Women's charities woefully under-funded, warns report

Violence against women is costing British society £40bn a year yet charities working to provide refuge and aid to some of the most vulnerable people in society are woefully under-funded, a leading charity warns today.

Organisations working to tackle different types of violence against women, including sexual violence, domestic violence, honour crimes, forced marriage and trafficking, are crippled by a lack of financial support, a report by New Philanthropy Capital concludes.

Figures published in the study reveal that the expense to public services, lost economic output and knock-on effects of domestic and sexual violence costs the country more than the annual defence budget.

But the report also says women’s charities are suffering a funding crisis because both the government and public simply do not regard them as giving priorities.

Unlike many of the more popular charities, women’s organisations rely almost exclusively on local authorities and central government to provide them with the vast majority of their income rather than donations from the public or philanthropists.

Revealing the disparity in funding received by different charity sectors, the research states that the Donkey Sanctuary’s income for 2006 was £20m with a further £30m in reserve. In contrast, the total combined funding received by the three largest charities tackling domestic violence – Refuge, Women’s Aid Federation and Eaves Housing for Women – was just £17m.

Martin Brookes, Chief Executive of NPC, a charity which advises wealthy donors on how best to give money to the voluntary sector, said: “Over seven million women in the UK suffer from domestic violence at some point in their lives. That figure is unacceptably high, yet charities offering essential support and services to victims are failing to get the funding they need. We would urge donors and government to support the vital work conducted by charities highlighted in our report. Without their work, millions of women and children would struggle to find the help they need to live free from abuse.”

On top of a lack of donations from the public, activists working within the women’s charity sector have long complained that organisations tackling domestic violence and rape have suffered from chronic under-investment over the past decade from the government.

One of the clearest indications of the current funding crisis can be seen in the decline of refuge centres for victims of rape. In 1984 there were 68 Rape Crisis centres across England and Wales but now there are just 38 affiliated members. One in three local authorities, meanwhile, still lack a women’s refuge centre whilst London alone has just two refuges to provide sanctuary to millions of potential victims in 33 boroughs.

Today’s report is part of a growing movement within the women’s charity sector to persuade the government that there is a desperate shortage of funds to help women overcome the trauma of violence and sexual abuse and that not funding the sector will ultimately cost society more.

Earlier this month Rape Crisis published their own report which showed that the average annual income of a single centre was just £81,598, only fractionally more than what they say is the cost to the state of one rape. At least eight of their remaining centres face imminent closure because they had failed to secure funding for the next financial year whilst another 18 expect their money will run out by October.

Women’s refuges that specifically deal with black and ethnic minority women, meanwhile, say they currently face a particularly acute funding crisis because central government and local authorities are now less inclined to fund “single issue” charities.

“Specialist charities that offer a much needed and specific service to particularly vulnerable people are really suffering at the moment,” says Hannana Siddiqui, from Southall Black Sisters – a group that has provided a refuge for black and ethnic minority women in South West London for the past 30 years but this year is now locked in a dispute with Ealing Council over funding. “If well known minority groups like us are suffering at the moment, imagine how difficult it currently is for the smaller grass roots services.”

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