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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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The Domestic Abuse Bill returning to Parliament - what you need to know
The Domestic Abuse Bill returning to Parliament - what you need to know

On the 5th January, the Domestic Abuse Bill will return to the House of Lords for its Second Reading. This is a hugely important time. This Bill has the potential to be truly transformational, but there is still work to do before that is a reality. Refuge believes that for the Bill to be as bold and effective as it needs to be, in order to better support women and girls, that there are some significant changes that still need to be made. Covid-19 really has pulled into sharp focus the level of domestic abuse across the country and the sheer numbers of women who need the specialist, confidential support that Refuge provides. We hope that this wakeup call will push the government to do everything it can to ensure the Bill is as strong as it can be. On average, two women a week are killed at the hands of their current or ex-partners in England and Wales and one in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their life. Women and children’s lives depend on the Government seizing this opportunity and making the Bill the best it can be. What’s in the Bill?  A statutory definition of domestic abuse:  For the first time, there will be a statutory definition of domestic abuse, which also includes economic abuse. Recent research by Refuge and the Co-operative Bank showed that around 16% of all UK adults have identified as having experienced this form of abuse in a current of former relationship - but this same research showed that the numbers may in fact be higher as more than twice this number describe experiences which are economically abusive. Changes to the experiences of survivors in court: The Bill will also prohibit abusers cross-examining survivors in the family courts – something that Refuge, along with our colleagues in the VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) sector, has been campaigning for for many years. A legal duty to support survivors:  Most significantly, the Bill will include a legal duty on local authorities to assess need for and commission refuge services. This legal duty could safeguard the existence of refuges, but without sustainable and ring-fenced funding, which ensures there are enough refuge spaces to meet demand, the future of refuges is insecure and unsustainable. While the Government itself estimates domestic abuse to cost society £66 billion a year, and despite the fact that investing in specialist domestic abuse services has been shown to lead to long-term savings, over recent years Refuge has seen funding cuts to 80% of our services, with our refuge services cut by an average of 50%. Research suggests that around £173 million per year is needed to increase the number of refuge spaces available so that no woman or child is turned away. However, the Government disappointingly only committed to £125 million – falling far short of what is needed. Refuge hopes the government will reflect on this need and increase the amount of funding it has committed to, and ensure refuges are able to move away from the funding cliff-edge many find themselves on year after year. Only by securing this long term, sustainable funding, can refuges hire staff and plan for the longer term. What’s missing? There are still many essential measures missing from the Bill, and Refuge believes that in its current form, the Domestic Abuse Bill does not do enough to allow survivors to access the safety and support they need. Protection for image-based abuse:  Our key campaign ask for the next stage of the Bill is for the government to make a very small and swift legal change which will better protect the many thousands of women and girls that Refuge supports every day. Currently, while the sharing of intimate images or films without consent (also known as ‘revenge porn’’) is illegal, threatening to share them is not. Refuge’s specialist tech team identified these threats to share as being an issue faced by many survivors of domestic abuse. Refuge research found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos - equivalent to 4.4 million. These threats are most prevalent amongst young people (aged 18-34), with 1 in 7 young women experiencing such threats. 