Nine out of ten domestic abuse services say demand has increased

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.

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.

Suzanne Jacob, CEO of SafeLives

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.

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

Read the Report

Research with Idvas, outreach workers, Ypvas and frontline services in England and Wales

Practitioner survey

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