Refuge responds to Home Office announcement on new Domestic Abuse Plan

 
In response to the announcement by the Home Secretary, Refuge CEO Ruth Davison said:

“Refuge welcomes the publication of the new Domestic Abuse Plan and is pleased to see the government looking at how it can build on the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 to improve the response to domestic abuse across the country, including by increasing funding to specialist services.

“While the plan offers welcome steps forward, and provides cause for optimism, some of the announcements appear to reflect existing polices and unfortunately don’t offer anything new. We hope the government will use this plan as the start of an ongoing conversation with the sector about how to ensure women and girls are able to access the protection they need and deserve.

“Refuge is delighted to receive a welcome funding boost and thanks the Home Office for doubling its funding for our National Domestic Abuse Helpline, as well as investing in other specialist Helpline’s. Refuge’s Helpline is the gateway to specialist services across the country and both saves, and changes, women’s lives. The pandemic really did underscore the need for increased funding for specialist frontline services. Refuge’s Helpline saw a sharp increase in demand which, in real terms, means more women needing us than ever before. Demand remains significantly above pre pandemic levels.

“During the first lockdown, for example, we saw an on average increase in calls and contacts logged by our Helpline of 61%. As this demand increased, and as so much of our lives were lived online during lockdown, Refuge needed to adapt, which we did swiftly. We introduced a live chat service, which meant that women who were trapped at home with their abusers, and weren’t able to call us, could talk to us digitally. We also launched a BSL service, ensuring our Helpline is accessible to women with additional hearing needs. This, together with the interpretation services available on our Helpline, takes us closer to operating a fully inclusive service, and means we can continue to innovate so that all women can access the support they need and deserve.

“But there are some parts of the proposals that Refuge would like to see more detail of and further discussion with the sector to ensure they are as helpful as possible.

“Refuge is pleased that dedicated funding for Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) and Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAS) has been announced. But this is sadly just scratching the surface of the funding shortfall. Domestic Abuse is estimated to cost society at least £66 billion each year, and a decade of austerity cuts has meant that frontline organisations are constantly facing a funding cliff edge. Funding must match need, and more investment is needed in community services, alongside the implementation of the legal duty to provide emergency accommodation. Only sustainable, long-term, ring-fenced funding will allow frontline services to plan, and ensure that no woman or child is turned away from accessing specialist services.

“Refuge urges caution with the proposed development of a Domestic Abuse Register. As the largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, we know first-hand the very real challenges women face when coming forward to report abuse. This, together with shockingly low charging, prosecution and conviction rates means the reality of any form of register is has the potential to offer women false reassurances, and as responses vary across police forces, could be a postcode lottery. The onus must not be on women to ‘find out’ whether their partner has a history of abuse, but for the criminal justice response to be robust enough to ensure perpetrators are held to account.

“Refuge looks forward to seeing the plan in full and working with the government to see how it can be further developed to match need and ensure the strongest possible response to domestic abuse.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Spokes person available on request. For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk.

About Refuge:

Refuge supports thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org