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Nine out of ten DA services say demand has increased during a year of Covid-19 in new research from SafeLives

13th April 2021

New data from domestic abuse charity SafeLives has revealed domestic abuse services are struggling due to the increased demand for their support following a year of the Coronavirus pandemic.  

The SafeLives Practitioner Survey 20/21 reveals the worrying extent of the pressure national lockdowns and social distancing measures have created for domestic abuse services, staff and survivors of abuse. 

9 out of 10 services responding to SafeLives’ survey said demand for their service had increased, while 41% felt they were unable to keep up with the demand and one in five said they were concerned about the impact of the demand on staff’s mental health and the risk of staff burnout. Nearly a third of services (32%) felt that they did not have the necessary resources for their service. 

The research has found there is a combination of interlinking factors contributing to the pressure services face.   

These factors include: significant increase in demand for services, increase in the complexity of cases (particularly the mental health of victims), and the suspension or delay of other supporting partner agencies, such as housing, mental health provision, substance misuse and the courts. 

The report also revealed the first drop in the number of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (Idvas) who provide support to victims at the highest risk of serious harm or murder in five years.  

SafeLives is calling on the Government to recognise the additional pressure caused by Covid-19 in a three year settlement as part of its Victim’s Funding Strategy and the Comprehensive Spending Review later this year. On the eve of the Domestic Abuse Bill entering its final stages in the House of Commons, SafeLives urges the government to ensure the Bill is truly transformational by providing the necessary funding required for frontline community-based services for all adult, teenage, child victims and those who create harm in the first place - perpetrators.  

Suzanne Jacob, CEO of SafeLives said: 

“Our research shows a picture of increasing demand which shows no sign of abating. While services have stepped up during the pandemic, innovating with phone and virtual services or even operating out of the boot of a car, the pressures of meeting the needs of increased numbers of victims is taking its toll. Recent Government investment in domestic abuse services is welcome. A long-term settlement which recognises the increased support services will need to provide for the whole family for many years to come is vital.” 

Shonagh Dillon, CEO of Aurora New Dawn a frontline service in Portsmouth said: 

“The pandemic saw an increase in need for our services in differing ways, our approach was to set up a 24/7 helpline for our local area, which evidenced 63% increase in our usual provision, over the year we have dealt with over 2,000 calls. As lockdown lifts we have seen an additional 46% referral increase in the first week. Unfortunately alongside the increased need for our services we have not seen an increase in staff. The way funds are distributed from central government means that we are expected to turn around funding bids within a week, and very often we do not get a response to our application in the time frame promised. By the time funds get to small specialist local male violence against women providers we have already been expected to find other resource avenues to continue to save women’s lives. If the government want to take the issue seriously they should provide sustainable long term funding, including for vital local community services that sit outside large commissioning contracts.”  

Key Findings:  

DEMAND IS UP 

  • 88% (or nine in tenof 146 practitioners asked have said demand for services have increased. This is up from an increase of 38% at the start of the pandemic.  

  • As a result, 41% felt they were unable to keep up with the demand and one in five said they were concerned about the impact of the demand on staff’s mental health and the risk of staff burnout.  

KNOCK ON EFFECT OF COVID RESTRICTIONS 

  • 45% of respondents said their biggest concern was the safety of their clients because they were unable to see them. Lack of face-to-face support led to higher risk of harm by abusers to adult clients and children in the home.  

  • Over a quarter of respondents (27%) said their biggest concern was the delay or unavailability of other services. Whilst seeing more increased complexity of need in cases, services were denied the support of partner agencies due to unavailability or delay. In particular housing, drug and alcohol, mental health services and courts were all cited as being less able to engage with clients since the outbreak.  

FUNDING ISSUES 

  • 41% of practitioners said their biggest concern was staff capacity, recruitment and funding. Services reported already working at maximum capacity or being understaffed. Many also commented that they were underfunded and unable to recruit more staff to match the increased demand 

  • Nearly a third of services (32%) felt that they did not have the necessary resources for their service 

  • One quarter of respondents (25%) noted the time it takes to look and apply for funding. 

FALLING IDVA PROVISION 

  • There is only 66% of the minimum required number of FTE Idvas in England and Wales to meet the needs of victims at the highest risk of serious harm or murder. This level has fallen for the first time since 2016 

  • Only three police force areas have the minimum required number of Idvas, while 14 have less than 50%  

  • Just one in ten services had an Idva who was based in a health setting, and only one in twenty had an Idva providing specialised court support  

Read the report

Read the executive summary

Notes to Editors:

For more information and interviers contact Connie Simpson on 07394 560 467 or at connie.simpson@safelives.org.uk  

Suzanne Jacob, CEO of SafeLives and Shonagh Dillon, CEO of Aurora New Dawn are available for comment. 

About SafeLives

We are SafeLives, the UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for everyone and for good.  

We work with organisations across the UK to transform the response to domestic abuse. We want what you would want for your best friend. We listen to survivors, putting their voices at the heart of our thinking. We look at the whole picture for each individual and family to get the right help at the right time to make families everywhere safe and well. And we challenge perpetrators to change, asking ‘why doesn’t he stop?’ rather than ‘why doesn’t she leave?’ This applies whatever the gender of the victim or perpetrator and whatever the nature of their relationship.  

Last year alone, nearly 13,500 professionals received our training. Over 70,000 adults at risk of serious harm or murder and more than 85,000 children received support through dedicated multi-agency support designed by us and delivered with partners. In the last four years, over 2,000 perpetrators have been challenged and supported to change by interventions we created with partners, and that’s just the start.  

Together we can end domestic abuse. Forever. For everyone.