuge provision, has been working alongside local services to ensure the most vulnerable survivors have access to the support they need when they need it the most. 

Based on the project’s work during 2022, the report highlights the numerous challenges faced by women most marginalised by society when it comes to accessing help to escape domestic abuse. For the 254 women who engaged and finished being supported by the No Woman Turned Away Project between 1st January and 31st December 2022, 40.2% of women came from Black and minority backgrounds, 36.5% had no recourse to public funds and 24.4% had a disability. 

Last year, over 10,000 women fleeing domestic abuse across England were denied safe housing. The figures revealed that almost “8,000 households referred to a safe accommodation service did not receive support because there was no capacity and a further 3,000 were denied places because the shelter ‘could not meet the needs of the household’”.

The new findings show that the project continued to provide women with vital support, especially those for whom structural inequalities and a lack of resources within the refuge network posed challenges and dangers.

In 2022, specialist practitioners committed over 1,098 hours of support, looking at a host of issues, such as safety planning, immigration support, safeguarding housing, emotional support and others. This reflects the complex nature of domestic abuse and the many forms it can take, with a large proportion of women saying that the experienced emotional abuse (88.4%), controlling behaviours (66.5%) and financial abuse (49%).  

The report also continues to demonstrate the impact of the Domestic Abuse Act (2021) and the work that remains to be done. While the Act brought about changes to the priority need for accommodation for those affected by homelessness due to domestic abuse and introduced a statutory duty for local authorities to fund domestic abuse support, the findings of this report suggest that the support required by survivors is still not in place.

Women who are already vulnerable are made more so by the lack of refuge spaces that could accommodate their needs, which leads to many being placed in inadequate accommodation or forced to remain with their abusers.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive at Women’s Aid, said:

“This report highlights the vital work that is being done by the project to help the women in our society who are most vulnerable, while also continuing to highlight the ongoing pressures of the cost of living crisis and the pressing need for more funding, especially for specialist organisations led ‘by and for’ minoritised women. It is unthinkable that women could be forced to remain with their abusers, placing their lives in greater danger, because there is no place for them to turn to.

We are incredibly grateful for the No Woman Turned Away project and its tireless effort to keep women and children safe. We will continue supporting its work to improve access to refuge spaces, as we work towards our common goal of making domestic abuse completely unacceptable in our society.”

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