Domestic abuse victims given lifeline payments

Domestic abuse victims will be given fresh support in the form of lifeline payments to escape abuse and rebuild their lives. The Home Office announced yesterday that a new £2 million fund will provide one-off payments to victims to help them leave their tormenters, starting 31st January 2024. 

From 31st January 2024, victims of domestic abuse who do not have the financial means to leave their abusers will be able to apply for a one-off payment of up to £500 via one of over 470 support services, for essential items such as groceries, nappies or support with new accommodation to help them and their children flee to safety.

For the first time, victims are also able to make an application for a further one-off payment of up to £2,500 to help secure a sustainable independent future, such as putting down a deposit for rental accommodation. This will help them move forward with their lives and prevent homelessness or pressure to return to abusers because of financial strain.

The fund will be delivered via referrals from a network of local frontline services in England and Wales including organisations, helplines and caseworkers who have a specialist understanding of domestic abuse.

The fund, initially scheduled to last until March 2025, builds on a pilot funded by the Home Office and delivered with Women’s Aid last year. The pilot helped over 600 victims. Women’s Aid have been re-appointed to deliver this additional funding alongside hundreds of domestic abuse services across England and Wales.

James Cleverly, Home Secretary, said:

“Tackling violence and abuse against women and girls is a priority of mine.

We know that victims of domestic abuse are often forced to flee with very little. These payments cover essentials like food, clothing and nappies, and will also help them keep a roof over their heads.

After the successful trial of this lifeline scheme with Women’s Aid last year, I am proud to continue helping victims to escape abuse, find safety and rebuild their lives.”

Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris, commented:

“Women leave abusive partners at what is often the lowest point in their lives. The most common issues – kids, lack of money and confidence, fear of reprisal – keep so many victims locked into dangerous and harmful situations for far too long.

I am proud this fund has helped over 600 people to escape their abusers and find safety and hope this additional £2 million will help hundreds more find peace and rebuild their lives.  I am also proud of, and grateful to, Women’s Aid, for the extraordinary service they provide to some of the most desperate women in society.

The money complements the action this government has taken to protect victims – including our landmark Domestic Abuse Act which significantly expanded the definition of the offence, created more robust protections and tougher sentences.”

During the pilot of the fund, just over 80% of those applying said that the payments would be used to flee an abuser. With others sharing that the payments were to help prevent them from returning to abusive relationships due to financial struggles.

A lot of survivors flee with little or no belongings, and during the pilot 77.6% said the money helped them to purchase essential goods such as fresh food for their children.

Not only is the fund helping to make leaving situations easier but mental health and peace of mind was also improved, with the payments enabling those that need it to purchase security measures such as CCTV and doorbell cameras.

This trial followed Women’s Aid research which found that almost 75% of women living with their abuser found it harder to leave as a result of the associated further cost of living.

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, stated:

“At Women’s Aid we warmly welcome the funding which will be made available to all survivors of domestic abuse through our, and our partners’, work with the Home Office. Domestic abuse affects a huge number of people, many of whom face additional challenges when it comes to receiving the life-changing support that they need. This year, we are delighted to be working with specialist services to ensure all survivors, including those from minoritised groups, receive the help they so desperately need.

When we worked on the pilot of the fund in May last year, we saw immediately the impact this was having on survivors – over 75% of applicants used their grant to replace or purchase essential goods for themselves or their children, after they had fled their abuser with nothing to their name.

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.”

Melanie Brown, MBE, Patron of Women’s Aid, said:

“I am so happy at the news that the government fund for survivors of domestic abuse will continue – I know how needed it is and the difference it has made to the lives of women and children who could not have left without it.

As someone who knows first-hand what it is like to live in fear of a partner, I am proud to have campaigned as Patron of Women’s Aid and with The Sun on this important issue, and thank the government for listening to our voices.”

Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, stated:

“I am delighted that the government is launching a Flexible Fund for 2024 following the success of last year’s scheme.

This fund provides one-off urgent payments to victims of domestic abuse, many of whom report leaving their abuser with little or no belongings. It will be a lifeline for many, helping victims to flee abuse and rebuild their lives.

I hope to see this critical funding reach as many victims and survivors as possible, including those who face the most significant barriers to support.”

The announcement of this fund follows the government’s Domestic Abuse Plan which so far has invested over £230 million in tackling domestic abuse, and the fund builds on a series of aims and measures which prioritise tackling violence against women and girls.

It is important to note, that much like some updates received last year by the Government on this, they have chosen to use the word women. Today’s Family Lawyer are aware that victims of Domestic Abuse are not just women or those that identify as a woman.

In May 2023 the government expanded legal aid to ensure domestic abuse victims face fewer barriers to funded assistance when using our courts. Just two of the legal aid expansions introduced were:

  • Victims on universal credit seeking a protective order for themselves or their children against their attackers can now access legal aid funding more easily without facing a means test.
  • Victims of coercive control are also eligible for legal help without needing to access funds from joint assets.

What else have the Government been doing?

  • All police forces across England and Wales are now following a new approach for the investigation of rape, which has been funded by the Home Office, (with police referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for adult rape offences already up more than 200% since 2019.  Under the new model, police and prosecutors can access better support and 2,000 police investigators will be specially trained in sexual offences by April 2024.
  • Violence against women and girls (which includes domestic abuse) has been added to the Strategic Policing Requirement – meaning it is now categorised as a national threat for forces to respond to, alongside other serious threats like terrorism.
  • In November 2023, the third phase of the government’s innovative ‘Enough’ communications campaign was launched. It looks to change long-term behaviours and attitudes towards violence against women and girls. This included partnering with over 30 UK universities in a bid to protect women and girls on university campuses.
  • The Home Office also funds “perpetrator intervention” projects which aim to stop domestic abusers and stalkers from repeatedly targeting victims and terrorising vulnerable people.
  • The government has also created new offences to criminalise acts such as non-fatal strangulation, stalking, cyberflashing and the sharing of intimate images without consent.

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