We know that the cost of living crisis is having a devastating impact on everyone across the UK but we are hearing from domestic abuse victims and services about the enormous additional pressures that this is putting on survivors and their children.
Some are being forced to stay with perpetrators because they can’t afford to leave. In other cases, we are seeing that abusers are using concerns of financial hardship as an extra tool for coercive control.
I am worried that if the government doesn’t take urgent action now this will become a national emergency for domestic abuse victims which will only get worse as the winter months approach.
That is why I have written to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, calling for urgent and immediate action. The recent political paralysis and lack of decisive action over the past few months has only exacerbated the hardships domestic abuse hit victims and survivors face.
In line with other key domestic abuse charities including Women’s Aid and Surviving Economic Abuse, I am calling on Jeremy Hunt to create a national emergency fund which is accessible to all victims across England and Wales. This fund would allow survivors to access £500 in order to support them to escape abuse – which must include migrant survivors with no recourse to public funds given the additional barriers to support they face.
I am also calling on the Chancellor to increase funding to support survivors of economic abuse; and to ensure any package to mitigate the impact of increased energy bills covers charities and support services as well as individuals. We are already hearing that services are seeing their costs rise exponentially and are worried about how they will keep their doors open for survivors. Moreover, the combination of a high-stress role, burn-out from a brutal couple of years in response to covid, and increasing anxiety about making ends meet has resulted in a crisis of recruitment and retention in this highly specialist sector
I am also asking the Government to exempt domestic abuse survivors from the legal aid means test.
We know that help can’t come soon enough. Most recent statistics from Surviving Economic Abuse’s (SEA) Financial Support Line with Money Advice Plus show that 67% of victim-survivors of domestic abuse are already in a negative budget or have less than £100 surplus at the end of each month.
Victim-survivors currently have an individual average debt of £20,000 – six times more than in 2020. After the winter, this is expected to be even higher, according to SEA and Money Advice Plus.
We know that it will take some time to negotiate Government to try to get some extra financial support for victims and services so while we campaign for change at a national level we have started to compile some sources of support that victims can access now.
- If you are looking to flee to a refuge there is a rail to refuge scheme which is open to all survivors, and you can get more details here: www.womensaid.org.uk/what-we-do/supporting-our-members/rail-to-refuge/
- Surviving Economic Abuse has a list of support and grants on its website to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse Economic support during the cost-of-living crisis – Surviving Economic Abuse
- The Financial Support line run by SEA and Money Advice Plus may also be able to offer support Financial Support Line for Victims of Domestic Abuse (moneyadviceplus.org.uk)
- There is a list of grants and benefits that people may be entitled to on the Citizens Advice Bureau Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills – Citizens Advice
If you want to get some tips and advice about how to cut costs and survive the cost of living crisis:
- Martin Lewis has put together a survival guide with some top tips: www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/cost-of-living-survival-kit/
- The Energy Savings Trust Energy saving tips on a budget – Energy Saving Trust
My office has heard of some helpful local schemes from across England and Wales:
- In Essex, including Southend and Thurrock, there is the Essential Living Fund (ELF) run by Southend Council. You apply online and then are granted either a pre-paid card for general living expenses or they can source furniture and white goods etc which is helpful for survivors who have had to relocate. www.southend.gov.uk/extra-financial-help/essential-living-fund
- The Intercom Trust are an LGBT+ support service, that also deliver DA support (by and for IDVA) in collaboration with Safer Futures in Cornwall and TDAS in Torbay has a small fund to provide vouchers for food, gas etc www.intercomtrust.org.uk
- The Smallwood Trust also have a cost of living fund. You can find out more here: www.smallwoodtrust.org.uk/grants-individuals-COST%20OF%20LIVING
- In the West Midlands, the Worcester Community Trust has a warm hub initiative (where people can come and warm up, charge phone, use Wi-Fi, boil kettle etc). www.worcestercommunitytrust.org.uk/preparations-underway-to-ready-our-hubs-to-be-used-as-warm-banks-over-the-winter-period/
- Here’s a link to a support hub that has been created in Sutton Cost of living support – Sutton Council
This is not an exhaustive list and there are very likely to be other pockets of support at a local level so it is worth checking if there is anything available in your own council area by searching online (if you can) for ‘cost of living’ and insert the council name.
We will update this blog when we hear about any other schemes that may be able to offer support to domestic abuse survivors. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share any schemes or services with the Commissioner.