72% of women who received these threats experienced the threat from a current of former partner - with 83% of this group also experiencing other forms of abuse, making this clearly a domestic abuse issue. The Bill gives the government a legislative vehicle by which to swiftly enact the change to the law that survivors need and Refuge is calling on the Government to do just that. Join our campaign and email the government about ending the naked threat here - it takes less than a minute. Changes to Universal Credit (UC):  Women are also at increased risk of economic abuse due to aspects of Universal Credit (UC). UC is paid as one monthly payment, into a single bank account – even if the payment is for a joint UC claim made by two individuals together. For survivors claiming Universal Credit with their abuser, this means that their perpetrator can gain complete control over the entire household income overnight. Survivors can request to split payments between themselves and the perpetrator, but this puts them at serious risk of further abuse, as perpetrators will always know the request has been made via their online account, or when the payment goes down. When making a new claim for UC, there is a minimum five-week delay between applying for and receiving payment. This leaves survivors who have fled abuse in extreme poverty while they await their first UC payment, having already left their homes with little money and few possessions. Refuge wants the Bill to include provision for making separate payments of Universal Credit by default, rather than women having to make a specific application and also for any advance payments (ordinarily given as loans) to women fleeing abusive partners to be given as grants, which do not need to be repaid. We need to ensure that women are able to safely flee abusive partners without added concerns about economic stability. A gendered definition:  Refuge also hopes that the government will ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill carries a true ‘gendered definition’ of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is, at its core, a gendered crime which stems from patriarchy, gender inequality and power and control over women. The overwhelming majority of victims of domestic abuse are women, while the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men. The definition of domestic abuse must be grounded in this reality so we are calling for the Government to amend the definition of domestic abuse in the Bill to do this. Protection for migrant survivors: The Bill also fails to protect migrant survivors. Large numbers of migrant women are not entitled to housing benefit because of their immigration status, and therefore unable to use this entitlement to financially support a stay in refuge. Many charities, including Refuge, do all they can to support migrant survivors, but a lack of funding sadly means too many women are left without support. We are calling for strengthened legislation which supports all women and children affected by domestic abuse – regardless of their immigration status. Women who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ must not be prevented from accessing the support that they need. It is vital that this is addressed via the Domestic Abuse Bill. Refuge wants the Domestic Abuse Bill to be truly transformative and ultimately to save women’s lives. In order to do this, we are calling for Threats to share intimate images being made a criminal offence Recognition of the reality of domestic abuse through a gendered definition of domestic abuse Women to be able to access the money they need to be as safe as possible in relationships and when they are ready to leave perpetrators by implementing separate Universal Credit payments by default and to exempt survivors of domestic abuse from repaying Universal Credit advances. These advances must be given as grants and not loans. Make this a Bill for all survivors, regardless of their immigration status by amending immigration law so that all migrant survivors can access financial support and other benefits, regardless of immigration status or visa type. Women with ‘no recourse to public funds’ must be able to access the specialist support they need. A commitment to ensure the legal duty to fund refuges provides adequate ring fenced and sustainable funding, to ensure that refuges can be placed on a secure financial footing, able to make longer term plans and ultimately increase the number of bed space available so that all women seeking safety and support can access it. This is crucial to ensure that refuges are able to move away from the funding cliff edge that many of them find themselves each financial year. Austerity cuts have decimated specialist services and this must be addressed via the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Refuge reassures survivors that they are not alone over the Christmas period
Refuge reassures survivors that they are not alone over the Christmas period

