The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has this week committed £257 million to help over 70,000 victims of domestic abuse in England.
The funding will ensure safe accommodation spaces such as refuges and shelters can provide vital support. The support will include counselling, assistance with rehousing, financial advice, and play therapy for traumatised children.
The funding, allocated over 2 years and issued as a flexible grant, will be used by local authorities to plan support services and work closely with local charities and other service providers to best meet the needs of victims who have had to flee their homes.
This comes as TSB launched a new fund for victims of domestic abuse to help them escape domestic abuse situations. Victims will be able to get up to £500 paid into their account that will help them pay for essentials such as travel, toiletries, and clothing.
The scheme – which allows victims to open accounts without standard prerequisite documentation – is being piloted in Norwich, Swindon, Walsall, and Wolverhampton, and is being run in partnership with Women’s Aid.
The government said more than £330 million has been invested since 2014 to provide support for domestic abuse victims in safe accommodation, with refuge bed spaces increasing by more than 20% in the past 12 years.
Despite this, victims and survivors have still often been left wanting: “huge rafts of legislation” do not replace funding to meet basic needs, as explained by Hunters partner Olivia Piercy earlier this year:
“If you’re creating [new] legislation whilst at the same time haemorrhaging funding for domestic abuse refuges, Independent Domestic Abuse Advocates, rape crisis centres, counselling, affordable housing and benefits i.e. all of the resources that people need to actually escape domestic abuse situations – victims of domestic abuse and their children have no choice but to stay put because they do not have the means to remove themselves to safety.
If governments aren’t funding these things, and aren’t funding the police adequately, then all the new legislation is just smoke and mirrors to hide what’s really going on.”
This often leads to victims being forced to remain in domestic abuse situations and many subsequently become victims of grievous crime. As highlighted by the Domestic Homicide Project’s new report, this is increasingly costing lives.
Specifically, the number of domestic homicides increased by 23 to 170 in the period April 2021 – March 2022 when compared with the previous 12 months.
This number rises to a harrowing 470 deaths in total which took place in a domestic setting or following domestic abuse, 24% of which being suspected victim suicide.