Exclusive new mapping data reveals a postcode lottery and patchwork of provision

  • Exclusive new data reveals huge inequalities for survivors trying to access domestic abuse services across England and Wales
  • A postcode lottery and patchwork of provision: who you are and where you live determines what kind of services you can get
  • Many victims unable to access the support that they wanted or needed. Insecure and insufficient funding a key reason as services struggle to meet demand
  • Black and minoritised survivors were more than twice as likely to say they felt safer having accessed an organisation run specifically ‘by and for’ their community, than those who hadn’t accessed any support (78% and 30% respectively).’  
  • Grave lack of specialised ‘by and for’ provision. Minoritised groups face increased disadvantage when they try to access help – these services are also 6 times less likely to get statutory funding.
  • Only 29% of victims and survivors told us they were able to get support for their children who wanted it
  • Overall, more than half of survivors wanted their perpetrator to receive support to change their behaviour – but just 7% of them got it

Exclusive new data from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has revealed the huge scale of inequalities in service provision for victims and survivors of domestic abuse across England and Wales.

For the first time, pioneering new mapping by the Commissioner 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.

“Who you are and where you live decides whether you will get access to domestic abuse services. This postcode lottery is deeply unjust and puts lives at risk,” the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs said today (Nov 29th) as she challenged the government to deliver for victims and implement her 26 recommendations.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office engaged with more than 4,000 victims and survivors, more than 500 service providers and over 150 local commissioners to comprehensively map out what victims wanted, whether they were able to get it and where services were located across England and Wales.

“Help and support is available, but it can be patchy because of the chronic lack of funding for services. It is too often short-term and insecure, and some organisations – particularly those run ‘by and for’ minoritised communities – find it almost impossible to access any statutory funding at all.

“Lives remain at risk if this is not tackled with urgency,” said Ms Jacobs. “The cost-of-living crisis is only set to intensify the problems faced by survivors and domestic abuse charities alike – it cannot be ignored.”

Government figures show that domestic abuse cost society an estimated £66 billion a year in the year ending 2017 (estimated to be about £74bn now) in terms of costs to public services, lost economic output, and support costs, not to mention the impact on survivors and their children.

“When we have 2.4 million people saying that they have experienced domestic abuse in the last year alone, we have to fund pathways to support. It is critical if we want to tackle this crime which costs so much to so many,” Ms Jacobs said.

Accessing services: help and support is available but it’s not consistent across England and Wales

In the Commissioner’s mapping exercise, there was clear evidence of disparity by geographical area – leaving victims in a ‘postcode lottery’ for accessing specific types of support.

“Specialist support is available across England and Wales. We know how much it helps people to rebuild their lives. We need to ensure that there is enough funding so we can address the gaps and inconsistencies,” Ms Jacobs said. 

Victims and survivors said they felt safer and more in control of their lives when they were able to access services, but the research found that many victims were not able to access the support that they needed.

A clear majority of survivors (83 per cent) said they wanted some form of community-based services (like counselling and access to mental healthcare). A smaller proportion of survivors needed refuge accommodation (28 per cent wanted this). The Commissioner’s mapping highlighted huge variations in what was available and accessible across the country

Nearly a quarter of accommodation-based services were only funded by local commissioners for people who lived, worked, or studied in the local area, making it harder for survivors to find safety when they needed to leave the area.

Some key regional variations:

  • Despite being what survivors wanted most, access to counselling showed the biggest disparity between different parts of England and Wales, with a 21-percentage point difference between the highest area (where 58% of survivors in the Northeast of England could access it) and the lowest (37% in Wales).
  • Significant variations in accessing mental healthcare: 47 per cent able to access it in the Northeast of England compared to 31 per cent in the Southwest of England.
  • Survivors received support to change their perpetrator’s behaviour in only 7% of cases overall, with variations ranging from highs of 16% in one area to lows of 3% in another. This was despite over half of survivors wanting their perpetrator to access this kind of support.

