Domestic abuse service provision

The issue

Specialist domestic abuse services provide lifesaving support to victims and survivors of domestic abuse, including counselling, safety planning, advocacy, and refuge spaces. These services often work in partnership to improve the response of public agencies like the police or health services, and crucially offer an independent and specialist service with the needs of victims and survivors at their heart. Yet these vital services struggle for consistent funding and a lack of capacity means too many victims and survivors are turned away or face long waiting lists for support. The Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s research mapping domestic abuse services across England and Wales showed there is a postcode lottery in the provision of domestic abuse services.

The vision

The Commissioner’s vision is that all victims and survivors, including children, receive the support they need, when they need it, no matter who they are or where they live.

The Commissioner’s work

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner and her office regularly advocate for sufficient funding for domestic abuse services with the Treasury, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Office’s Practice and Partnerships team speak frequently to local commissioners and domestic abuse services to highlight good practice at a local level, and help the Commissioner to understand how national policy affects services on the ground. We also work regularly with domestic abuse services at a national and local level, victims and survivors, academics and other experts to ensure this evidence closely informs our work to recommend and drive forward change.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s first task following the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 was to map the provision of domestic abuse services. Her research, A Patchwork of Provision: how to meet the needs of victims and survivors of domestic abuse in England and Wales (2022), illustrates the postcode lottery in the availability of domestic abuse services in England and Wales. As part of the research, the Commissioner surveyed more than 4,000 victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and found:

  • Fewer than half of survivors were able to access the community-based support that they wanted, and only 35% said accessing help was easy or straightforward.
  • Over 70% of survivors who wanted support for their children were not able to access it.
  • Only 7% of survivors who wanted the perpetrator to receive support to change their behaviour were able to get it.
  • Over one-quarter of domestic abuse organisations were forced to cease some service provision due to lack of funding. For ‘by and for’ organisations, this rose to 45%.

The Commissioner is calling on the government to introduce a new duty through the Victims and Prisoners Bill to provide and fund community-based services, including for children. This would secure the future of all domestic abuse services.

The Bill, going through the House of Lords stages, currently places a duty on local commissioners to conduct needs assessments – but the Commissioner is calling for an amendment so that national government is required to provide funding so that local commissioners can meet that need. This should include a dedicated national funding pot for specialist ‘by and for’ services, providing tailored support to LGBT+, Black and minoritised, and Deaf and disabled victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

If you are a victim or survivor of domestic abuse, and you have written to the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to share your perspective, your voice is integral to this work. Your email will be read by the Commissioner’s team and used anonymously to improve funding for domestic abuse services.

Mapping report

‘A Patchwork of Provision’: How to meet the needs of victims and survivors across England and Wales
November 2022

This pioneering mapping shows the extent of the disparities in levels of domestic abuse service from area to area, and between different groups and ethnicities of victims and survivors.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill

The Victims and Prisoners Bill is currently passing through parliament and presents a momentous opportunity to transform the support available to victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

Click here to read the Commissioner’s briefing on the amendments that are required to make this legislation as ambitious as possible.

Click here to track the Victims and Prisoners Bill’s progress through parliament.

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