Rape and domestic abuse charities given £11m extra funding as calls for help increase

Funding falls short of £16.3m commissioners say is needed

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 15 November 2020 17:42 GMT
Domestic abuse victims being let down by authorities, say campaigners, as more than 50,000 incidents are recorded
Domestic abuse victims being let down by authorities, say campaigners, as more than 50,000 incidents are recorded

The government has announced almost £11m funding to support rape and domestic abuse services amid a rise in demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

But campaigners said the rise is less than two-thirds of the amount requested to provide “vital support over the winter months”, as lockdown restrictions see victims trapped in their homes.

A letter sent to the justice secretary earlier this month said £16.3m was needed to keep services running.

Nicole Jacobs, the domestic abuse commissioner, and Dame Vera Baird QC, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, said: “We are calling on the Ministry of Justice to provide a second round of extraordinary funding due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to support services through to the end of the financial year.”

They also called on the government to “address the instability facing services by guaranteeing longer-term funding” of at least another year.

On Sunday, the government announced £10.1m of new funding for rape and domestic abuse support centres and Police and Crime Commissioners to fund services in local areas.

A further £683,000 will go to dozens of domestic abuse organisations that applied for extra funds, and an awareness campaign is being relaunched to flag where victims can seek support.

The government said the money would allow organisations to recruit more staff, adapt to remote counselling and keep helplines open for longer.

Following the announcement, the commissioners for victims and domestic abuse said the funding was “much needed”.

“We know how much pressure this second lockdown is putting on these services and staff,”  Ms Jacobs and Dame Vera added.

“What is really needed from the government now is a commitment to long term funding for these vital services.

“Throughout the pandemic, frontline domestic abuse workers have been crucial in supporting survivors during a particularly difficult and dangerous time. All key workers deserve assurance that they will be able to continue their critical work beyond March 2021, and domestic abuse services are no different.”

Women's aid launches the lockdown campaign to highlight domestic abuse risks during coronavirus lockdown

Next week, the government will announce a new Victims’ Code, which outlines the rights of victims and the support they should receive from the police, courts and other criminal justice agencies.

The new code is due to come into force on 1 April next year and aims to give victims’ greater say in when criminals are released from prison, while improving other protections.

Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, warned that government promises require scrutiny following plummeting prosecutions for rape and sexual offences.

“Women who are assaulted by their partners too often find that the police and courts do not keep them safe,” she said.

“And the justice system is failing so badly on rape that we have called it 'the effective decriminalisation' of rape.”

Ms Green said that the coronavirus pandemic was also threatening access to justice for victims, amid difficulty accessing remote hearings and long delays to jury trials.

“We hope to see radical reform and commitment in this area, not tinkering at the edges,” she added.

The justice secretary, Robert Buckland QC, said the new Victims’ Code would “give victims confidence that they’ll receive the right information and support to rebuild their lives”.

He added: “Now more than ever victims should know that they are not alone, and this Government will always strive to ensure support is there whenever they need it.”

Priti Pate, the home secretary, said she would do everything possible to protect victims of domestic abuse.  

“Our domestic abuse awareness campaign, as well as extra government funding for domestic abuse services, means that more victims know where to go for help and can access the support they need,” she added.

“During the lockdown earlier this year, we saw incredible work from the police to protect the vulnerable– this work is continuing and I will ensure that those committing these horrendous crimes will feel the full force of the law.”

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