Ahead of the holiday period, Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge said: "Domestic abuse is the biggest social issue affecting women and children and has never been more of an issue than it is now, as COVID-19 restrictions have forced women and children to stay at home with their abusers. With a locked-down Christmas fast approaching, the end of 2020 will be a very challenging time for women and children experiencing domestic abuse across the country. Refuge wants every woman experiencing abuse this Christmas to know – if you need help, you are not alone. Call our Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, any time of day or night, to speak to one of our highly trained female Helpline advisors who can provide you with emotional support and information on your rights and options. Alternatively, visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to use our webform to request a safe time to be called back or access our live chat service, Mon-Fri, 3pm-10pm. Our message is clear, Refuge is here twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You are not alone."

Year End Statement from Hetti Barkworth-Nanton
Year End Statement from Hetti Barkworth-Nanton

This year has been my first as Chair of Refuge and what a profound year it has been! We know that lockdown has significantly increased the instances of domestic abuse and it has been even more important that women and children have confidence that help is available when they need it. Our work is not possible without the continued efforts of our partner organisations – all other domestic abuse specialist services, the police, social services, GPs, hospitals, the Home Office and local government, and the general public. Without teamwork we could not identify, protect and support those suffering abuse, and for that reason I would like to express thanks to you all. It’s been a year where we’ve also seen the progress of important national legislation on domestic abuse and I am proud Refuge’s voice has been heard alongside many others, with survivor lead experiences guiding our law makers. There is much more work to do, but I am pleased that this crucial issue is now part of the national conversation. Last but by no means least I want to pay tribute to each and every member of staff and volunteer at Refuge, all of whom have stepped up in these terrible and challenging times. I would like to send many thanks to our Refuge patrons and ambassadors, donors, corporate partners, and of course the wonderful Trustees I work alongside - without whom so much of our work would not be possible. It has been wonderful to see your commitment to our work. I am confident that better times are ahead for us, as the vaccine offers hope of a return to normal life soon. But I am determined to make sure that we learn lessons from how we worked during lockdown and we ensure, together, that we are able to help even more people into a better life in 2021.

Message from Sandra Horley on her retirement
Message from Sandra Horley on her retirement