Specialised provision for minoritised communities

Our research showed Black and minoritised victims and survivors found it particularly difficult to access the support they needed to feel safe and supported. Of Black and minoritised survivors, 78% felt safer when they had accessed a ‘by and for’ service compared with 48% who had received support from another kind of organisation, and just 30% said that they felt safer compared to when they first thought about accessing help if they had received no support at all.

Only 51% of Black and minoritised survivors were able to access specialist ‘by and for’ support when they wanted it. Often, it was only when they engaged with ‘by and for’ organisations that they were able to identify and get the support they needed.

Despite this, ‘by and for’ organisations are six times more likely to not receive any statutory funding than other types of specialist Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) or domestic abuse organisations. They were also far more likely to be delivering support without any dedicated funding or be forced to cease services due to lack of funds.

There were also gaps in the ability of services to provide support to migrant survivors with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

A majority of accommodation-based services did not accept referrals from migrant survivors with NRPF, as this severely limits the routes to safety. Nearly 15% of community-based services also said they would not be able to provide a full service to someone with NRPF, despite the fact that access to public funds should not feature as a consideration in the delivery of community-based services.

Others key findings from minoritised communities showed:

  • Only 19 percent of LGBT+ survivors who wanted specialist ‘by and for support’ received it
  • Just 14 of the 190 disabled survivors’ who wanted to access a specialist ‘by and for’ organisation were able to get it (in total 7%).
  • For Deaf survivors, only 2 of the 30 people who wanted to access specialist ‘by and for’ support were able to get it.
  • There was a particular emphasis on barriers to accessing support among survivors with learning disabilities, and a lack of understanding of the needs of survivors of abuse by service providers.

While a large proportion of the organisations we surveyed (75%) said that they offered some kind of service that was accessible to men, many male survivors told us that the services in their area appeared to only be for women.

Male survivors told us about their struggles to access help and support, with most of those who responded to our survey saying that accessing help was difficult or very difficult. We must be clearer at signposting which services provide specialist support for male victims.

Getting support for children was also extremely difficult, with capacity within organisations clearly unable to meet demand. Only 29% of victims and survivors told us they were able to get support for their children.

“This clearly is something that needs to be addressed urgently, especially as children are now recognised as victims of domestic abuse in their own right. Without support children will carry the impact of domestic abuse into their lives with devastating consequences,” Ms Jacobs said.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has challenged the government to deliver improvements for victims that would save lives as she sets out 26 recommendations for change. These recommendations include:

  • Funding: Long term sustainable funding is essential to save lives. The Government should introduce a new duty through the Victims Bill to provide and fund domestic abuse services, including for children. The Bill should be amended to place a duty on local commissioners to collaborate and conduct needs assessments, along with a new central government obligation to provide adequate funding to meet that need.
  • In particular, the Government must create a national funding pot of £263m for ‘by and for’ services over three years. More support must also be made available for children and migrant survivors. Many of these ‘by and for’ services require a regional or national approach to build towards adequate capacity.
  • The Government should carry out a full analysis of the cost to society of the consequences of domestic abuse, and the benefits of providing the support that victims and survivors need.


Notes to Editors:

  1. More than 4,000 victims and survivors completed the survey.

Number of respondents completing the survey in different ways set out below:

Method of respondingNo.%
BSL fully completed50.1%
BSL partially completed40.1%
Easy Read60.1%
Online survey fully completed261661%
Online survey partially completed164338%

Reported sex and gender of respondents is as follows:


Appendix Table II: Gender of respondents

  1. The service provider survey provided data on over 600 organisations across every Tier 1 local authority area in England and Wales. The initial survey held in Summer 2021 received responses from 477 organisations, representing 536 services8. A further 83 organisations responded to the second survey invitation distributed during Summer 2022, giving a total of 619 responses about services.
  2. ‘By and for’ – Our research defined ‘by and for’ organisations as organisations that are designed and delivered by and for people who are minoritised (including race, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity, religion or age). These services will be rooted in the communities they serve and may include wrap-around holistic recovery and support that address a victim or survivor’s full range of intersecting needs, beyond purely domestic abuse support. We considered separately services for women that are run by women Cost of living – link to our work
  3. Copies of the summary report can be found here; long policy report can be found here and the technical report will be added as soon as possible to our website mapping page.