Domestic abuse rates rise sharply during lockdown

Statistics released this week revealed a steep rise in domestic abuse during the coronavirus lockdown which has left existing services stretched. According to the charity Refuge[1] in the first three months of the of the lockdown in Britain over 40,000 calls were made to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

In June calls and contacts were nearly 80% higher than usual and more have needed to flee their abusers, with a rise of 54% seeking women’s refuges in the last few weeks. For too many women lockdown has seen a worsening of the abuse they face, making their lives a misery.

The Men’s Advice Line says it also received nearly 8,500 calls over the first three months of the lockdown, significantly higher than during the same period last year.

In response, the Government announced about £30m in extra funding. This is to be distributed in two ways: through the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Fund, and the Police and Crime Commissioners. Unfortunately, this will add to the fractured nature of funding, made worse by cuts to council budgets by central government.

The stated aims of the Government are to deal with the short-term demands put on charities during the pandemic such as short-term income disruption, the essential costs of sustaining current activities during the pandemic, and the increased demand.[2]

Refuge and other charities are saying that with the easing of restrictions, a long-term funding strategy is needed. The Government’s current model for funding such services has seen much criticism, including in the 2015 All Party Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence Inquiry “The Changing Landscape of Domestic and Sexual Violence Survey” and published by Women’s Aid.

Its second finding, stated clearly “the current model for funding domestic and sexual abuse services is not fit for purpose”, warning then that many had already closed and more would “if they continue to be founded on a hand to mouth basis”. [3]

The process of outsourcing and commissioning services have continued to be identified by Women’s Aid as one of the core problems in the provision of services in many of their annual reports, including their 2020 survey. [4] In other words, little has changed.

Unfortunately this round of funding by Tories is continuing to use their commissioning model, which encourages competition for resources amongst vital services, over much reduced funding and irregular payments.[5] This has led to councils no longer providing refuges, a situation unheard of until 2017.[6]

The latest funding is to mostly cover costs incurred in 2020, with some funding lasting up until 2022, according to the Government’s plan.[7] The New York Times  has reported on the lack of funding reaching the frontline with only £1 Million reaching front line services by the start of this month.[8]

Funding for domestic abuse services has been cut across two thirds of councils in Britain as of 2018 after the austerity measures introduced in 2010.[9] And since 2010 Women’s Aid, and others, have raised the issue of cuts to funding but have found themselves largely ignored.

Unfortunately, this latest release of cash, while desperately needed, is not enough to reverse the longer-term damage from a decade of austerity, or keep such services sustainably funded in the future. The Tories are promising to do more to protect victims with a new Domestic Abuse Bill, but if 10 years of Tory rule are anything to go by, they will continue to fail in providing adequate support for victims.

Daragh O’Neill


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53498675

[2] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-funding-for-domestic-abuse-and-sexual-violence-support-services

[3] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/appg-reports/

[4] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/The-Domestic-Abuse-Report-2020-The-Annual-Audit.pdf

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/23/council-funding-womens-refuges-cut-since-2010-england-wales-scotland

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/21/tackle-domestic-violence-ensure-womens-refuges-funded

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/02/world/europe/uk-coronavirus-domestic-abuse.html

[8]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/888535/pcc-funding-covid-19-guidance.pdf

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/23/council-funding-womens-refuges-cut-since-2010-england-wales-scotland

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s