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Through our range of specialist services, we help more than 6,000 survivors of violence each day across England and Wales. Keep up-to-date with the latest Refuge news, blogs and stories from our communications team.

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Statement on Home Office decision to award National Domestic Violence Helpline grant to Refuge
Statement on Home Office decision to award National Domestic Violence Helpline grant to Refuge

Refuge is pleased to announce the Home Office has awarded Refuge a grant of £1.2 million to run the National Domestic Violence Helpline from November 2019 to March 2022. Refuge has run the National Domestic Violence Helpline since 2003, in partnership with Women’s Aid. Last year, the Home Office re-tendered the service and Women’s Aid decided to bid independently. Following a competitive process, Refuge was awarded the contract to continue running the helpline. Refuge will run the Helpline in partnership with Women’s Aid until 31 October 2019, from which point the service will be run by Refuge only. Callers will receive specialist support from the same dedicated, highly-trained team of Helpline staff and volunteers and the Freephone number will remain the same. Refuge has also secured additional support to develop new digital and mobile resources to empower even more victims. This includes increasing capacity to answer more live calls, developing web-chat services and publishing information on social media channels to widen the availability of the helpline service. For more information, please read the Home Office’s press statement. Refuge looks forward to continuing and expanding this life-saving service for women. If you or anybody you know thinks they may be experiencing domestic violence, please call the Freephone 24/7 National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.   About Refuge: Refuge is a frontline service provider. It runs specialist domestic violence services across the country and opened the world’s first refuge in 1971. On any given day, it supports more than 6,500 women and children escaping all forms of violence against women and girls.              

Refuge's Top 5 Asks for the Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge's Top 5 Asks for the Domestic Abuse Bill

Refuge has played an essential role in influencing the content of the Domestic Abuse Bill and continues to campaign for the changes our front line staff and the survivors we support tell us they need. The Government’s stated objective for the Bill is to transform the response to domestic abuse – which Refuge is fully behind. However, we are concerned that the Bill in its current form focuses too much on the justice system and policing, leaving out swathes of policy areas that need reform in order to better protect, and meet the needs of, survivors. Listening to the survivors we support and our front line staff, we identified five priority areas for change:   Universal Credit – the single payment structure of Universal Credit facilitates and exacerbates economic abuse by potentially handing over control of the household’s entire income overnight. Additionally, the automatic five-week delay in receiving the first Universal Credit impoverishes women and their children at the point of fleeing, making women dependent on food banks and other charitable resources. As such, Refuge is calling for separate Universal Credit payments by default and for survivors to be exempt from paying back any advanced Universal Credit payments they access while waiting for the first payment. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Access to Housing – survivors who have fled their home in order to escape abuse are not automatically entitled to priority need for settled housing. This makes it incredibly difficult for survivors without dependent children to rebuild their lives in a new home, and can serve to trap them with their abuser. We are calling for extending priority need for housing to all survivors fleeing abuse. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Gendered definition of domestic abuse – the Domestic Abuse Bill will define domestic abuse in law for the first time ever, including economic abuse. This definition will be instrumental in informing the public, and professionals tasked with responding to domestic abuse. Refuge therefore thinks it is essential that the definition reflects the reality of this crime, i.e. that it disproportionately impacts women. Refuge is therefore calling for the definition of domestic abuse to be gendered. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Migrant women – a huge number of migrant women have ‘no recourse to public funds’, barring them from accessing benefits, including housing support, which is essential when fleeing abuse. Some women, i.e. those on spousal visas, can apply for the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC), an exemption from the no recourse to public funds category for three months, while they apply for indefinite leave to remain. Refuge is calling for protection from VAWG to be accessible to all women, regardless of immigration status, by extending the DDVC to apply to all women. Read our briefing on this issue here.   Funding for specialist services – specialist domestic abuse service provision does not meet demand, with women and children turned away from refuges due to lack of space every day. Refuge is calling for a long-term, comprehensive, sustainable funding system, so that all survivors and their children can access the support they need. Read our briefing one this issue here. Read more on what happens next if the bill is passed and when can we realistically hope to see the eventual Bill enacted. Read more on the The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee report. Having listened to Refuge they have made some strong recommendations to the Government on the Bill.

