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Press releases

Refuge responds to the Home Affairs Committee report on domestic abuse
Refuge responds to the Home Affairs Committee report on domestic abuse

The Home Affairs Select Committee has published a report on domestic abuse today (22 October 2018) ahead of the Government introducing a Domestic Abuse Bill. The Committee recommends national refuge funding, a new stalkers register, and an end to single Universal Credit Payments should be part of the new Government Bill on Domestic Abuse. The report also urges the Government to widen it to be a Violence against Women and Girls and Domestic Abuse Bill. In response, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: "The Domestic Abuse Bill is a huge opportunity to tackle domestic abuse and gender-based violence which must be seized. We endorse the Home Affairs Select Committee recommendation that the Government could and should go much further than its proposed bill in order to deliver meaningful change for women and children experiencing abuse. "Refuge wholeheartedly agrees with the Committee that the Bill should be expanded to cover all forms of violence against women and girls and be met with additional funding for specialist refuges so that no woman or child is turned away. "We are delighted to see the Committee support Refuge’s call for Universal Credit payments to be split for all couples. Refuge supports 6,500 survivors on any given day and can see that the current system makes it harder to flee abusers. "The Committee also recommends that the Bill explicitly recognises the gender inequality underlying domestic abuse. This is critical. Gender inequality is the cause of domestic violence. Women are abused in disproportionate numbers because they are women. Any measures to address domestic violence must name it as a gendered crime. Refuge urges the Government to act on the Committee’s recommendations, doing so would be a big step forward in both preventing gender-violence and increasing services for survivors." Read the Home Affairs Committee's report in full here  

The Co-operative Bank and Refuge welcome the launch of a new Financial Abuse Code of Practice for the UK financial services industry
The Co-operative Bank and Refuge welcome the launch of a new Financial Abuse Code of Practice for the UK financial services industry

The Co-operative Bank and Refuge campaign ‘My Money, My Life’ shone a spotlight on financial abuse and called for all banks to take action to better support victims The launch of the Code of Practice is a success of the ‘My Money, My Life’ campaign and will better help victims get the support they need from their financial service provider The Co-operative Bank and leading domestic violence charity Refuge welcome the Financial Abuse Code of Practice launched today (10 October 2018) by UK Finance and are proud that their joint campaign ‘My Money, My Life’ has highlighted the scale of the issue of economic abuse and that their call for action from the financial services sector has now resulted in the launch of this new initiative today. The My Money, My Life campaign launched in 2015 and for the first time shone a spotlight on the scale of the issue of economic abuse in the UK and the difficulties of victims who needed help and support from their bank or building society. The accompanying report ‘Money Matters’ remains one of the largest studies into the prevalence and impact of economic abuse in the UK. The report found that: 18% of all adults in the UK have been a victim of financial abuse in a current or past relationship 30% of those surveyed stated they knew somebody who has experienced financial abuse in a relationship Victims span gender, age and income groups; however, it is notable that 60 per cent of all cases are reported by women Financial abuse rarely occurs in isolation; 82 per cent have also been victim of other forms of abuse in their relationship 34% of all victims who have experienced financial abuse have kept silent and told no-one of their abuse Since the launch of the ‘My Money, My Life’ campaign, the Government has, for the first time, proposed to include economic abuse in the definition of domestic abuse in the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill. Recognising economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse in legislation will have a significant effect on raising awareness and understanding of this form of abuse. Refuge’s experience supporting more than 6,000 survivors a day has shown that economic abuse is almost always perpetrated alongside other forms of abuse as part of a pattern of coercive control and can have devastating consequences. Andrew Bester CEO of The Co-operative Bank said: "This is an issue that we and our customers care strongly about - our 'My Money, My Life' campaign in partnership with Refuge; which began in 2015, shone a light on the issue of financial abuse and what banks could do better to help and support those who were impacted by this form of coercive control. "This new Code of Practice represents an important step forward and is a result of the finance industry working together to do our best to support vulnerable customers who have been the victim of financial abuse. "We're proud to have spearheaded this collective action and will continue to work closely with UK Finance member companies, and other financial services providers, to ensure that financial abuse is quickly identified and that the right advice and support is then given to those who are often in very vulnerable situations." Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: “I am hugely proud that the original Refuge and Co-operative Bank research on economic abuse has provided the catalyst for this new Code of Practice. “Over the last 12 months alone, Refuge staff have worked with over 1,500 survivors of economic abuse.  Women we supported described how abusers had complete control over household finances, forcing them to take out overdrafts and loans in their names which they then spent, or preventing them from working and earning money. “The consequences of economic abuse are devastating. Over a fifth of Refuge service users said that as a result, they were unable to buy food for themselves and their children, and over a third were unable to buy non-food essentials, 27 per cent had problems with debt and over 10 per cent had been made homeless. “Whilst there is much more to be done to prevent economic abuse and support survivors, the UK Finance Code of Practice is a huge step forward in recognising both the immense scale of economic abuse in the UK and the vital role the banking sector can play in protecting victims.” Find out more about the 'My money, my life' campaign For further information and press queries to Refuge, please email press@refuge.org.uk or ring 0207 395 7731 (out of hours and weekend enquiries: 07970 894240)

