Violence against women and girls funding review: analysis of responses
Analysis of the responses to the Strategic Review of Funding and Commissioning of Violence Against Women and Girls Services call for evidence.
Questions 6.1 and 6.2
Should access to services for those experiencing violence against women and girls be a right in law for any child or young person who needs them e.g. like child/adult protection? Please give reasons for your answer.
The majority of respondents (82%) agreed that access to services for those experiencing violence against women and girls should be a right in law for any child or young person who needs them. Agreement rates were identical among individual and organisation respondents (82% in both cases).
This free-text part of the question comprised 192 respondents, of which 123 were individuals and 69 organisations. The organisations that answered this question included 8 local authorities/governments, 3 NHS organisations, 39 third sector organisations, and 19 classified as "other" or did not specify. There were five themes emerging from the qualitative analysis of the free-text responses to this question.
Theme 1: Acknowledging the impact of VAWG on children and raising awareness
Respondents frequently agreed on the fact that access to services for those experiencing VAWG should be a right in law because of the profound impact that witnessing or experiencing VAWG can have on children's wellbeing – in some cases lasting for the rest of their lives. They explained that victims can experience a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health, as well as on their education and employment outcomes. Therefore, by making access to the appropriate services a right, the government would acknowledge that children can also be victims and raise public awareness regarding the seriousness of VAWG.
"Children are too often 'hidden victims' of domestic abuse, which has devastating effects on their wellbeing (mental and physical), social, and educational outcomes. There is evidence from research into children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences, including domestic abuse, that shows they are more likely to become a victim of abuse in adulthood." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 2: Consistency with other regulations and equality in treatment for children and adults
The second most frequently mentioned theme was that making access to services a right in law for those experiencing VAWG would be consistent with other international and government regulations, frameworks, and practices. Respondents believed that children and young people should be treated similarly with adults, specifically, having formally recognised rights, be given choice of provision, and having equal access to the appropriate services. As a result, respondents felt that the aforementioned commonalities between the rights of children and adults should be reflected in the law.
"Access to specialist services is a right under international law for survivors, including child survivors, of GBV. Incorporating this as a right into domestic law will help ensure that child survivors are able to exercise their rights to access services. It would also provide additional opportunities for redress in situations where they have been denied the services they are entitled to." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 3: Ensuring accessibility and consistency of high-quality services
Some respondents believe that making access to services a right in law for those experiencing VAWG would improve accessibility and ensure consistency in service provision across all areas and local authorities. They highlighted that, although there are cases of high-quality support services, and adequate access to them, these are not widespread and consistent. A few responses also indicated that vulnerable groups and minorities (e.g. children in foster care, individuals with ethnic minority backgrounds) are usually overlooked, which can be improved by making access to services a right in law.
"Girls, children and young people are particularly under-served in terms of available support for experiences of domestic abuse and VAWG. (…) we recommend a statutory obligation for local authorities to provide services addressing VAWG, including appropriate specialist services for girls, children and young people - with adequate funding attached. A statutory duty to provide support services to children would end the 'postcode lottery' for support." (Organisation)
Theme 4: Importance of single-sex spaces
Responses frequently mentioned that single-sex spaces should be required by law. This theme was brought up particularly by respondents who believed that access to services for those experiencing VAWG should not be a right in law for any child or young person who needs them. Respondents emphasised single-sex services would reinforce a sense of safety and promote recovery among the victims.
"Any child experiencing violence should have a legal right to appropriate services. Regardless of their sex or the sex of the perpetrator. In some cases separate services should be available to children, depending on their sex and that of the perpetrator. In order to avoid exacerbating trauma." (Individual)
Theme 5: Legislation on its own is not enough
A few respondents pointed out that, even if the proposed right is made into law, more would need to be done to ensure accessible and quality support for victims of VAWG. Respondents also mentioned the need for more funding in addition to changes in the legislation. Specifically, according to those respondents, the funding should be ring-fenced for children and young people, while adult services should have separate budgets. Other respondents highlighted the need for a clear pathway for victims to access support and more specialist services.
"Creating a legal right to access VAWG services will not in itself improve outcomes for women, children and young people experiencing VAWG within local communities. Adequate resources will need to be made available nationally to ensure that local services are delivered in a high quality, trauma informed way and that robust quality assurance and reporting processes in place to monitor progress and performance. At a minimum, these processes must ensure that there are meaningful mechanisms in place to ensure that women, children and young people with lived experience of VAWG are able to provide regular feedback on whether their needs are being addressed through these services and to work with service providers to implement continuous improvements where required." (Organisation)
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