Women’s Aid has previewed early findings from its forthcoming ‘Domestic Abuse Audit 2018’ at its inaugural public policy conference.

New statistics reveal that domestic abuse services are seeing a rise in the number of referrals to their services as well as survivors and children coming to them with increased support needs. Yet due to continued funding difficulties, services are struggling to meet demand.

The research, which is partly funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), was presented by Women’s Aid at the charity’s ‘The Politics and Economics of Domestic Abuse’ conference at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

“We are receiving less money but [are] expected to provide more. Demand for the service has increased as well as the support that [survivors] require” –Domestic abuse service manager

Despite welcome injections of emergency funding from the government over recent years, over half of responding organisations (57%) were running an area of their domestic abuse service without any dedicated funding in 2017/18, according to the early findings from the report. While almost a third (31%) of organisations had to reduce the amount of support they were able to provide survivors as a result of budget squeezes.

An estimated 21,084 referrals to all refuge services in England were declined in 2017/18, averaging over 400 referrals declined each week. Over one in six referrals to the refuge (17%) were declined due to a lack of space or capacity to support the survivor.

Sian Hawkins, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs at Women’s Aid, said: 

“It could not be more important timing for us to hold our first public policy conference on politics and economics of domestic abuse than in the same week that the government publishes its draft domestic abuse bill. That domestic abuse costs the lives of on average two women a week in England and Wales and £66 billion each year should be a wake-up call for us all. Our conference has clearly set out why it is high time that we bring about a step change in our response to domestic abuse.

“Today we’ve been joined from a range of expert speakers, with domestic abuse survivors coming together with professionals, academics and the Secretary of State for Justice. Our speakers have shared their knowledge and vision for how we can work together to transform our response to domestic abuse and make a real difference to survivors’ lives.

“Together, we will make ending domestic abuse everybody’s business by bringing about change in both attitudes and practice across society. We look forward to continuing the conversation and working with the government, experts across the sector, our member services and survivors themselves to make sure that the bill delivers both the legislation and the resources needed to ensure every survivor gets the support she needs as well as address the root causes of domestic abuse so that every woman and child can live free from fear and abuse.”

Women’s Aid’s public policy conference was held during the same week as the government published its draft domestic abuse bill which set out a series of new laws and non-legislative proposals to transform the response to domestic abuse.

David Gauke MP, Secretary of State for Justice, delivered a keynote speech to conference delegates following the inclusion of the ban on abusers being able to cross-examine alleged victims in the family courts in the draft domestic abuse bill.

If you are worried about your relationship or that of a friend or family member, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk.