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.
What do you consider to be the main function or purpose of services challenging violence against women and girls?
346 responses were analysed for this question, of which 270 were submitted by individuals and 76 by organisations. The respondents included 8 local authorities/governments, 4 NHS organisations, 44 third sector organisations and 20 classified as other or unspecified. Seven themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of the free-text responses to this question.
276 responses to Question 1 have been identified as having been possibly coordinated by an organisation running a campaign. The campaign text quoted included variations of "Your definition of woman is unlawful and it should be changed to the biological definition 'a female of any age' as defined in the Equality Act". This call for evidence included a definition for woman as a clarification for Question 1 and did not require respondents to give their views on the definition provided. While these views are presented here as a result of the responses received, Question 16 asked respondents to provide further comments regarding this call for evidence and respondents' views regarding definitions is further discussed in the findings of that question.
The majority of respondents (95%) included their own views in addition to the campaign text. Their views were analysed along with the remaining substantial responses and were included in the thematic analysis presented below.
Theme 1: Single-sex spaces and services
Respondents suggested that the definition of women used in this call for evidence should be changed to the definition stated in the Equality Act 2010. The majority of responses raising this concern also suggested that services to support victims of VAWG should be single-sex spaces such as shelters, safe spaces or toilets, as well as mental health support and health care in single-sex spaces. A few respondents sharing this view explained that some victims of VAWG may self-exclude if no single-sex services are available or are not identified as such.
"The main function and purpose of services challenging violence against women and girls is to provide that support in an easily accessible manner, namely single-sex." (Individual)
Theme 2: Prevention services and education
Prevention services were mentioned as one of the main functions or purposes of services challenging VAWG. These were frequently described as education, policies to tackle sexism, and training to police, health workers and civil servants in topics related to VAWG. The most frequent sub-theme was a suggestion to provide education to the general public on acceptable ways to treat women and girls. Some respondents also mentioned the need to educate professionals who are in contact with women and girls to identify gender-based violence (GBV). Moreover, respondents frequently stated that education could be delivered to children from a very young age in school settings.
"[…] actions to bring about societal change are one of the main functions of services and may include early interventions; education and explorative sessions with young people in groups to examine grooming, the range of abusive behaviours directed at women and girls and how that may be eradicated in the future." (Third sector organisation)
The last prevalent sub-theme referred to strategies aimed at reducing sexism, challenging stereotypes, tackling gender inequality and addressing misogyny. In this context, a few responses also suggested public campaigns addressing pornography and commercial sexual exploitation.
"Supporting efforts to change cultural norms and attitudes, particularly amongst adult male population. At a wider level, this includes addressing pornography and the spectrum of commercial sexual exploitation." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 3: Mental and physical health care
The need for mental and physical health care was the third most common theme across responses to this question. Respondents most frequently highlighted that victims of violence should have access to mental health care focused on improving wellbeing and with a trauma-informed approach. Some responses also pointed out that physical care should be provided, although they did not describe this service further. Finally, a few responses highlighted the need for coordinated and holistic delivery of health and physical care across all stages of recovery, from crisis intervention to long-term support.
"[…] the main function or purpose of services challenging VAWG is to ensure that women and girls have access to stigma free psychological and physical care." (Individual)
"We believe that services should be in place that respond to all forms of VAWG and provide trauma-informed, gendered support at all stages of a survivor's journey from prevention/early intervention, to crisis intervention to longer-term recovery support." (Multi-Agency Network)
Theme 4: Refuges and safe spaces
Responses mentioned the need for safe spaces, shelters or refuges to provide accommodation to victims of VAWG. Responses described these spaces as emergency accommodations, easily accessible and widely available to women and children escaping violent situations. A few respondents pointed out that these refuges should be single sex to ensure no women would self-exclude from the service. One response explained that, in some cases, women and children need to be escorted from the property to emergency accommodation.
"We consider a safe place to live is necessary for the woman and any children, of all genders up, to around 18 years of age. This may be refuge or other safe accommodation suited to the needs of the woman, any children and pets." (Third sector organisation)
"To provide single sex safe spaces and support for women and girls who have experienced any form of violence as a consequence of being female." (Individual)
Theme 5: Early intervention services
Another theme raised in this question was the importance of early intervention support to address the immediate risks of GBV and ensure survivors' safety. Respondents frequently described early intervention services as front-line services, immediate support or crisis intervention services. A few responses also highlighted the need for early risk identification mechanisms, for example tools to identify risky relationships or "red flags" and exit the violent situation at early stages.
"Immediate crisis and recovery support as well as other necessary provisions for women and girls who have experienced VAWG" (Multi-agency partnership organisation)
Theme 6: Holistic approach to the provision of services
Respondents highlighted the need for a holistic approach to the provision of services supporting people experiencing VAWG. Respondents frequently described the holistic approach as a combination of different services working in a coordinated way to support women and girls experiencing GBV, for example, by coordinating the referral to mental and physical health care through the staff providing emergency accommodation. Some responses also explained that a coordinated approach through different services is key to supporting victims with complex needs such as addictions, mental health issues, migration and financial issues.
"[…] a key function of VAWG services is also to work in partnership with other key services to ensure that services are easy to navigate and that women, children and young people receive the support they need at the times they need it. This includes organisations with expertise in addressing support needs such as complex trauma, mental health and wellbeing, homelessness and drug and alcohol use as well as equality-based organisations with expertise in supporting women, children and young people with protected characteristics who may face barriers in engaging with VAWG services." (Multi-agency networks organisation)
Theme 7: Legal and financial support
Lastly, some respondents referred to legal and financial support. Responses frequently highlighted that services should be available to explain women's and girls' rights and help them bring perpetrators to justice. Some responses also mentioned the need for lobbying to support the increase of the rights of women. Finally, a few responses also described the importance of financial support in challenging VAWG, particularly to ensure women achieve financial independence and successfully escape violent situations.
"In addition to direct service provision to address the impact of trauma and transformation in how the wider policy and legal framework aligns and supports this delivery and intention, the function of organisations challenging VAWG should include: […] Informing women and girls of their rights and options. […] Lobbying to increase and progress rights of [women and girls] in legalisation and policy areas at parliamentary level." (Third sector organisation)
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