News | Press Release | Statements

6 March 2024

Refuge respond to Chancellor’s Spring Budget

“Refuge is disappointed, but sadly not surprised that despite the Government’s focus on providing better public services, there was no mention of funding for lifesaving domestic abuse services in the Spring Budget delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, today. Ahead of International Women’s Day on Friday, it is devastating that women were yet again overlooked, with no new long-term sustainable funding commitments for frontline domestic abuse services from the Government.

Earlier this week, Refuge, in coalition with four other leading VAWG (violence against women and girls) organisations, issued a letter to the Chancellor, urging the inclusion of £427 million for specialist domestic abuse services in the Budget. Together, we called for the Government to provide £238 million for essential community-based services, which provide support to survivors in the community, and £189 million to refuge services, which offer survivors safe temporary accommodation. In addition to this, we also called for a separate national ‘by-and-for’ funding pot to be established, which would provide long overdue investment in specialist services that support minoritised survivors, including disabled survivors, LGBTQ+, Black and minoritised women, and those with no recourse to public funds, who typically face additional barriers in accessing support.

With the worrying rise in the number of local authorities effectively declaring bankruptcy, Government investment is needed now more than ever. Decades of chronic underfunding from successive governments, has left many specialists domestic abuse services at breaking point. Without essential and sustainable funding from the Government, domestic abuse services will continue to be squeezed, and pressure on voluntary services who fill the gap left by inadequate funding will increase, ultimately putting the safety of women and children at risk.

The Chancellor made it clear that the Government’s focus is investment and higher-quality public services. Yet, they have overlooked the sizeable savings that investment in domestic abuse services can have. As Women’s Aid (2023) have highlighted, every £1 that is invested in domestic abuse support services, will lead to at least £9 in savings to the public purse.

While Refuge is disappointed at the lack of financial commitment the Government has made to domestic abuse services in the Spring Budget, we do welcome other announcements made today and see the potential these have to benefit survivors.

At Refuge, we know all too well that the Cost-of-Living Crisis is having a massive impact on survivors, with many feeling that they must make the impossible choice between staying with an abuser and affording to live or leaving and risking destitution. The extension of the Household Support Fund is welcome as it has the potential to support survivors fleeing abuse, as it could help them to cover the costs of essentials while they are rebuilding their lives safe from fear.

We are pleased to see that the Government will be making investments in policing with the aim of increasing police response times, which we know can be a matter of life and death in domestic abuse cases. While Refuge continues to call for radical reform to policing; including the immediate suspension of any officer or staff accused of VAWG, this funding, if appropriately invested, could help increase women’s trust in police to properly protect them and has the potential to prevent escalations of abuse to domestic homicide.

While we are yet to see proper evaluations from the Private Law Pathfinder Pilot, Refuge welcomes the Government’s plan to improve the experiences of the court process for survivors of domestic abuse. Court processes can be extremely difficult and triggering for survivors, as they can be forced to face their abuser and risk re-traumatisation by reliving their experiences.

Refuge remains disappointed that the Government has failed to make any funding commitments to specialist domestic abuse services in the Spring Budget. The Government has missed a huge opportunity to improve domestic abuse services and protections for survivors, while saving money in the long-term. Going forward, Refuge urges the Government, and any future governments, to invest in funding for women and girls’ services as a priority.”