- Fewer than half of survivors were able to access the community-based support that they wanted, and only 28% said accessing help was easy or straightforward.
- Just 29% of survivors who wanted support for their children were able to access it.
- Only 7% of survivors who wanted their perpetrator to receive support to change their behaviour were able to get it.
- Organisations run ‘by and for’ minoritised communities were 5 times less likely to receive statutory funding than mainstream domestic abuse organisations.
- Almost half of all these specialist ‘by and for’ organisations that support minoritised victims are based in London and the South- East of England.
Domestic abuse victims face massive gaps in accessing services which clearly shows a postcode lottery across England and Wales according to early findings from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s mapping work.
Nicole Jacobs will unveil the preliminary findings when she gives evidence to the Justice Select Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Victims Bill today.
“These early findings lay bare the huge gaps in domestic abuse provision which means that victims and survivors across England and Wales are not getting the support and help they need to be safe and to rebuild their lives,” Ms Jacobs said.
She added that the Government must take decisive action to address the postcode lottery, so no victims are left behind.
Over the last 12 months the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office has collected data from over 500 front-line services providing support, as well as hearing from over 4,000 victims and survivors through a public survey and in-depth focus groups.
One of the key findings showed how valuable specialist domestic abuse services are in supporting victims to cope and recover from their abuse. There was a 22% percentage point difference between victims who felt safer who had received support, compared to victims who had not.
Our research showed that 73% who accessed support said they now felt more in control of their lives. Specialist services that are run ‘by and for’ communities facing the greatest marginalisation – including for Black and minoritised victims, LGBT+ victims, Deaf and disabled victims – offered particular benefits for these communities.
Most victims and survivors told us they wanted some kind of support within the community, outside of a refuge. The most sought-after support was counselling and therapeutic support (73% wanted this), helpline advice (67%) and mental healthcare (65%). But only 45% who wanted counselling accessed it and also just 37% who wanted mental healthcare were able to access it.
Additionally, support through caseworkers or Independent Domestic Violence Advocates, who form an important part of the response to victims of domestic abuse, was sought by 55% of survivors. Yet only 55% of those survivors were able to receive it.
Longer term recovery work, as well as prevention and early intervention are key to a holistic response to domestic abuse and were less likely to be accessible to survivors.
In spite of what victims wanted our early findings show that fewer than half of survivors were able to access the community-based support that they wanted, and just 28% told us that they found accessing help easy. There were particular gaps by type of provision, access to specialist support, and across different regions.
Over two-thirds of men and over half of non-binary survivors found it ‘quite difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to get help, in comparison to a third of women survivors.
One man told us “When I was looking, everything was specifically to support women, I felt kind of, ’Oh, so where do I go now, what do I do?’”.
There were also differences in how easy or difficult survivors found it to access help depending on disability. Survivors with learning disabilities found it hardest to access help – with 54% of those who responded to our survey saying that it was difficult or very difficult to access help, compared to 38.4% of all respondents
Another key finding highlighted was the gaps in support for children. Only 29% of survivors who wanted support for their children were able to access it, which ranged from 18% to 49% depending in where in the country someone lived.
Lack of access to perpetrator programmes was also a key concern. Only 7% of survivors who wanted their perpetrator to receive support to change their behaviour were able to get it.
Specialist ‘by and for’ services are disproportionately underfunded, with considerable gaps in provision across England & Wales. ‘By and for’ services were 5 times less likely to receive statutory funding than mainstream domestic abuse or violence against women and girls’ organisations, and almost half of all ‘by and for’ services are based in London and the Southeast of England.
Based on these early findings we will be calling on the Government to consider how it will respond to these issues and make best use of the Victims Bill to fill the gaps.
Ms Jacobs said: “It is deeply concerning that there are huge gaps in provision across England and Wales. All domestic abuse victims and survivors – regardless of who they are or where they live – must be able to access the services they need.”
The Commissioner said that a considerable funding injection was needed in order to meet the demand for domestic abuse services across England and Wales. This funding must be long-term and sustainable to allow for capacity and capability building across the sector and should be directed towards independent third sector organisations.
She is calling for funding to be focused on the greatest gaps in provision, by type of organisation, intervention, and regionally. Lack of support for children was particularly notable, as well as interventions for perpetrators.
Ms Jacobs said: “Funding should be particularly directed towards specialist ‘by and for’ services, which are woefully underfunded and disadvantaged by the local commissioning framework. Capacity building is desperately needed in large parts of England & Wales to build provision outside of larger metropolitan areas and/or London and the Southeast.”
The Domestic Abuse Commissioner is calling on the Government to create a national pot of funding of £262.9m over three years for ‘by and for’ specialist organisations.
National and local government must work together to bring greater consistency to commissioning of services across England & Wales, Ms Jacobs said. Adding that there is a need for strong local and national accountability and oversight to ensure that services are commissioned to meet the needs of victims and survivors across England and Wales.
Notes to Editors:
‘By and for services’ are organisations run by minoritized groups that provide specialist support for and are rooted in the communities they serve. This is distinct from services that are run ‘by and for’ women.
You can read the full briefing document here.