Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government funded projects praised for creative and proactive approach

  Refuge’s flexible, creative and proactive specialist support is life-saving for these women.  
Dr Ravi K.Thiara

Refuge is pleased to receive positive feedback from Dr Ravi K.Thiara in her independent evaluation of our services which received funding between 2016-18 under the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Domestic Abuse Fund.

The report concluded that the funding – applied for in conjunction with partner local authorities – enabled Refuge to add additional capacity to six of its services and in some cases saved them from closure. Increased staffing capacity led to more support being given to women with a wide range of complex needs, whilst also reducing caseloads of already established teams.

All of the six services which received this funding supported women who had experienced domestic abuse, often alongside other kinds of gender-based violence, including so-called honour based violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, prostitution, rape and sexual violence, trafficking and modern slavery.

Their needs were multiple and often complex in relation to issues such as alcohol and drug addiction, mental health issues, physical and mental disabilities and having insecure immigration status and no recourse to public funds.

Two women sitting at a table in a library having a conversation.

The women supported had often lived with abuse for numerous years and many of their children had also been directly abused. At the point of entry into a refuge, the women were often extremely frightened for their safety, traumatised and needed immediate, intensive emotional and practical support and specialised safety planning. They also frequently required multiple and flexible interventions and a broad range of services beyond this initial crisis period.

Feedback from the women indicated that they valued greatly the support of specialist women’s services. They repeatedly mentioned being better understood, listened to, having trust, and being helped in their journey through other services, especially the criminal justice system.

A woman greets another woman at the door of Refuge's Gaia centre

Given the complexity of the issues that the women and children coming into refuges had and their need for safety, practical and emotional support, the study also noted that staff had to be highly trained in order to respond to this range of needs.

Dr. Thiara observed that those who have no or limited access to traditional accommodation support services and have multiple support needs – mental health, substance misuse, homelessness and immigration – required more focused support from highly trained and experienced staff.

She also noted that the complex and multiple needs of survivors were frequently only identified after the initial risk assessment, also reinforcing the importance of staff with specialist violence against women and girls (VAWG) experience and knowledge being available to provide ongoing support.

Educational work with women about power and control, safety strategies and healthy relationships was highlighted as an important dimension of the support work carried out and was highly valued by the women.

Two children and a woman sitting together doing arts and crafts.

Flexible outreach support was identified as both life-saving and cost-effective for those who were isolated or marginalised; outreach support being particularly successful in engaging with older women, those from a range of BME backgrounds, women in rural communities and disabled survivors.

The evaluation indicated that women across all the services reported a significant reduction in all forms of abuse or a complete cessation of abuse.

In her conclusion, Dr. Thiara said that “this funding has enabled Refuge to add additional capacity to services and in some cases save services. The report shows that Refuge’s services routinely support women with complex needs who require intensive specialised violence against women and girls intervention.

“Refuge’s flexible, creative and proactive specialist support is life-saving for these women. Adequate levels of staffing along with a comprehensive programme of specialist training are essential to ensure women and children receive the specialised support they require with the range of complex needs”.