Violence Against Women and Girls Organisations ask Prime Minister Contenders to pledge on policies to end abuse
Violence Against Women and Girls Organisations ask Prime Minister Contenders to pledge on policies to end abuse

Refuge, one of 30 women’s groups today wrote to Conservative Party leader candidates Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson asking them to make specific pledges to tackle domestic and sexual violence if they become the next Prime Minister. The organisations, who work supporting survivors of all forms of violence against women and girls across the UK, are asking Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson to: Ensure the draft Domestic Violence Bill becomes law and is delivered; Renew the cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy from 2020 onwards – this includes life-saving work from ensuring hospital there are domestic violence workers in A&E departments, to advising on the framework for the way schools teach Relationships & Sex Education, and critical work to end forced marriage and FGM; Give Prime Ministerial support to the Home Office and Ministry of Justice ‘Rape Review’ of falling prosecution rates as it publishes its recommendations this year, and ensure its recommendations are carried out; Assemble a cross-departmental team to look at how national government can recognise the critical value of local women’s support services and support work to ensure they are sustainable before any more are lost. The letter says: “We are living in an era of enormous changes in public recognition of and attitudes towards gender based violence. Reporting to the police, and help-seeking from local support services, are at their highest ever levels and the #MeToo movement has exposed the huge scale of sexual harassment and violence. We hope you share with us a real desire to drive these social changes further, so that a real end to violence against women and girls might be in sight. “There is already a significant legislative and policy agenda under way to prevent and tackle gender-based violence, and we want to ask you as a candidate for Prime Minister to commit to maintaining and building on this work. The Home Office-led Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy is a critical framework, encouraging all government departments to play their part in ending abuse so that it is never again seen as purely a policing matter. It extends to the introduction of compulsory Relationships and Sex Education in 2020, the new White Paper on online harms, and much of the proposed content of the Domestic Abuse Bill, including the setting up of a critical new Commissioner in this area. “At a time of enormous political change in the UK, we believe that violence against women and girls deserves political attention and leadership because of the damage it does to thousands of women’s and girls’ lives and all those who love them, which is why we have taken the time to write. We hope to hear from you soon.” We hope to receive replies soon to their letters, and will publish any replies here and on our social media channels.   Womens-Groups-Letter-to-Jeremy-Hunt-MP Womens-Groups-Letter-to-Boris-Johnson-MP-   Response from Jeremy Hunt: 6th July 2019 "Thank you for contacting me on behalf of 30 women’s organisations and campaigners. The UK is a world leader in efforts to prevent violence against women and girls and as Prime Minister I would seek to continue the good progress that we have made. Although the UK’s exit from the EU may dominate the headlines, efforts to end sexual and gender‑based violence continue with the remarkable work that your organisations do. As you will be aware, the UK’s £25 million programme What Works to Prevent Violence programme is the world’s largest investment in research focused on preventing violence against women and girls. I am proud of this but I also want to ensure that services in this country are properly funded. That is why I want a strong economy and growing businesses to support the services that the most vulnerable women in our society rely on. The Domestic Abuse Bill is an historic piece of legislation which I fully support. I am aware, however, that conviction rates and prosecution for sexual offences have fallen. The Government has been collecting evidence as part of the violence against women and girls strategy refresh to inform future policy making and my ministerial colleagues are currently looking at the evidence. I look forward to the conclusions that will be published in due course. There is always more that can be done and you can rest assured that you have my full commitment to work to end violence against women and girls should I become Prime Minister. Wherever you live in the country and whatever the abuse you face, everyone should have access to the services that they need. Yours sincerely Jeremy Hunt"  

The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Report Overview
The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Report Overview

