Report – Women’s Aid – The Domestic Abuse Report 2023: The Annual Audit

Find the full briefing here.

Executive summary below or available here.

Key contact: Zainab Gulamali, Public Affairs Manager, z.gulamali@womensaid.org.uk

Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. For almost 50 years, Women’s Aid has been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic abuse through practice, research and policy. We are a federation of nearly 170 organisations which provide just under 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country.

This briefing summarises the 2023 edition of Women’s Aid’s yearly publication on the provision and uptake of domestic abuse services in England, from April 2021 – March 2022. Available here.

Key findings
The 2023 Annual Audit highlights the ongoing work of dedicated domestic abuse services and how specialist, accessible provision is essential for supporting survivors. Services continue to feel the pressure of inadequate funding and believe that commissioning should place transparency, an
understanding of violence against women and girls and the need for specialist and holistic services at the centre of practices.

Service users

  • On Track data showed that domestic abuse is a gendered crime – 94.6% of perpetrators were male and 73.0% were a partner/ex-partner of the service user.
  • Most women (62.0%) had children, with an average of 1.3 children per service user.
  • Over a quarter of survivors (28.7%) reported having a disability and, of these, 56.0% had a mental health disability and 22.3% had a physical disability.
  • The length of time abuse was experienced ranged from 0 to 66 years, with an average of six years and one month.
  • 4,611 (12.1%) women were not British nationals and 30% of these women had no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

Provision of services

  • Of the 395 services in Routes to Support1, there was a net increase in the number of all service types offered, except drop-in services which have remained the same.
  • An additional 55 bedspaces were available, but there were 229 fewer vacancies than the previous year. Despite the increase in bedspaces, the figure of 4,344 still falls short (by 1,311) of the Council of Europe’s minimum recommendation, this is a 23.2% shortfall.
  • 61.6% of all the referrals received in refuge services using On Track were rejected, with 26.2% of these due to lack of space.
  • Only 9.1% of vacancies could consider women with NRPF, and less than half of refuge vacancies could accommodate a woman with two children. Less than 1% of all vacancies were wheelchair accessible.
  • 71.1% of refuge services were commissioned by their local authorities, a small increase on the previous year. Of respondents to the Women’s Aid Annual Survey2, 44.0% had been running an area of their service without any dedicated funding, and statutory duty.

Recommendations
Women’s Aid is calling for:

  • The Government to commit to a funding settlement of £426.5 million per year as a minimum for specialist domestic abuse services, and ring-fence funding for specialist services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, Deaf and disabled women and LGBT+ survivors.
  • The Government to strengthen monitoring and national oversight of the statutory duty.
  • Local authorities to ensure they adhere to national commissioning guidance.
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