Women’s Aid Federation of England Written Evidence (CPF0004)


Women’s Aid Federation of England (Women’s Aid) is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. We are a federation of nearly 170 organisations which provide just under 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country. Over the past 47 years, Women’s Aid has been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic abuse through practice, research and policy. We empower survivors by keeping their voices at the heart of our work, working with and for women and children by listening to them and responding to their needs.  


Our support services, which include our Live Chat Helpline, the Survivors’ Forum, the No Woman Turned Away Project, the Survivor’s Handbook, Love Respect (our dedicated website for young people in their first relationships), the national Domestic Abuse Directory and our advocacy projects, help thousands of women and children every year.  


We welcome the opportunity to respond to the  House of Lords Committee on the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economic and social wellbeing of the United Kingdom. Home is not a safe place for those experiencing domestic abuse. The mass experience of isolation, and limited routes to support and safety, are set to have significant impacts on women and children. It is essential that the government takes coordinated, proactive action to prevent physical and emotional harm, and meet the increased and changing needs of survivors and their children, during this pandemic.  


  1. What estimates have been made about how the impact of the pandemic on parents and families will affect the need for services (local authority and third sector children and family services; domestic abuse services; child and adult mental health services) in both the coming months and the coming years?


COVID 19 did not cause domestic abuse – only abusers are responsible for their actions.

However the evidence of the past year is very clear – COVID 19 led to escalation of domestic abuse (in all forms – physical, emotional, sexual, and economic) and gave abusers the tools to increase coercive control:

Our findings from survivors also demonstrate that closure or restricted access to the public services shut down routes to safety and support:

These trends have been born out in emerging academic research too. Katrin Hohl and Kelly Johnson’s early research on police responses to domestic abuse show that:


We are expecting very long term impacts on the specialist domestic abuse sector:


  1. To what extent will current services be able to meet this need?  


Before the pandemic, funding was the number one concern for specialist domestic abuse services, who were unable to meet demand from the survivors who need them:



On basis of the experiences of services in 2020/21, and academic research which is predicting a surge in demand when lockdown measures lift, we can anticipate the demand for specialist support will remain high and likely increase in the year ahead:



Services aren’t able to meet need – without significant investment in a sustainable long-term funding plan for specialist domestic abuse and violence against women and girls (VAWG) services they will not be able to do so. It is also important to note that funding crisis has other severe impacts on services (for example: running support without funding; using reserves; staff loss and burnout).


It is important to recognise that significant proportion of domestic abuse services delivering life-saving support are not currently commissioned or funded by their local authority, PCC or through other government funding streams:


We also expect that that there will continue to be more complexity to the issues survivors seek support for over the next year, and in the medium term:


  1. Are you aware of any attempts by Government to calculate the likely gap between need and current provision?


During 2020-21 the government has delivered:

This amounts to £48 million for services supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence in England during 2020-21. However:


Furthermore, there hasn’t been consistent national data collected on the level of funding which have been awarded to specialist domestic and sexual violence services (as opposed to victims’ charities and other generic organisations), or to specialist services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, disabled women or LGBT+ survivors. We therefore don’t know what impact it has made to meeting current demand. There are no consistent national data collected on funding from local authorities, police and crime commissioners or health bodies for domestic abuse or other VAWG services so it is not possible to know how much they spent during 2020-21.


  1. What action is needed from Government (or others) to address gaps between likely future need and current provision?


In 2019 Women’s Aid Federation of England estimated that £393 million would be required annually to securely fund specialist women’s domestic abuse services in England:



The government’s committed funding in 2021-22 for domestic abuse services comprises of £125 million through local authorities for support in safe accommodation, and £40 million through Police and Crime Commissioners for specialist domestic and sexual violence services in the community.


We know that women and children experiencing abuse now might not reach out for help for years to come, and this must be factored into the funding delivered for the domestic abuse sector over the next five years. We need the spending review this year to finally deliver certainty beyond the next financial year – which will enable services to plan ahead and meet demand.


We continue to call for a secure, national multi-year funding settlement for the specialist violence against women and girls sector which:


5 May 2021

[1] Women’s Aid. (2020) A Perfect Storm: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Domestic Abuse Survivors and the Services Supporting Them. Bristol: Women’s Aid

[2] Women’s Aid. (2020) A Perfect Storm: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Domestic Abuse Survivors and the Services Supporting Them. Bristol: Women’s Aid

[3] https://campaignforsocialscience.org.uk/news/a-crisis-exposed-how-covid-19-is-impacting-domestic-abuse-reported-to-the-police/

[4] Women’s Aid. (2021) The Domestic Abuse Report 2021: The Annual Audit, Bristol: Women’s Aid

[5] Women’s Aid. (2021) The Domestic Abuse Report 2021: The Annual Audit, Bristol: Women’s Aid

[6] Imkaan are the only UK-based, umbrella women's organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and Minoritised women and girls.

[7] Women’s Aid. (2021) Fragile funding landscape: the extent of local authority commissioning in the domestic abuse refuge sector in England 2020, Bristol: Women’s Aid

[8] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/emergency-funding-to-support-most-vulnerable-in-society-during-pandemic

[9] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/funding-boost-for-rape-and-domestic-abuse-support

[10] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/funding-boost-for-rape-and-domestic-abuse-support

[11] Women’s Aid (2019) Funding Specialist Support for Domestic Abuse Survivors Bristol: Women’s Aid.