Domestic abuse: Cost of living “pushing services to breaking point”

New research from Women’s Aid has suggested the cost of living crisis is pushing domestic abuse services to “breaking point”.

Responding to a Women’s Aid survey in late 2022, 96% of specialist frontline services said they were facing financial issues related to the cost of living crisis, with 78% stating their funding was not rising in line with the rising costs. This is corroborated by findings of a recent ITV News report which found soaring energy bills are “pushing some domestic abuse services to the brink of ruin”.

As a result of this, Women’s Aid said 59% resorted to using their charitable reserves to cope: “Our reserves can only be spent once, when they’re gone that will be the end of any support we can give to staff and survivors,” said one respondent.

What’s more, with low salaries in the specialist domestic abuse services sector and the cost of living soaring, almost three-quarters of the specialist support services responding (73%) said they had staff who are experiencing financial hardship. 20% had staff who were using foodbanks.

As a result, the majority of the specialist domestic abuse support services responding (80%) were struggling to recruit for vacant roles at the salaries they can pay. One respondent said:

“We cannot keep up with increasing demand and staff are working non-stop and beyond working hours to support women. This is leading to burnout. Staff vacancies means that staff are doing more for longer.”

Naturally, this is causing delays at the point of need, with 92% of Women’s Aid member services stating they were seeing an increase in delays or difficulties accessing services, leading to longer stays in refuge as survivors struggle to secure move-on housing or require support over longer periods of time, adding to demands on services and reducing the number of refuge places they can make available.

Women’s Aid made five subsequent demands, the full details of which are available here:

  • An Emergency Support Fund
  • Urgent, practical support for specialist domestic abuse services
  • Reduce the impact of legal costs for survivors to enable them to seek justice
  • Exempt survivors of domestic abuse from the benefit cap and end the two-child tax credit limit
  • Abolish the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition for survivors of domestic abuse

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