The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee, a group of MPs and peers who are responsible for scrutinising the draft Domestic Abuse Bill published by the Government earlier this year, today published its report and recommendations to the Government. We are delighted that the Committee has listened to Refuge, and has made some strong recommendations to the Government. Gendered definition of domestic abuse The draft domestic abuse Bill will define domestic abuse in law for the first time. As this will be an important awareness and understanding raising tool, the Committee took lots of evidence on this issue and debated it extensively, Refuge is firmly of the view that unless the definition of domestic abuse reflects the reality of this crime – that violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of gender inequality – society cannot hope to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse. Ultimately, the Committee agreed with Refuge that failing to account for the gendered nature of domestic abuse assumes a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach which fails to meet the needs of survivors. The Committee therefore recommended: The Government introduce a new clause into the draft Domestic Abuse Bill: when applying the definition of domestic abuse public authorities providing services must have regard for the gendered nature of abuse and how gender intersects with race, age, disability, and other protected characteristics of service users in the provision of services. Public authorities must be required to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of domestic abuse on women and girls when developing strategies and policies in this area. Economic abuse Refuge welcomes that the draft domestic abuse Bill defines economic abuse as domestic abuse for the first time. However, Refuge and other organisations were concerned that the draft Bill did not go further and by seeking to reform aspects of the social security system, which can facilitate economic abuse. Refuge has consistently argued for the  issues around single Universal Credit payments and advance payments to be addressed so the Bill can help reduce economic abuse and dependence on perpetrators. Fortunately, the Committee picked out Universal Credit as a particular issue addressing it right at the beginning of the report. The Committee made the following recommendations which Refuge urges the Government to adopt: Ministers should consider whether advance payments should be converted into grants that are not repayable, so as not to impoverish women and children who flee abuse. The Government reviews the impact of its welfare reform programme on victims of domestic abuse. Specifically, this review should examine how different approaches to splitting the Universal Credit single household payment might mitigate against the effects of domestic abuse, given that single payments facilitate and exacerbate economic abuse. Funding The MHCLG announcement on their refuge funding proposals and consultation came out as the Committee was taking evidence. The Committee welcomed the new proposed legal duty and additional funding, but said they shared the concerns of Refuge and others that the duty needed to make sure specialist refuges and not generic accommodation-based provision are provided, that refuges need to be able to operate as a national network without imposing local connection restrictions, and that specific services, including by-and-for services are funded. They also noted the concern Refuge raised on the statutory duty possibly leading to a rationing of services depending on whether women are assessed as ‘high risk’. The Committee made the following recommendations: The Government to work closely with refuge providers, local authorities, and other stakeholders to ensure that refuges can operate as a national network. The Government needs to provide clarity on how non-accommodation based support services such as community-based advocacy, IDVA services helpline and counselling support services will be provided and funded under the new statutory duty proposed by MHCLG. Also recommended that the Government works closely with refuge providers, local authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that these essential services are included in future service commissioning plans in order to ensure full compliance with the Istanbul Convention. Migrant women/NRPF In Refuge’s written evidence, along with many other women’s organisations and campaigns such as Southall Black Sisters and Step Up Migrant Women, we highlighted the particular vulnerability of migrant women, including how fear of deportation can make women reluctant to seek support, and perpetrators’ weaponisation of their partners’ insecure immigration status. The Committee recommended: Establish a firewall at the levels of policy and practice to separate reporting of crime and access to support services from immigration control. The Government explores ways to support migrant survivors of abuse, to ensure all these vulnerable victims of crime can access protection and support whilst their application for indefinite leave to remain is considered by the Government. The Government should extend the three-month time limit for support for migrant women with no recourse to public funds to six months in light of the specific difficulties for victims highlighted by specialist services. To include a non-discrimination clause in the Bill, to reflect Article 4, paragraph 3 of the Istanbul Convention. Other key recommendations Children: the Bill to be amended so that the status of children as victims of domestic abuse that occurs in their household is recognised; the Government consider amending the Children Act definition of harm to include the trauma caused to children by witnessing coercive control between adults in the household Police bail: the Government to bring forward legislation to increase the length of time suspects can be released on pre-charge bail in domestic abuse cases; re-balance the test for allowing extensions to pre-charge bail to give full weight to the protection of the victim from the risk of adverse behaviour by the suspect; amend the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to create a presumption that  suspects under investigation for domestic abuse, sexual assault, or other significant safeguarding issues only be released from police custody on bail, unless it is clearly not necessary for the protection of the victim Special measures: victims of domestic abuse appearing in the family courts should have automatic eligibility for special measures Cross-examination: the ban is extended so that it applies wherever there are other forms of evidence of domestic abuse, as in the legal aid regime threshold What happens next? The report is submitted to the Government. Ministers and civil servants will consider the recommendations in the report and determine what changes they will make to the draft domestic abuse Bill. When this process concludes, the Government will introduce a domestic abuse Bill into either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, where it will be debated by both MPs and Peers, who will be able to argue for amendments to the Bill. Refuge will continue to work closely with all politicians and officials involved in the progress of the Bill, so that we can achieve a piece of legislation which protects survivors. ________________________________________

