Systemic Failure In Responding To Survivors Of Domestic Violence
Survivors of domestic abuse are being repeatedly turned away from refuges because they do not meet the criteria to fund their space. Women’s Aid has been working with these women and their children to make sure no woman is turned away.
The No Woman Turned Away (NWTA) project was commissioned by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to provide additional support to women facing difficulties accessing a refuge space.
During the period of the study, there were 8,623 calls to the NDVH from survivors seeking a refuge space and 404 women were supported by the NWTA caseworkers.
This report also uses data from Routes to Support (formerly UK Refuges Online)2, the Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2016, a survivor survey, and a series of interviews with survivors.
Accessing a refuge space can mark a key stepping stone in the journey away from abuse, but for many women the search for a space is long and difficult.
Out of the 404 women supported by the NWTA caseworkers, a quarter were accommodated in a suitable refuge space. The support of the NWTA caseworkers was critical in getting these 103 women into a safe refuge space.
7% of survivors gave up their search for a refuge space and stayed put with the perpetrator.
While searching for a refuge space, 17% of women had to call the police to respond to a further incident and 8% were physically injured by the perpetrator. 11% of women slept rough during this time, of which seven women had children with them and three were pregnant. 40% of women sofa surfed and one woman disclosed that she was sexually assaulted whilst sofa surfing at a family friend’s house.
But the report identifies clear failures which can cause harrowing experiences for fleeing women, and their children:
Many women, supported by the NWTA caseworkers, faced structural barriers to accessing safety due to inadequate responses from statutory agencies. The experiences of these women highlight both the difficulties faced by women in seeking help, and the lack of awareness and resource dedicated to domestic abuse within statutory agencies.
Social services failed to meet their duty of care towards 37 of the 115 survivors they supported (32%), 30 of whom were fleeing with children (26%). Several women who were refused help by social services were told that they were not experiencing domestic abuse or that they did not meet the risk threshold for intervention.
Local housing teams prevented 78 (19%) survivors from making a valid homeless application.14 women were told to call the NDVH instead of making a homeless application and 11 cases did not consider the domestic abuse to be a significant risk factor to merit a domestic abuse application, with eight women being told to return to the perpetrator and three women told to come back when the situation got worse.
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Source: Karen Bosson / Women's Aid / NWTA Project