News | Press Release

21 June 2023

Domestic abuse services in the community under pressure from lack of funding

Domestic abuse services in the community under pressure from lack of funding

  • More than four in five (85%) frontline workers believe that their community-based service is being impacted by insufficient funding.
  • 95% of survivors supported by Refuge use community-based services.
  • Refuge urges the Government to provide funding of £238 million per year for community-based services in the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

New research conducted by Refuge, England’s largest specialist domestic abuse support service provider, shows that community-based domestic abuse services are under significant strain due to lack of funding.

Four in five (85%) frontline workers surveyed for the charity’s ‘Local Lifelines’ report believe that their service is being impacted by insufficient funding.

95% of the women Refuge supports access community-based services. This totalled 23,406 women and their children between April 2021 and March 2022.

Community-based domestic abuse services provide holistic, specialist support to women and children experiencing domestic abuse on both a short and long-term basis. Survivors can access support at all stages of their journey; whether they are still living with their abuser, planning to flee, or have already left to rebuild their lives. A network of specialist support roles including outreach workers, Young Persons Advocates (YPAs), and independent domestic violence advocates (IDVAs) bring support to survivors where they need it.

Insufficient contracts and gaps in funding for specialist support have left many services chronically underfunded and working to short-term contracts, creating a postcode lottery of provision across the country. 89% of frontline workers surveyed said uncertainty over future funding was impacting their service and 64% said their service was impacted by short-term contracts.

In 2022-23, the number of new clients supported by Refuge’s community-based services increased by 10% from the previous year, following the trend of increased demand from the pandemic. As a result, more than 3 in 4 (76%) frontline workers said their caseload had increased over the past 12 months. Frontline workers attributed this rise in caseloads to both the insecure funding landscape and to higher numbers of referrals from survivors coming to community-based services with economic support needs due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Today, Refuge is calling on the government to provide funding of £238 million per year to community-based services as part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill. The Bill, introduced to Parliament in March 2023, presents a vital opportunity to provide an adequate, sustainable funding offer for community-based services.

Analysis by the Economics Foundation, conducted in 2021, found that for every £1 invested, Refuge’s IDVA services generate an average of £9.40 in social value and Refuge’s outreach services generate an average of £23.35 in social value.

The domestic abuse charity has also set out a number of recommendations for improving the commissioning of community-based servicesThese include:

  • A requirement for relevant authorities to conduct a joint strategic needs assessment to understand local need.
  • A requirement for relevant authorities to commission specialist, gendered servicesincluding specialist services ‘by and for’ minoritised women.
  • A requirement for relevant authorities to commission the full range of community-based servicesincluding specialist mental health support within domestic abuse services.
  • A requirement for relevant authorities to commission community-based services on sustainable contract terms of a minimum of 3-5 years.

Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, said:

“Sustainable, ring-fenced funding allows our community-based services to plan ahead, and ensures the right support is available where and when survivors need it most. These services have a transformative impact on the lives of the women and their children who use them, providing practical and emotional support to rebuild their lives away from abuse.

“At the moment, a postcode lottery for support from community-based services exists which cannot be allowed to continue. Survivors deserve services that meet their specific needs, are embedded within their communities, and receive a safe and sustainable level of funding.

“I hope to see strong commitments from government to adequately fund and commission community-based services – women’s lives depend on it.”

Tina*, a survivor of domestic abuse who accessed community-based services, said:

“My IDVA was, without a doubt, the reason I was able to access support to deal with the impacts of my ex’s abuse. While I was entangled with the criminal justice system my support network was cut offrom me for two years, which left me feeling so alone. My IDVA was able to get me the emotional, medical, economic and physical support I needed after leaving my abuser.

“It was thanks to community-based services that I got the debt my ex accrued in my name cleared, had someone with me to help process information in court, and had emotional support to cope with my PTSD, anxiety and depression. These services are so important for survivors, so I hope the government will hear the experiences of women like me and make sure they’re safeguarded.”

Read our full local lifelines report.