Refuge and the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency work together to protect survivors of domestic violence
Refuge and the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency work together to protect survivors of domestic violence

The national domestic violence charity Refuge and the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) have been working closely together to protect survivors of domestic violence. Tech abuse through vehicle tracking Cathy* had relocated to a new property in an area away from her abusive ex-partner, when a friend alerted her to an update on social media indicating he knew where she was. Being tracked down is a terrifying prospect for women who have experienced domestic abuse and uprooted their lives in the pursuit of safety. After discussion with professionals at a meeting for high-risk domestic abuse cases, Cathy’s Refuge caseworker realised that he may have found her by checking where she had taken her car for a MOT. At that time, when a number plate was entered on the DVSA website the MOT history, including the name and the address of the garage which carried out the test, was listed. Collaborating to protect survivors Refuge staff contacted the DVSA to flag up this potential risk for survivors of abuse, who in many cases need to move far from their home to ensure their safety when they leave their abusive partner. With two women a week killed at the hands of their current or former partners, often shortly after leaving them, the risk is high. The DVSA were extremely responsive, removing the information within 24 hours. They then went on to work with the Refuge policy team to find a new solution that provides better protection for survivors. Individuals can now only access MOT location information if they have the vehicle’s V5C number (which the survivor can change as soon as they move to a new address). Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: “We’re delighted to have worked with the DVSA to reduce the ways in which perpetrators of abuse can track down survivors. Refuge’s frontline staff will stop at nothing to keep survivors safe, forging new partnerships like this one and challenging systems, which can put survivors at risk.” Neil Barlow, Head of MOT at DVSA said: “DVSA is really pleased to recently have worked with Refuge.  We’ve achieved a positive outcome for their vulnerable users while maintaining our road safety aims through open access to data. “This provides a great example of the public and voluntary sectors working together. “We’d encourage any charity which sees an opportunity to help make positive changes to our services to contact us directly – just as Refuge did.” Find out more about tech abuse and available resources.

The five steps to a Domestic Abuse Bill
The five steps to a Domestic Abuse Bill

Two years after the Government announced its commitment to a future Domestic Abuse Bill, are we any closer to seeing new legislation passed? With the Domestic Abuse Bill the only legislation on the Government's agenda aside from Brexit and the attention the latter is requiring of MPs, you might be forgiven for wondering whether a Bill might ever see the light of day. But progress has been made in the wings – the consultation process ran last spring, following which the Government published its draft Bill at the start of this year. So what happens next and when can we realistically hope to see an eventual Bill enacted? MPs and peers from all the major parties will come together in the recently-announced pre-legislative committee to scrutinise the draft Bill, take evidence from experts and publish a report with their recommendations before summer. Their role is to ensure the Bill is as effective as possible and meets the Government’s objectives of ‘transforming the response to domestic abuse’. After this, the Government will consider which recommendations to include in the Bill when it is ‘formally laid’ - put before Parliament - likely starting in the House of Commons. This is expected in the autumn. MPs will begin debating the principles of the Bill (e.g. whether it should be expanded beyond the justice system to include issues around housing, social security, immigration, and funding, etc.) MPs will then table and debate amendments. In this case, the Government typically either makes a concession which meets MPs halfway or gives them some sort of reassurance, leading to the withdrawal of the amendment. Alternatively, the amendment is voted on against the Government’s wishes and it either succeeds or fails. Once MPs have passed the Bill through the House of Commons, it moves to the House of Lords. A similar process is followed with the typically forensic lens of peers. Ping Pong: if peers make any amendments to the Bill, it returns to the House of Commons who consider the amendments and send it back to the Lords if they reject some amendments (which typically happens). This process continues until both houses agree on the final text of the Bill. Royal Assent – the Bill is now law ! Hopefully by the summer of 2020…

Reaching new heights: how a team from HMP East Sutton Park took on Three Peaks and raised £3,000!
Reaching new heights: how a team from HMP East Sutton Park took on Three Peaks and raised £3,000!