Today is my final day as Chief Executive of Refuge, an organisation I have led, and loved, for nearly four decades. A lot has changed in the world during this time – and at Refuge – but one thing remains the same: domestic abuse is a horror that millions of women around the world live with every day. Forty-two years ago, I first started working in women’s refuges at the Haven Project in the Midlands. Back then, it was generally accepted by society that a man had a right to hit his partner and a woman just had to put up with it. Abused women (or “battered wives” as they were labelled then) had no money, nowhere to go, and no one to turn to for support.  Refuge, and others, led the march - step by step, towards change. As I retire, I am proud to reflect on what Refuge has achieved, but there is still so much work to do.  That is why the time is right for me to step aside and hand the reins to others so they can build on Refuge’s achievements.  I am glad that as I leave the charity, it is stronger than ever, financially secure, with dedicated staff and a talented senior leadership team who will ensure that no woman or child is turned away from the help they need. At Refuge we have been tenacious, resilient and not afraid to speak truth to power. I am confident that every team will continue to advocate powerfully and effectively for the women and children we support and whose safety and wellbeing are always the priority. I will never forget one of the first women I supported. A woman whose husband had taken a hammer and chisel to her face. 250 stitches needed to be administered and there was no skin on her face which was not stitched together. I fed her liquids through a straw. It was at that moment that I made myself a promise – that I would always use my voice for women whose voices were not heard. That I would do whatever it took to keep them safe. More than four decades later, domestic abuse has never been higher on the political or public agenda, and I am incredibly humbled to have played my part in making that the case.  But it was by no means easy. Sometimes I was threatened and followed by perpetrators.  Men would try and break into refuges. Policemen – incredible but true – would bring abusers carrying a bunch of flowers to the door of the refuge and say:  “He says he is sorry, now can you fetch his wife so he can take her back home?”  I was constantly challenging the police and governments to improve their responses to domestic abuse. Refuge’s roots are in Chiswick, where the world’s first safe house was opened by Erin Pizzey in 1971. Nothing like this had ever existed before. I became the director of the Chiswick refuge in 1983 and was shocked by the conditions. Women escaping abusive men had flocked to our doors and this safe space was full to overflowing. Although the conditions were far from perfect - a rundown old house, with women and children sleeping head to toe on mattresses on the floor – at least they were safe. Even with cockroaches, mice and holes in the wall, the refuge provided safety, shelter and support for women when they were most in need. Women told me that living in squalor was better than being terrified at home with a violent partner.  I am so glad that today Refuge provides safe accommodation in clean, well-maintained and healthy environments - another achievement over the years. . Under my leadership we launched Refuge under its new name in 1993 in the presence of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.  Now, nearly five decades on from its humble but important beginnings, Refuge has grown from one house in Chiswick to become the largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, supporting more than 6,500 women and children on any given day. I am immensely proud to have overseen this growth. When I first started, I had one colleague and a handful of volunteers. I admitted thousands of women and children into the refuge and listened to their experiences.  In between supporting traumatised women, I began negotiating for funds from the local authority, the Greater London Council and the government, approaching benefactors and donors to ensure our doors stayed open.  The original Helpline was in the refuge lounge, but calls were diverted to my bedside telephone when I went home in the evenings and at weekends. I am so proud of the professional Helpline Refuge now runs, after these basic beginnings. At the start of my journey I was a lone voice, and the police simply did not want to know about domestic violence. They dismissed it as a “domestic”, a private matter, to be kept behind closed doors. There was no government funding and no adequate homelessness legislation to give survivors a right to housing. Back then women leaving violent men were told they had made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’ and therefore not entitled to accommodation or they had to provide proof of violence before they could access emergency accommodation. Now, domestic abuse is rightly seen as a crime, and it has been pushed up the political agenda. The Domestic Abuse Bill is soon to return to the House of Lords, following its passage through the Commons. My early days in the Chiswick refuges were long, and they were tough. But together we started to move things forward. In 1984 the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) was passed giving police more powers to arrest in order to protect a vulnerable person. In 1990 the Home Office issued a Force Order to police forces in England and Wales, recommending that they adopt a more interventionist approach, arresting perpetrators to protect and support victims.  I was invited by the Home Office to explore the Canadian Government’s approach to addressing domestic abuse, which led to the establishment of the first domestic violence units in police stations in London. In 1990 we fought successfully to make rape in marriage illegal. I gave speech after speech, willing duty bearers to do more. Refuge has achieved so much. Not only has it grown its refuges and community-based services, but it has also enhanced the Home Office funded National Domestic Abuse Helpline. Every single minute of every single hour of every single day, women can call Refuge’s specialist team and receive confidential support. Whether they are ready to flee their abusive partner and need emergency accommodation, or they need guidance on accessing the legal system, or simply want to talk and be heard, Refuge’s team is ready to listen, and to help. If there is one message I want every woman reading this to see and remember, it is that you are not alone. Help really does exist, and lives can be saved, and changed. Refuge has become a modern, professional organisation, and I am very proud that it has achieved British Standards Institute (BSI) ISO9001 accreditation.  