Victims of rape and domestic abuse will be helped by a major £40m funding boost for specialist support services, the Government has confirmed today (1 February).
- Services report major increases in calls and webchat volumes during the pandemic
- More specialist advisors to guide victims through the justice system
- New campaign #ItStillMatters launched to raise awareness of sexual abuse services
It comes as charities have reported a 200% increase in calls and people accessing webchat services since the first lockdown, with some victims feeling at greater risk of harm or deciding to report abuse for the first time.
The new investment will allow support organisations to recruit more staff, keep helplines open for longer and adapt to remote counselling where necessary – ensuring help remains available for those who need it.
Crucially, £16m will fund the recruitment of more independent sexual violence and domestic abuse advisers across the country. They provide emotional and practical support for victims, while guiding them through the criminal justice process which many can find daunting.
A new government advertising campaign, #ItStillMatters, also launched today seeks to raise awareness of sexual violence services and ensure victims of rape and sexual abuse know where to get help – encouraging them to take the often difficult step of seeking support for the first time.
The funding also builds on an unprecedented £76 million pledged by Ministers in May to help the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic, as well as an extra £125 million for local authorities to provide support in safe accommodation for victims of domestic abuse and their children.
Justice Minister Alex Chalk said:
For many victims this pandemic has been an inescapable nightmare in which they often feel trapped and at greater risk of harm. Their protection remains an absolute priority and this funding, backed by our new campaign, should mean no victim is left to suffer alone.
Craig Whittaker MP, commented:
The pandemic and associated lockdowns has affected all of us. However, victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse who are unable to obtain help have found it especially difficult. This essential government initiative will raise awareness among victims and survivors that they are not alone and that it is possible to take the first step in reaching out for help.
The £40m includes:
- £20.7 million for local, community-based sexual violence and domestic abuse services, helping to reduce the amount of time survivors have to wait for support. Male specific services will see a 60% funding increase following a significant increase in demand for support from men and boys.
- £16 million to recruit more independent sexual violence and domestic abuse advisers – increasing their numbers by around 400 meaning more victims of all ages can access this vital support.
- £2 million for smaller specialist organisations helping BAME, LGBTQ+ or disabled victims.
- £1.3 million for remote and online services – allowing more victims to access support while at home. £800k of this will go to Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS), a digital tool that helps victims of domestic abuse to apply for emergency protection from the courts.
Neil Henderson, Chair and co-founder of the Male Survivors Partnership
The Male Survivors Partnership applauds the government for providing much-needed, additional funding for specialist services who support victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. For those men, women and children living with the impacts of sexual and domestic violence, the impact of COVID has been devastating and will be long-lasting; this timely increase in funding will enable all specialist agencies to better respond to the needs of victims and survivors. We also welcome and fully support the launch of a Government sexual violence awareness campaign aimed at helping more victims and survivors access critical support. High-quality, specialist support is available for men, women and children affected by sexual violence throughout England and Wales, but many victims and survivors don’t know how to access it. This campaign will hopefully change that and help enable more people to access the support they need to cope and recover from the abuse.
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
As the extremely challenging conditions of the last ten months have exacerbated isolation, anxiety and complex physical, mental and emotional health issues for sexual violence and abuse victims and survivors, we’ve inevitably seen demand for our specialist services increase even further. This new contribution towards our ongoing efforts to fulfil victims’ and survivors’ unmet needs is vital and very gratefully received, as is the Government’s recognition of our frontline work as essential. We’re pleased too that the Government’s new campaign will echo and amplify our consistent message to those living with the impacts of all forms of sexual violence and abuse: you are not alone, we are still here for you.
Liz Thompson, Director of External Relations, SafeLives said:
Independent domestic violence advisers play a key role in supporting victims of domestic abuse who are identified as being at high risk of serious harm or murder. They are a lifeline for survivors and their children, helping them to become safe, and rebuild their lives, and yet we know that there have not been enough Idvas to support the number of people who need them. This much-needed funding package can support services in the community and more people to stay safely in their own home – so welcome when we know survivors are facing unprecedented pressure.
Meanwhile, the courts continue to prioritise the most serious offences to keep the public safe, with the Government investing £110m on a range of emergency measures to keep the justice system moving, including by opening 39 Nightingale Court rooms across the country.
The Home Office is also asking the public to share their views on violence against women and girls in a Call for Evidence that will inform the Government’s upcoming strategy to tackle these crimes.