Earlier this year, a team from HMP East Sutton Park in Kent took on the Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for Refuge. In just three days, Stacey, John, Jo and Matt beat Great Britain’s three highest peaks and raised £3,000 - as if that were not enough, they even found time to write a blog about their adventure. Ben Nevis We began our ascent at 7am after an overnight stop in Carlisle. The track up Ben Nevis mainly consists of rocky steps made for people with exceptionally long legs, which none of us have! Despite our early battles with uneven surfaces and midge bites, we made good progress and soon reached the waterfall, marking the half-way point. Being late June, the weather had been pleasant, yet ascending the zig-zag path to the summit, we were soon enveloped in mist. As we neared the summit, we crossed the snow line – and after a quick snowball fight – we made our way to the top of Britain’s highest mountain. Scafell Pike After a six-hour drive to Scafell Pike and a good night’s rest, we began to climb the trail to our next summit without incident. On nearing it, three of us decided to scramble up ‘Mickledore’ gully, but John took the better-trodden route to the top! We all met at the top, and having each eaten a peanut butter and jam bagel (recommended for all mountaineers!), we quickly descended. Next stop: Wales. Snowden It was a mixture of emotions when we found ourselves standing at the beginning of the miners’ track at the foot of Snowden. We were looking forward to resting our legs – but we also didn’t want the experience to end! As we travelled along the miners’ track, we stopped a few times to take in the magnificent views, and cool down in the lakes. After lunch at the summit, surrounded by spectacular views, we climbed over Crib y Ddysgal, and continued towards Bwlch Coch. Here, we decided to each attempt a different descent before meeting back in the car park for well-earned drinks. We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will, no doubt, return to the mountains again. The best news was that we raised £3,000 for Refuge, and knowing that we have contributed towards helping women and children experiencing domestic abuse is the greatest achievement. Everyone at Refuge would like to thank Jo, Stacey, Matt and John – and all our amazing fundraisers - for their incredible hard work and commitment! Feeling inspired? Perhaps a little more sedentary, it was nevertheless a busy summer for the Refuge community and events fundraising team, who were working away in London on a new exciting suite of fundraising activities, from skydives to trekking and overseas events, like The Great Wall of China. They hope there will be something to inspire everyone. The team also attended the annual National Student Fundraising Conference in Bristol in August where they met experienced and passionate student Raising and Giving (RAG) officers and spoke to them all about Refuge’s work. Autumn is set to be another exciting time at Refuge. Our dedicated runners recently tackled the Royal Parks Half Marathon and at the end of the month is #TeamRefuge’s first-ever spooktacular London Halloween Walk on 27 October. For more information on how you can get involved, visit our events webpages. With thanks to Stacey, John, Jo and Matt for providing the photos for this blog.

A summer of successes with our corporate partners
A summer of successes with our corporate partners