Refuge responds to latest Crown Prosecution Service violence against women and girls statistics
Refuge responds to latest Crown Prosecution Service violence against women and girls statistics

Today’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ report reflects a mixed bag of results in terms of delivering justice for the victims of these devastating crimes. While the increase in police referrals and CPS prosecutions of coercive control, stalking and breaches of restraining orders is clearly welcome progress, the fall in the number of rape referrals and charges is especially alarming for Refuge. Chief Executive of Refuge, Sandra Horley CBE said: “A drop in rape charges of 23% in one year is of huge concern to Refuge at a time when reports to police are actually on the increase. We urge an immediate review of this shocking decline. “It takes a huge amount of courage for women to give evidence against their abuser. It is crucial that victims feel protected by having the full weight of the law behind them. The CPS needs to step up its work to prosecute more perpetrators of violence against women and girls offences.” Read the full report on the CPS website

Refuge responds to HM Inspectorate of Probation report
Refuge responds to HM Inspectorate of Probation report

A report by HM Inspectorate of Probation on the supervision of offenders convicted of domestic abuse offences by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) has found that CRCs are failing to sufficiently supervise domestic abuse perpetrators and are therefore putting women and children at risk. Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: “It is alarming that the outsourced supervision of low- and medium-risk offenders is failing to keep domestic abuse victims safe and prevent future incidents of violence. “Vulnerable women and children are being put at risk on a daily basis by probation staff, who lack understanding of domestic abuse and have insufficient skills and time to accurately assess the threat to victims. This is a shocking indictment, but all the worse in the context of it occurring in as many as seven out of ten cases, according to this report. “We congratulate the Inspectorate on such a rigorous review and for drawing much-needed attention to this vital issue. Domestic abuse is a devastating crime affecting one in four women in the UK at some point in their lifetime, meanwhile hundreds of thousands of children are growing up in homes where domestic violence is taking place. “The Ministry of Justice is responsible for ensuring the probation system delivers for the people of England and Wales. As it consults on reforms to these services, improving the protection of victims of domestic abuse should be its top priority, especially in the light of the picture painted by today’s report.” Read the full report, 'Domestic abuse: the work undertaken by Community Rehabilitation Companies', here.

