It is not surprising that recent figures produced within the Domestic Violence Report 2021: The Annual Audit by Women’s Aid*, highlighted a drastic number of survivors of domestic abuse who are unable to access refuges. It was reported that 57.2% of all referrals received to refuge services using On Track** were rejected and the main reason for rejection was due to the lack of space or capacity.
Research further identified that of a sample of 27,130 survivors who accessed support during 2019-2020, only 3,348 of survivors were able to access refuge services. It is evident that there is a serious problem of the number of spaces within refuges. This is also highlighted by the fact that there is a 30.1% shortfall in the number of refuge spaces compared to that recommended by the Council of Europe.
As a consequence of this shortcoming, survivors are accessing community-based support; 24,334 of survivors accessed community-based support services within 2019/2020. Community-based support includes outreach, floating support and advocacy (IDVA services). This has not gone un-noticed. There has been a joint call from commissioners to the Government highlighting this issue and the need for greater support for community-based services.
The Children’s Commissioner, the Victims’ Commissioner and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner have called for the Government to include statutory provisions for local authorities to fund community-based services. The joint call recognises that there has been a shift from refuges to community-based services. In light of this, the Commissioners’ call for this to be identified within the Domestic Violence Bill; which is currently at the committee stage of the House of Lords. They claim that if the Bill does not address this, it will create a two-tier system, which would leave the survivors who are most vulnerable without appropriate support.
Within a system which already lacks protection for marginalised women, statutory provisions must be included to ensure inclusivity for all women and children can access support they need.
Within Goodman Ray we recognise and understand the importance of community-based support. We have a dedicated domestic abuse team which works closely with organisations and charities, who support survivors of domestic abuse.
* Women’s Aid. (2021) The Domestic Abuse Report 2021: The Annual Audit, Bristol: Women’s Aid.
* *On Track is the Women’s Aid case management and outcomes monitoring database. It is used by over 60 local service providers throughout England.