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New report highlights effect of cuts on services for domestic violence victims

Back in August last year, False Economy published the results of freedom of information requests sent to each of the 353 local authorities in England (27 county councils, 201 district councils, 33 London boroughs, 36 metropolitan districts, 55 unitary authorities and the Isles of Scilly) seeking information on cuts to charities receiving local authority funding.

The big headline figures were the shocking number of elderly-related charities (142), children’s and young people-related charities (382), and disability-related charities (151) facing cuts to local authority funding. Domestic violence and sexual abuse charities were also found to be facing significant funding cuts.

A new report by Professor Sylvia Walby, UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, and Jude Towers at Lancaster University, draws on an analysis of the False Economy freedom of information request findings. The report finds that there were 63 organisations in the sector that had experienced reductions in their local authority funding between 2010/11 and 2011/12 that was greater than 5%.

The total amount of local authority funding lost to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector in England recorded by the False Economy data collection project is just under two and a half million pounds (£2,435,061): this represents a 31% funding cut to the sector (from £7,803,307 in 2010/11 to £5,368,247 in 2011/12).

According to the False Economy data, in the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector, eight organisations were subject to a 100% cut in local authority funding in 2011/12 compared to 2010/11.

Professor Walby and Jude Towers’ report considers the evidence on cuts in budgets and services to prevent violence against women and girls. It brings the False Economy data together with data from 20 other published and previously unpublished sources to provide a detailed picture of what is happening to violence against women (VAW) services as a result of spending cuts.

The key findings of the report are that cuts to this sector have been dramatic and that there is huge local variation. Provision of VAW services happens at a local level yet the budgeting and commissioning tends to happen at a national level.

The report also highlights how cuts are affecting specialist services. Imkaan, an organisation which provides services for BAME women, reports that they have been forced to close two of their six specialist refuges and local authority funding for two more has also been cut.

The report also points to a reduction in the number of IDVAs (Independent Domestic Violence Advisors) and cuts to police and courts services.

These services are not “nice to have”; they are crucial services that in many cases offer a lifeline to women escaping violence.

To give an example of what these cuts mean in practice, the report cites data provided by Women’s Aid showing that on a typical day in 2011, 230 women (9%) seeking refuge were turned away due to lack of space. With nowhere else to go, many of those women will be faced with the unenviable choice of returning to their
home where their wellbeing or even their life may be in danger, seeking a bed in accident and emergency, or sleeping rough in parks.

Cuts to housing, policing, courts services, advice services, and Legal Aid – as well specialist VAWG services such as rape crisis centres and domestic violence refuges – are combining to create insurmountable hurdles to women fleeing violence. Provision of VAWG services was patchy and under-resourced before the government’s spending cuts – the cuts to local authority budgets over the past and coming years risks leaving women in some parts of the country with no access to these services at all. Worryingly, as the report points out, the full impact of these cuts is yet to be realised.

Read further analysis and download full report documents here

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