In 2016 the New Economics Foundation (NEF) carried out an independent evaluation of social return on investment in Refuge’s services.  Their findings were, in their words, “extraordinary, that for every £1 invested, clients, their families and society at large reap a reward equivalent to £4.94”. Further, NEF’s team was able to calculate that if Refuge’s services had not been available, it would have cost the State an additional £5.9 million a year. Since Covid-19, we have taken extra steps to ensure women can contact the Helpline in different ways, by digitising it, including implementing a live-chat facility. As technology becomes more advanced, so must our abilities to communicate with the women who need us. We were also able to secure funds from the Government to help us do this swiftly, including funding from the National Emergencies Fund which meant that our services were not compromised during the necessary Covid-19 restrictions. Within days of lockdown being announced, our Helpline was running remotely, meaning women who needed us could still reach us during a pandemic. Refuge’s growth has not been without challenge. Sometimes it has felt like one step forward and two steps back. Specialist domestic abuse services have never been properly funded – often running with hand to mouth budgeting. Austerity cuts led to a reduction in services, with the real victims of these cuts being the women and children who needed them most. But Refuge did not let these cuts stop us. While it is true that 80 per cent of Refuge’s services have seen funding cuts since 2011, and that some areas of the country have no refuge provision at all, we have increased our support to women and children. Often, Refuge’s generous supporters have stepped in when Government funding was not forthcoming.  Major donors have stood shoulder to shoulder with me over many years, making long-term gifts to keep services running. Other supporters up and down the country make a monthly direct debit donation. Every single person who has ever donated to Refuge has helped a woman or child in need. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. There has also been the support of our wonderful and talented patrons. So many people with big profiles and even bigger hearts have helped us along the way - people who have been able to help us amplify the voices of the women we work with and put domestic abuse on the political map and on the public agenda. If I named every single one of them I would probably need several more months until retiring – but I cannot retire without mentioning people like the late Diana, Princess of Wales who stood alongside us when we needed her, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, who has always been so generous with his time and profile. As a survivor of abuse as a child his story has undoubtedly helped many young people deal with the trauma they have experienced. I am grateful to Dame Stella Rimington, my mentor and Refuge patron, for her unstinting support and Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, former trustee and patron, who has championed our cause for decades and asked me to be the first expert witness to give evidence on ‘Battered Woman Syndrome’ in a British court. My heartfelt thanks to Helena Bonham-Carter, Jo Brand, Olivia Colman and Fiona Bruce, brilliant women who have given their time over the years to stand in solidarity with the women we support as well as raise much needed funds. During my time at Refuge, I have been awarded two honours, an OBE, followed by a CBE.  I am proud to have these letters after my name but more important, they reflect the new recognition that domestic abuse and violence against women and children, matters. As policies and legislation have changed, Refuge’s message has remained clear. Domestic abuse is a crime, women and children have a right to live safely and without fear. Domestic abuse is rooted in power and control, and gender inequality. To challenge domestic abuse, and other forms of violence against women - modern slavery, rape and sexual abuse, honour based violence and forced prostitution - we must challenge the patriarchal culture which perpetuates these crimes. As I stand back from my role, I leave a message for the Government: the imminent Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to be hugely transformational. However, that potential will only be realised if it makes a meaningful difference to the women and children it is meant to protect. I hope you will show the courage and leadership to ensure this Bill is as bold as it can be and that it also protects migrant survivors who have no recourse to public funds; that the Bill recognises the gendered nature of abuse - almost always perpetrated by men, against women; and it ensures that women have the resources to flee and are able to access emergency housing. Most important, I hope the Bill provides sustainable, ring-fenced funding for women’s refuges. I am hopeful that the Government's commitment to providing a legal duty to fund women’s refuges will come to fruition. I know the political will is there, I have seen it first-hand.  We continue to co-operate with government departments and former and current Home Secretaries: Jacqui Smith, Theresa May, Amber Rudd and Priti Patel have all come to Refuge to learn more about the issues surrounding domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women and girls.  Now, we need action and I stand ready to support making this a reality however I can. I may not be leading the charge anymore, but I am on the side-lines, ready to do what is needed for women and children, and I always will be. As I step back and reflect on our achievements at Refuge, I know how much I owe to the incredible and committed staff with whom I have had the privilege to work - many have been with us for decades. The honours I have received are dedicated to you all, on the frontline, and to the women needing Refuge’s support in the past, present and future. You are my inspiration. I hope for a world in which no woman faces abuse, where every woman can live in safety and without fear and where refuges are not needed. Until then I am grateful that Refuge is the fine, life-changing and life-saving organisation that it is. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.  I am enormously grateful to all of you who have accompanied me on this journey – volunteers, staff, donors, civil servants, politicians, Refuge trustees and patrons.  I am confident that you will continue to succeed in protecting and preserving the rights of women and children. Au revoir. Thank you. Sandra Horley, CBE 31 October 2020

