A new report from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has criticised the “postcode lottery” in victims’ and survivors’ access to domestic abuse support which, despite “Herculean efforts” of those involved, results in a “patchwork provision” of support.
The report, “A Patchwork of Provision: How to meet the needs of victims and survivors across England and Wales”, contains several key findings with regards to the needs of victims and survivors and the impact of support services.
Specialist services are said to be effective with 67% of victims feeling safer and 73% more in control as a result of their provision. However, a range of types of support is very much in demand – “incorporating, but not limited to, advocacy”.
“By and for” services – which are said to be “far more effective” – are a key need for minoritised communities, with as many of 67% of Black and minoritised survivors and 68% of LGBT+ survivors wanting access to a specialist organisation delivered by their own community. For trans survivors, this rises to a striking 91%.
However, the report said just 35% of people found it easy or very easy to access support once they knew what was available. This is in part due to the “postcode lottery” provision of services. For counselling services, there was a 21% difference in the ability to access support between the highest and lowest area.
According to shadow minister for prisons and probation Ellie Reeves, one way in which this postcode lottery could be addressed is a domestic abuse register which would give authorities a way of “centrally tracking” information about abusers, forcing those convicted of serial offences and stalking to hand over person information to the police and to inform them of a change in their situation.
Reeves suggested to The Independent that “things are not joined up” under the current approach:
“If a probation officer doesn’t know about someone’s history or if the court isn’t aware of the long history of it, then there is less that can be done and fewer interventions that can be made to change offending behaviour and put in place solutions to it all.”
Elsewhere in the Observatory’s report, it was said that, for men, access to support is particularly tough, with 82% suggesting it was “difficult or very difficult”.
The “backlogged and understaffed” services are said to require a “considerable injection of long-term funding” to meet demand for support. 34% of services said they’re running without any dedicated funding, and 27% had to cease due to lack of funding, which is often “short-term and insecure”.
This means victims and survivors are turning to others for support, with family and friends playing a “critical role” in offering support.
Healthcare professionals are otherwise the most likely person to whom abuse would be disclosed, with 44% saying they told such a professional first – more than the 43% who went to the Police.
The report went on to make several recommendations to meet the needs of victims and survivors, largely focusing on increased funding, planning, and strategy at a national level to improve the provision of support.
They also called for increased focus on by-and-for services, as well as a renewed ambition to improve provision for men.
It is also said that the healthcare sector “must recognise its unique provision of trust, and improve professionals’ understanding of domestic abuse in order to identify abuse at an earlier stage and support survivors to access specialist support”.
The full report and all 26 recommendations can be read here.