Refuge welcomes MHCLG announcement on supported housing funding
Refuge welcomes MHCLG announcement on supported housing funding

Refuge is delighted that the Government has announced plans to keep housing benefit in place for all those living in supported housing - something that Refuge has long championed for. Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge says: “Today’s announcement follows much lobbying by Refuge to protect funding for women’s refuges; emergency accommodation which provides a lifeline to women escaping domestic violence, a crime which claims the lives of around two women every week in England and Wales alone. "Refuge has worked closely with MHCLG to ensure the survivors of domestic abuse are at the centre of decision-making. “Housing benefit is an essential source of income for women’s refuges – previous proposals would have devolved this critical funding to local authorities which have no obligation to fund refuges. This could have led to the collapse of refuge provision across the country; a national travesty. Thankfully this disaster has been averted. And yet the reality remains that there are still too few places of refuge accommodation to meet the ever growing demand. “Refuge urges the Government to ensure that its ‘once in a generation’ Domestic Abuse Bill commits sufficient, long-term, sustainable funding for specialist services, including providing enough refuge provision to meet the needs of survivors in the country today. “As ‘Sarah’ told me ‘after years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse from my partner, I finally escaped to a refuge with my two children. Without this safe haven to flee to, I would still be with him. Or worse, not be here’. We must ensure that all women, women like Sarah, have access to emergency safe accommodation; in so doing we can protect the lives of thousands of women and children who live in fear of violence across our country every day.” For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

Mariella Frostrup could have used her column to support victims of abuse, says Refuge
Mariella Frostrup could have used her column to support victims of abuse, says Refuge

It is disappointing that someone in the position of Mariella Frostrup would treat disclosure of abuse so flippantly, in this case belittling the concerns of a victim specifically seeking her advice and potentially discouraging other readers from getting help. Domestic abuse takes many devastating forms - physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, among others - it is often hidden, it should always be taken seriously. A pattern of behaviour designed to control and in many cases, as with this one, isolate victims, abuse often becomes more frequent and severe over time. It can begin at any stage of a relationship, but at Refuge, we see all too often the risk increase when a victim attempts to leave her abuser. Mariella could have better used her column to offer victims across the country essential information and support. ‘Simply stop allowing him to aggravate you’ encapsulates many of the obstacles and attitudes victims come up against time and again when talking about their experiences and navigating the criminal justice system. It is crucial that anyone who suspects a colleague, friend or relative is experiencing abuse knows how to approach and assist them. This includes first and foremost believing her, reassuring her that it is not her fault, not judging her, letting her know that you are there and that specialist support like that offered by Refuge is available too. Harrassment, control and isolation are not the hallmarks of just a ‘bad affair’. For more support and information visit our web page on helping someone you care about.

Report recognises risk Universal Credit single payments pose to victims of domestic abuse
Report recognises risk Universal Credit single payments pose to victims of domestic abuse

Refuge applauds the Work and Pensions Committee for its strong report and recommendations on Universal Credit and Domestic Abuse. “We are hugely encouraged that the Committee has recognised Refuge’s argument that single Universal Credit payments represent a real risk for survivors of abuse. We now urge the Government to follow through and make the necessary amendments to protect women and their children from economic abuse,” said Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge. “It is essential that the system does not roll back years of hard-won women’s equality, limiting their financial independence by handing the purse-strings to the ‘man of the house’ and putting women and children at risk.” Refuge has been campaigning for Universal Credit to be amended so that split payments are the default option for all households and will continue to do so. We welcome the Committee’s call for significant changes to the design and operation of Universal Credit and its recommendation that the Department of Work and Pensions work with the Scottish Government - which is introducing separate payments by default - to learn how these could be implemented across the whole of the UK. However, we urge Whitehall to then move swiftly to bring in such changes. In the short-term making the Universal Credit payment to the main carer, when there are dependent children, will help some survivors of abuse. Refuge frontline staff have encountered numerous cases in which a perpetrator of abuse has had Universal Credit paid into his bank account and then used this money as a tool of coercive control. Some women disclosed to staff that they have had to beg their partner for money to feed their children. One survivor reported that she had not been allowed to handle any money since her benefits had transitioned over to Universal Credit. Earlier this year, Refuge staff gave both oral and written evidence to the inquiry, highlighting the risk that single payments under Universal Credit represent to victims of abuse. In our experience, by potentially depriving them of finances, the single monthly payment model also increases barriers to women leaving their abusers. In 2015, in partnership with the Cooperative bank, Refuge published ‘Money Matters’, the largest study into economic abuse in the UK. The study found that one in five women and one in seven men have experienced financial abuse in either a current or past relationship. For more information, please contact press@refuge.org.uk