Joint Open Letter to the Editor of The Sun
Joint Open Letter to the Editor of The Sun

Dear Victoria Newton,   We are writing as organisations who work to end violence against women and girls and provide services and support to survivors of violence and abuse, including those in BME and migrant communities. The misjudged and irresponsible headline on the front page of The Sun this morning has alarmed and disappointed us.   Responding to a woman disclosing her experiences of domestic abuse and sexual assault by giving a platform to her perpetrator to trivialise the abuse he subjected her to is irresponsible and dangerous.   Allowing the front page to promote the lack of contrition an abuser has is inexcusable and unforgiveable. This is especially the case during this period of lockdown, where demand to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline in England has increased by 66 percent. Other helplines, forms of online support and specialist services for survivors across the country have seen a steep rise in demand and the rate at which women are being killed by men appears to have doubled.   Every day perpetrators of domestic abuse minimise their pattern of control as ‘just a slap’ and constantly tell survivors that there is no point asking for help as no one will believe them and no one will care. That it is her fault. That she deserves it. Survivors of abuse seeing the front page of The Sun today will see these incorrect and dangerous messages being reinforced.   The Sun has previously undertaken some positive work to raise awareness of the impact of abuse on survivors and even campaigned for funding for specialist refuges. Today’s front page undermines all this and is hypocritical.   In an effort to try and undo some of the damage you have caused, you should retract the story, issue an apology and dedicate future front pages to advertising the services and support available to survivors. Everyone who has experienced violence and abuse should know that there are people who will listen to them, believe them and recognise domestic abuse and sexual assault as the abhorrent, traumatic crimes that they are.   Your actions are a retrograde step on the road to eliminating gender-based violence.   Yours sincerely,   Jane Keeper, Director of Operations, Refuge Sarah Green, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition Liz Thompson, Director of External Relations, SafeLives Lucy Hadley, Campaigns & Policy Manager, Women's Aid Federation of England Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters Guddy Burnet, CEO of Standing Together and Co-founder of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) Jemima Olchawski, CEO, Agenda Donna Covey, CEO, AVA Sara Kirkpatrick, CEO, Welsh Women’s Aid Diana Nammi, Executive Director, IKWRO - Women's Rights Organisation Frank Mullane, MBE, CEO, AAFDA Fiona Dwyer, CEO, Solace Women’s Aid Natasha Walter, Director, Women for Refugee Women Priscilla Dudhia, Policy Coordinator (Destitution), Women for Refugee Women Estelle du Boulay, Director, Rights of Women Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Chief Executive, Surviving Economic Abuse Medina Johnson, CEO, IRISi James Watson-O’Neill, CEO, SignHealth Jo Todd, CEO, Respect Harriet Wistrich, Director, Centre for Women’s Justice

National Domestic Abuse Helpline website to be accessible free of data charges
National Domestic Abuse Helpline website to be accessible free of data charges

Refuge welcomes the agreement reached between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and mobile phone providers to make access to websites which are providing support during the Covid-19 crisis data free of charge. Commenting on the announcement Refuge's Director of communications and external relations, Lisa King said: "Since lockdown began, Refuge has seen a spike of more than 950% in visits to its www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk -  many thousands of women every day need the specialist support Refuge provides and now more than ever need to access this information digitally. We know that during periods of isolation the window in which women experiencing domestic abuse are able to call our Freephone Helpline becomes narrower -  so ensuring women are able to access Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline website which hosts our contact form and live chat support, free of charge and without using their data allowances, is an important step in ensuring more women are able to access the support they need."

