News | Press Release | Statements

16 April 2024

Refuge comment as the Victims and Prisoners Bill enters Report Stage

Commenting on the Victims and Prisoners Bill entering Report Stage in the House of Lords, Sophie Ireland, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Refuge, said:  

“As the Victims and Prisoners Bill enters Report Stage in the House of Lords, Refuge, the country’s largest specialist provider of domestic abuse services, is urging peers to support amendments to ensure domestic abuse services get the funding and stability they so desperately need within this Bill. 

Refuge is calling on this Bill to introduce adequate, sustainable funding for community-based domestic abuse services, estimated to cost at least £238 million per year, and provide guidance for local commissioners to ensure community-based domestic abuse services are delivered on sustainable contract terms of at least three years. 

Community services are a lifeline for survivors, with 95% of survivors supported by Refuge in the last year using these services. Despite the importance of community-based services, survivors face a postcode lottery in accessing support. In 2022, The Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office found that less than half of survivors who want to access community-based services are able to. Last year 85% of frontline workers surveyed in Refuge’s Local Lifelines Report said their service is impacted by insufficient funding. 

In addition to the insecure funding landscape, regular competitive commissioning and short-term contracts also produce significant challenges for services, particularly staff recruitment and retention. 64% of frontline workers surveyed for Refuge’s Local Lifelines report said their service was impacted by short-term service contracts.  To enable community-based services to take root and provide survivors with the stability they need, it is vital that they are delivered on sustainable contract terms of at least three years. 

With the recent rise in local authorities issuing section 114 notices, and effectively declaring bankruptcy, the challenges faced by specialist domestic abuse services are only going to increase. Refuge is deeply concerned about the impact this will have on community-based domestic abuse services which aren’t backed by a statutory duty. It is more important than ever for the government to make adequate and sustainable funding commitments to the sector. 

The government have pledged to tackle violence against women and girls as a priority, but right now domestic abuse services are facing a significant funding shortfall and struggling with demand. This legislation must be backed up with sustainable funding that enables services to be there for survivors of domestic abuse.”

Notes to Editors

Read Refuge’s Local Lifelines report here.