The Corporate Fundraising team has been celebrating a summer of successes led by our fabulous corporate partners - Avon, Benefit, The White Company and Scamp and Dude. Benefit’s Bold is Beautiful Benefit Cosmetics’ Bold is Beautiful campaign raised a staggering £297,603 this year for its two charities Refuge and Look Good Feel Better. This could pay for more than 2,800 nights in a refuge for a woman and her children experiencing domestic violence. Throughout May, Benefit waxed 44,545 eyebrows, raised almost £26,000 across three pink pop-up shops (which saw over 10,000 customers walk through their doors), and head office staff raised just under £20,000 thanks to individual fundraising efforts. This astounding campaign was duly recognised as a finalist in the ‘Corporate Partnership of the Year’ category at the 2018 Third Sector Awards. A huge thank you to all at Benefit for their ongoing passion and dedication in supporting our cause. Here’s to another wonderful year working towards Bold is Beautiful 2019! Avon Long-standing corporate partner Avon continued to honour its pledge to end violence against women and girls by launching two new products over the summer. At least £1 from the Infinity Loop Bracelet will be donated to Refuge and Women’s Aid, with our contribution going to support our live-saving and life-changing services. The bracelet will go back on sale in November so don’t miss it! We were also thrilled to attend the launch of Avon’s brand new Arctic Steel nail varnish at WAH Nails in August. The aim of the nail varnish launch was to open up conversations around domestic abuse, attracting the attention of beauty bloggers and journalists, including Vogue’s Lauren Murdoch-Smith, to a ‘let’s get talking’ event. For every nail varnish purchase, the profits will be donated to Refuge and Women’s Aid. The White Company Refuge champion, Luke Hart, joined us to speak at The White Company’s head office in August about domestic abuse and our crucial work supporting survivors. Luke, along with his brother Ryan, recently released a book detailing the abuse their mother and sister suffered before they were tragically killed by their father two years ago. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of domestic abuse and coercive control. The White Company employees across the country will now take part in a competitive challenge to raise money for Refuge and their two other charities, Princes Trust and Place to Be. Good luck with the challenge! Scamp and Dude We would also like to thank Sam Chapman from Pixiwoo and Scamp and Dude for the launch of the ‘Swag Bag with Purpose’. Created in collaboration with five top beauty bloggers, each of the ‘Swag Bags’ were designed to raise money for five respective charities. Sam Chapman from Pixiwoo chose Refuge as her charity of choice and we will receive all the profits from her eye-catching electric blue leopard print/lightning bolt zip bag.

Outstanding fundraising support from London mayors, past and present
Outstanding fundraising support from London mayors, past and present

From jumping 10,000ft in a tandem skydive to dusting off her walking boots for Walk4, former Hounslow Mayor Sue Sampson surpassed her year-long fundraising target in aid of Refuge, beyond all expectations. Cllr. Sampson, who was Mayor of Hounslow between 2017 and 2018, has long been an active supporter of Refuge; her sister Maureen was fatally shot at her place of work by her estranged husband in 1976, aged just 23 years old. The tragedy happened when Cllr. Sampson was only eight years old and inspired her to later campaign against domestic violence. With Refuge’s 47-year history rooted in Hounslow, Cllr Sampson pledged to use her tenure as the local mayor to fundraise for us and she managed to raise almost £74,000 – which will be split between Refuge and The Pink Ribbon Foundation. We cannot thank her enough for her fabulous efforts. “My choice of charities, Refuge and The Pink Ribbon Foundation, were chosen as both causes have had a major impact on my life,” Cllr. Sampson said. “The work I have done over the years and will continue to do, along with the money I raised as Mayor over this last year, goes towards ensuring the doors to Hounslow refuge never close, and that it will continue to provide emergency accommodation as and when needed to women and children.” Carrying on the torch of mayoral fundraising for Refuge for the next 12 months is Cllr. Ben Khosa, Mayor of Richmond. With the trusty help of Deputy Mayor Cllr. Mona Adams, and their team, Cllr. Khosa has designed a busy calendar of events, including quiz nights, themed evenings, collections, festive film screenings and talent shows, all to raise vital funds and awareness to support our life-saving community outreach work in the borough. In early July, we joined the Mayor for his Service of Thanksgiving to mark the start of his mayoral year. In his speech, Cllr. Khosa said: “A major part of the Mayor’s role is to raise funds for a cause in our borough and show goodwill to those in our community who are less fortunate than ourselves. This is a role I am honoured to take and I look forward to working hard this year to make a real difference through my chosen charity, Refuge.” The Mayor and Mayoress braved the elements at the Prudential Ride London race to cheer on our dedicated #TeamRefuge cyclists, including Richmond Council employee, Joe Fisher. Joe raised an incredible £581 for Refuge and managed to complete the 100-mile cycle in just over four hours! Follow us on Twitter @RefugeCharity for more on the Mayor’s upcoming activities.

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

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. 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. 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. 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”.