Domestic Abuse Bill 2020
Domestic Abuse Bill 2020

Last Tuesday, the Domestic Abuse Bill re-started its journey in Parliament to become law. After significant delays due to Brexit, the prorogation of Parliament and the general election at the end of last year, the Bill is back. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Government to transform its response to domestic abuse and make sure that survivors and their children have access to the vital support they need. On average, two women a week are killed at the hands of their current or ex-partners in England and Wales. Women and children’s lives depend on the Government seizing this opportunity and making the Bill the best it can be. For the first time, there will be a statutory definition of domestic abuse, which also includes economic abuse. Research by Refuge and the Co-Operative Bank showed that 1 in 5 people have experienced this type of abuse, and we are pleased that the definition will reflect this dangerous aspect of coercive and controlling behaviour. The Bill will also prohibit abusers cross-examining survivors in the family courts – something that Refuge, along with our colleagues in the VAWG sector, has been committed to addressing for years. Most importantly, the Bill will include a legal duty on local authorities to assess need for and commission refuge services. At present, there is no requirement to provide this life-saving provision, which has ultimately led to the situation we find ourselves in now – with 64% of refuge referrals being declined last year, many due to lack of space. This duty could safeguard the existence of refuges, but without sustainable funding, the future of refuges will not be secure. The Government estimates that domestic abuse costs society £66 billion a year. Over recent years, Refuge has seen funding cuts to 80% of our services, with our refuge services cut by an average of 50%. It is essential that the Government commits enough funding to ensure that the number of refuge spaces increases. Research suggests that around £173 million per year is needed to increase the number of refuge spaces available so that no woman or child is turned away. Refuge will be fighting for this funding and we will be calling on our supporters to help us do this. There are still many essential measures missing from the Bill, and Refuge feels that in its current form, the Domestic Abuse Bill does not do enough to allow survivors to access the safety and support they need. Almost one in three women aged 16-59 in England and Wales will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and survivors face inordinate difficulties in securing appropriate, affordable, long-term housing after fleeing abuse. For survivors who do not have children, the problem is particularly acute as they frequently do not qualify as being in priority need, meaning local authorities have no legal duty to house them. Women are also at increased risk of economic abuse due to aspects of Universal Credit. UC is paid in arrears, as one monthly payment, into a single bank account – even if the payment is for a joint UC claim made by two individuals together. Survivors can request to split payments between themselves and the perpetrator, but this puts them at serious risk of further abuse, as perpetrators will always know the request has been made via their online account. When making a new claim for UC, there is a minimum five-week delay between applying for and receiving payment. This leaves survivors who have fled abuse in extreme poverty while they await their first UC payment, having already left their homes with little money or possessions. Refuge has also observed how modern technology is giving perpetrators ever-increasing ways to stalk, isolate and control women. Our specialist tech abuse team works with survivors that are experiencing abuse facilitated through the use of technology, with numerous women reporting that their partner or ex-partner has threatened to disclose intimate images. This is a currently a gap in the law. Whilst actually disclosing an intimate image or film without consent is a crime, more commonly known as the ‘revenge porn’ offence, threatening to do so isn’t in England and Wales – although it already is in Scotland and many other countries. In Refuge’s experience, threats to share intimate images of survivors can have devastating, long-term consequences. Until sharing intimate images without consent is explicitly outlawed, these threats will continue to be used by abusers as a tool of coercive control. The Bill also fails to protect migrant survivors. Large numbers of migrant women are not entitled to housing benefit, and therefore unable to financially support a stay in refuge. Many charities do all they can to support migrant survivors, but a lack of funding sadly means too many women are left without support. We are calling for strengthened legislation which supports all women and children affected by domestic abuse – regardless of their immigration status. Refuge wants the Domestic Abuse Bill to be truly transformative and ultimately to save women’s lives. In order to do this, we are calling for: • Increased, sustained funding for refuges – at least £170 million is needed each year to prevent women and children being turned away • Protect survivors of tech abuse by making threats to share intimate images a criminal offence. • Recognise the reality of domestic abuse through a gendered definition of domestic abuse. • Protect women made homeless due to domestic abuse by making all survivors of domestic abuse automatically qualify as being in priority need for housing assistance. • Reduce economic abuse and ensure women can access the money they need to leave perpetrators by implementing separate Universal Credit payments by default and to exempt survivors of domestic abuse from repaying Universal Credit advances. • Make this a Bill for all survivors, regardless of their immigration status by amending t immigration law so that all migrant survivors can access financial support and other benefits, regardless of immigration status or visa type.

