A new report from Women’s Aid has found that domestic abuse services are struggling to provide crucial services to victims due to a continued lack of adequate funding.
Women’s Aid said that, despite a sustained increase in spaces for women and children in refuges, the 4,344 bedspaces available in England still fall nearly a quarter (23.2%) short of the Council of Europe’s minimum recommendation.
Counselling and resettlement services for children are also “struggling to keep their doors open”. As such, just 36.3% of the domestic abuse services Women’s Aid spoke to were able to provide a formal counselling service over the past year, a figure that has remained the same from 2021 to 2022. Mental health support is essential to domestic abuse survivors’ recovery, said the charity.
More than 40% (44%) of services the charity surveyed were running without dedicated funding from local authorities. More than 80% of these services were using their financial reserves to cover essential costs, putting their financial stability and sustainability at risk.
Women’s Aid is therefore calling on the government to commit to at least £409.3 million per year – a figure determined by the charity’s research – as a minimum for specialist domestic abuse services.
The charity is also asking for ring-fenced funding for specialist services led by and for Black and minoritised women, Deaf and disabled women and LGBT+ survivors, which are even more chronically under-funded than most.
“Funding gaps for domestic abuse can cost lives,” iterated Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, continuing:
“We want our local, life-saving member services to be able to provide support for women and their children without struggling to survive and make ends meet. If they are unable to provide the services needed, it could mean survivors returning to homes that are not safe. At a time when the cost of living is already a barrier for many survivors trying to leave, we urgently need the government’s support.
We know how much funding is needed, so we just need the maths to add up here. The cost of domestic abuse to society is huge at an estimated £66 billion, so adequate, sustained investment would also help to save money in the long-term. At the same time, lives would be saved and survivors able to rebuild their lives and start again.”
This comes as the Home Office has refused Women’s Aid’s request for a specialist fund for survivors of domestic abuse during the cost of living crisis, leaving the charity “shocked and devastated”. Nazeer commented:
“Without this fund in place, there will inevitably be women and children killed this year because lack of money stopped them from making the decision to leave. We will continue to challenge this decision.”