A charity focusing on supporting women and children who have survived domestic abuse has warned that existing funding arrangements for refuge services are ‘inadequate’.
A new study by Women’s Aid has revealed that a ‘significant proportion’ of spaces in refuges services are run without any local authority commissioned funding, and a disproportionate number of these spaces without funding are run by specialist ‘by and for’ services for Black and minoritised women.
Fragile funding landscape: the extent of local authority commissioning in the domestic abuse refuge sector in England 2020 found that over the last decade there have been significant cuts in the amount of funding available to local authorities to invest in domestic abuse services due to the Government’s policy of austerity.
In 2019/20, 59% of councils implemented a real-time cut to their domestic abuse funding, according to the study. In November 2020, there was a 24.5% shortfall in the number of refuge spaces that should be available.
Fragile funding landscape also warns that whereas traditionally funding for refuges took the form of direct grants, today it is mostly delivered through a commissioning process, whereby organisations bid for funding contracts to provide services.
Women’s Aid argues that because of depleted local authority budgets, going through a commissioning process can mean cost cutting is prioritised above the effectiveness of services and the outcomes of service users.
The charity found that this particularly hit specialist ‘by and for’ domestic abuse services for Black and minoritised women.
Fragile funding landscape also revealed that the commissioned refuge sector is currently supported by a significant number of services that receive no statutory funding.
More than one in five refuge services running in November 2020 (60 out of 269 refuge services) were not commissioned by the local authority and were surviving on emergency Government funding pots, charitable grants, trusts and other fundraising activities – funding streams that are insecure and time-consuming to source.
The charity estimates that 18.5% of all refuge spaces in England in November 2020 were not funded through local authority commissioning, and that without non-commissioned spaces, the shortfall would increase from 24.5% to 42.5%.