National Domestic Abuse Helpline
National Domestic Abuse Helpline

We are delighted to announce that as of 1st November 2019 we will run the National Domestic Abuse Helpline as the sole provider of this vital service. We have increased our team of Helpline experts who will be able to answer more calls than ever before.* We will provide more survivors with access to emergency and other domestic abuse services across the country, as well as provide essential emotional and practical information. Calls are confidential and our support is non-judgmental and non directive – we will not tell women what to do but empower them to understand their options. The Helpline runs every hour of the day, every day of the year. At the end of November we will launch an exciting digital platform which has been designed by the needs and experiences of survivors and informed by our amazing team of expert Helpline workers. We will evolve ongoing our Helpline services, launching new digital products and support tools over the months to come as we listen to survivors and others who need to access support. Domestic abuse is a crime. It is the biggest social issue impacting on women and children in this country. We want all women to know that they are not alone and that Refuge is here 24/7 to support them and will give them access to hundreds of specialist domestic abuse services across the country. Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247 *On average the Helpline received around 250 calls a day in 2018/19.              

Spotlight on Warrington
Spotlight on Warrington

Our Warrington Domestic Abuse Service comprises four Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVA), one outreach worker and one young person’s advocate. As part of this vital service we also run a local helpline. We are delighted that over the period of time our team of experts have seen great growth in the numbers of clients we support. The team is based in an office close to the town centre but our IDVAs also co locate across two hospitals to ensure early intervention to support women experiencing abuse. The team also delivers training to frontline professionals such as doctors and nursing staff on a one-to-one and group basis. Our outreach worker runs a domestic abuse support group called Wings, a group for women, where we talk about domestic abuse, its impact on victims, children and parenting, and what healthy relationships look like. We receive very positive feedback from clients who attend the group for example: “I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for your support.  It has given me the strength to draw the line and battle on to freedom.” “To the Wings support group, thank you for helping my daughter to understand what has happened to her.  We have seen her grow in confidence, return to her usual self, and be relentless for seeking help with my granddaughter In short, she has her wings and she is raring to fly.” Our young person’s advocate works with young people aged from 12-17 and is often based within local schools. Following positive feedback from clients and the schools, our young person’s advocate has been asked to promote the service at a wellbeing fair. Parents will then be invited to attend and will be able to discuss support for them and their children.

Mayor fundraises for Richmond refuge
Mayor fundraises for Richmond refuge

With financial support from government agencies becoming increasingly precarious, community support is vital to the continuation of Refuge’s services. Refuge provides 15 units of emergency accommodation in Richmond and is a fantastic example of people coming together to support women and children escaping domestic violence and abuse. We are incredibly grateful to Richmond Mayor Ben Khosa who has selected Refuge as his 2019 charity. As of May 2019 Mayor Khosa has raised over £20,000 in support of Refuge through events such as the multi-faith Peace and Unity event, cycling and marathon events and skydiving for which we are hugely grateful. Mayor Khosa said “It is one of the privileges of the Mayor to be able to meet and thank the many charities and wonderful volunteers in our delightful borough who give their time so freely to enrich the lives of others without any expectations of reward or recognition.” In addition to the two refuges in Richmond, we also provide advocacy-based services through independent domestic violence advocates (IDVAs) and outreach workers, who provide women and children with the support they need to build a new life free from fear and abuse. The community support Refuge receives in Richmond can also be seen with our partner agencies, many with whom we co-locate, for example: the Council Housing Department, drug and alcohol services, Children’s Centres, the Police Station, Civic Centre and Local Advice Centre. Detective inspector Matt East said: “[Refuge’s] support and guidance to our staff on a daily basis, has aided them (along with myself) to a massive extent. Your support and guidance to the survivors of domestic abuse also cannot be fully measured, but needless to say it has been exemplary and 1st class…Your team are always very professional, focused and motivated to do the best thing for the victim and survivors.” With ongoing support in communities we are better equipped to help survivors and address violence against women and girls. Thanks to the community support we have in Richmond the service receives a high rate of self-referrals; for example in our outreach services this is 26% compared to 15% across Refuge’s outreach services nationally. “I will always tell people what this service has done for me – it was the biggest help I received since being in this country.” Survivor of abuse who accessed support in Richmond.