Launch of Refuge and University of Warwick study into suicidality and domestic violence
Launch of Refuge and University of Warwick study into suicidality and domestic violence

‘Suicide must not appear to be the only escape for some victims of abuse’ There must be greater recognition of the risk of suicide among victims of domestic abuse and increased provision of specialist services for survivors and their children, urges Refuge, the national domestic violence charity. In one of the largest studies of its kind, and the first in the UK, staff from Refuge and the University of Warwick looked at the experiences of more than 3,500 of Refuge’s clients with the aim of informing policy and practice in relation to victims of abuse who are at an increased risk of suicide. The findings show that: 83% of clients came to Refuge’s services feeling despairing or hopeless – a key determinant for suicidality At least 24% had felt suicidal at one time or another; 18% had made plans to end their life; 3% had made a suicide attempt 49% of the suicidal group scored within the ‘severe’ range on a measure of psychological distress The level of support for survivors from professionals and external agencies was seen as crucial; the research found that long delays in obtaining support had the potential to exacerbate difficulties, victims needed adequate time to disclose the full impact of their abuse and a suitable environment to ‘tell their story’ at their own pace. The report calls for a commitment to sufficient, specialist services, both outreach and refuge, for the survivors of abuse. While having children was found to be a protective factor for victims of abuse, being childless was a risk. Although the research does not explore the impact of having a suicidal parent, the authors recognise the harm that living with domestic abuse can have upon children, particularly when the abused parent is suicidal. The authors highlight the need for specialist services for children impacted by domestic violence, especially those bereaved in this context. Refuge offers specialist support services to men, women and children experiencing abuse and believes all are entitled to a compassionate and appropriate response, particularly those who are so distressed that they have considered suicide. However, the gender split in Refuge’s sample broadly reflected national and international trends in domestic abuse perpetration and victimisation - a phenomenon in which women are overwhelmingly the victims and males the perpetrators. As such, the researchers appeal to all agencies to recognise domestic abuse as a gendered issue and a gendered crime. As discussions take place around the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill, on which the current Government has staked its legacy, they highlight this opportunity – and the need - for wide-scale engagement and educational efforts to eradicate the gender inequality and sexism that underpin violence against women and girls. View the report here For more information and to arrange an interview, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

Refuge calls on the Government to put victims at the heart of its once-in-a-generation Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge calls on the Government to put victims at the heart of its once-in-a-generation Domestic Abuse Bill

With the Government's Domestic Abuse Bill consultation closing today (31.05.2018), Refuge believes that no one should be subjected to abuse or violence and appropriate support and protection should be available to all. We commend the Government’s efforts to introduce a Domestic Abuse Bill; we will continue to work closely with the Home Office and others to ensure the Bill reflects both the reality of the problem and adopts the best approaches to tackling the issue. “In order to make the greatest difference to the lives of survivors of domestic abuse and to stamp out the root causes of this widespread phenomenon, Refuge recommends that the Government considers extending the remit of the proposed Domestic Abuse Commissioner to cover all Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), broadening the scope of the new Bill or introducing future VAWG legislation,” urges Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge. “For far too many, inequality and violence against women are two sides of the same coin. One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Many more will suffer other violence simply because they are women. The Government should ensure all these victims are at the heart of the proposed Bill.” There is growing international consensus that domestic abuse needs to be considered within a broader context of VAWG, recognising the root causes as male power and control, gender inequality and discrimination against women. Spain is amongst the countries to have already introduced gendered domestic abuse legislation. These laws are now being extended to cover other forms of violence against women, after it became apparent that the original legislation was failing women and girls, who are abused in non-domestic contexts. Social demographics and trends have changed. Today Refuge finds itself responding to many forms of violence against women, which are often overlapping. “Through its frontline work, Refuge sees a clear link between domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG like modern slavery, human trafficking, forced marriage, sexual violence, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation. Gender-neutral legislation does not cover many of these victims and ignores the fundamental causes of VAWG, which are gender inequality and discrimination against women,” explains Ms. Horley. “At present, the proposed Bill does not recognise the highly gendered nature of domestic violence – statistics show that far more victims are women than men and abusers are overwhelmingly male.” Of the more than 6,000 survivors of abuse Refuge supports every day: around 3500 are children around 2500 are women and approximately 100 are men Home Office figures for the year ending March 2017 showed that: in 30% of male domestic homicides, the perpetrator was a female partner or ex-partner while 76% of female domestic homicides were carried out by a male partner or ex-partner Crown Prosecution Service data also shows that 93% of defendants in domestic abuse court cases are male and 84% of victims are female. Violence Against Women and Girls, including domestic abuse, is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women, because they are women. Ends Other recommendations from Refuge in relation to the proposed Domestic Abuse Bill and the non-legislative accompanying package Services and funding – Domestic violence services have been under threat for years – 80 per cent of Refuge’s services have seen funding cuts since 2011. It is crucial that the Government commits sufficient, long-term funding for specialist services – refuges and outreach. It is widely expected that more victims of abuse will come forward if the Bill is a success; these survivors will need access to more services. Such support is covered in the Spanish VAWG legislation. Domestic Abuse Commissioner - Refuge recommends that the Government has created the role of a Violence Against Women and Girls  (VAWG) Commissioner, recognising that many forms of violence against women are interlinked, as outlined above, and that services need to be coordinated. A VAWG Commissioner would play an important role in holding agencies to account and driving forward improvements in the prevention of and response to all forms of VAWG. The Commissioner must be fully independent, have sufficient power and resources to have real impact, and have a deep understanding of the causes of VAWG. Definition of Domestic Abuse - Beyond a gendered definition, the focus must not only centre on the action of the perpetrator, but the impact or psychological harm caused to the victim, especially in cases involving coercive control. Children - Hundreds of thousands of children are affected by domestic abuse. Statistics suggests 1 in 5 children have been exposed to the issue. (NSPCC - Radford, L. et al (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today.) Of the more than 6,000 survivors Refuge supports every day, around 3,500 are children and around 2,500 women. The lack of funding for specialist services for these children is shameful. Few commissioners fund services for children affected by domestic abuse. Refuge believes that these services – whilst potentially requiring the most highly-skilled support staff to help children overcome the trauma and rebuild their lives – need to cover psychological health, play, physical health, advocacy in schools and more. Resources for women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) - Refuge has consulted widely with its expert 300 strong frontline staff working in refuges, working as Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) and working as outreach workers in order to respond to the consultation. Refuge’s frontline staff highlighted the lack of provision for women with NRPF as one of the most difficult issues they face when trying to help women stay safe and rebuild their lives. For more information and to arrange an interview, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

Refuge responds to reports that victims of serious crime face arrest over immigration status
Refuge responds to reports that victims of serious crime face arrest over immigration status

An investigation by the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has found that more than half of UK police forces are handing over victims of crime to the Home Office for immigration enforcement. Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge has recognised a nexus between domestic violence and trafficking for many years. We know that victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are often hard to identify. We need the police to understand this nexus and investigate what lies behind the violence a victim suffers and refer them to organisations like Refuge. "Refuge works with victims of modern slavery and human trafficking every day so we are well aware of many policy difficulties on the ground that need to be ironed out by the Government and law enforcement.” Read more about the BBC investigation here