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.

Question 2

What services should be available for women experiencing any form of violence against women and girls?

285 responses were analysed for this question of which 211 were submitted by individuals and 74 by organisations. Of those organisations, 8 were local authorities/governments, 4 were NHS organisations, 42 were third sector organisations, and 20 were classified as "other" or did not specify. Ten themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of the free-text responses to this question.

Theme 1: Single-sex spaces and female staff

The most frequent theme was the support for single-sex services and female-only staff. According to respondents, single-sex services should be widely available, clearly advertised and co-exist with gender-based service options. A few respondents suggested that single-sex spaces are key to ensuring women would not self-exclude due to religious or cultural reasons. Additionally, respondents who expressed the need for single-sex spaces, frequently mentioned that police and health workers should also be all female.

"Women and girls need single sex, female only services to heal from male violence. We need access to refuge, justice advocacy, initial crisis support, support groups and longer term trauma therapy. This has to be delivered by females for females which is a trauma informed way that had worked for decades." (Individual)

Theme 2: Mental health services

Responses frequently mentioned the need for public or private mental health care for women and girls experiencing violence. According to these responses, mental health services could be delivered through one-to-one counselling, therapy sessions, group sessions or peer support. A few respondents gave examples of alternative and less expensive treatments to provide mental health support such as offering reading material.

"Free therapy. Not everyone will feel comfortable going through the NHS when talking about rape etc. Sometimes the shame is such that they don't want it on their central record or fear their family finding out. They should be able to access private therapists too with subsidies of some sort to make it affordable." (Individual)

Moreover, responses suggested that mental health services should focus on trauma recovery and professionals should understand the challenges in providing mental health support to victims who also have additional vulnerabilities (e.g. addictions or disabilities). This could be achieved by, for example, integrating all services so that the person does not have to describe their experience to several professionals and re-live the trauma.

"It is also vital that the range of services in place locally have processes in place to identify and respond to the needs of women experiencing VAWG who have multiple and/ or complex support needs. This includes women in the criminal justice system and women affected by drug and alcohol use, mental health issues and/ or complex trauma." (Multi-agency partnership organisation)

A few respondents pointed out that free mental health support services are now provided by NHS services which have long waiting lists and suggested offering interim mental health support while on the waiting list.

Theme 3: Refuges and safe spaces

Respondents requested free, local safe spaces for women and children who escape violent abusers, and a few responses also highlighted the need for single-sex shelters or special accommodations to assist women with complex needs. Most of the responses mentioning the need for refuges also considered that first-response services should be available on-site (e.g. forensic services, urgent healthcare treatment, emotional support and other crisis support services according to the needs and complexity of each case).

"In the crisis situation, somewhere safe for those experiencing domestic violence. In the first instance, that could be as simple as funded emergency hotel accommodation in a good quality hotel, followed by a reasonably quick (days) and effective investigation followed by the ability for the complainant to return to their home and the alleged perpetrator to be lawfully excluded from the address until a full, formal investigation can take place." (Individual)

Theme 4: Legal and financial aid

Many respondents discussed the need for legal and financial support for victims of GBV – for example, signposting, advocacy to access benefits and immigration advice. A few respondents expressed that legal aid is essential for women without recourse to public funds due to their immigration status. Several respondents considered that to exit a violent abuser, women should have access to financial assistance and benefits, childcare support and access to affordable and adequate housing arrangements. Respondents agreeing with this statement mentioned that this is particularly important when women and children experiencing violence live in the same house as the perpetrator.

"I would put emphasis on more culturally sensitive interventions for migrant/refugee women and girls given the intersection of many other compounding variables. Prevention, counselling, forensic services are all crucial but so are services that are focused on helping women and girls financially - all too often when there is violence and the woman finally escapes, she ends up in poverty. Sadly, this can often be one of the main reasons that they stay (apart from fear of the perpetrator)." (Individual)

Theme 5: Prevention mechanisms

Many responses concerned prevention mechanisms, in particular the need to educate children and adults. For example, by delivering school workshops on consent, negotiation and boundaries in relationships. A few respondents proposed creating support groups to discuss the types of abusive actions and behaviours that are not always easily identifiable such as coercion and control.

"It seems that young women need validation that what they are experiencing is unhealthy or abusive, and that they are deserving of support before reaching out. This speaks to the need for better education about relationships in formal education settings." (Third sector organisation)

"Really though we need to begin by educating girls and boys in schools. The seeds of violence and exploitation of females are worn early and currently absolutely nothing at all is done in schools to address sexism." (Individual)

Theme 6: Skills training and employability

Some respondents suggested providing training and employment support services to women who experienced violence/abuse. Respondents raised concerns about the challenges they face in finding a suitable job and explained the need for skills development courses, volunteering and work experience placements that will allow them to gain transferable knowledge and assistance finding employment. In particular, one respondent highlighted that work skills training is especially needed for women escaping from human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

A few responses proposed granting employment opportunities in VAWG services to women who have experienced violence (see Theme 10 for further discussion of respondents' views on this topic) since such work placement would allow women to gather further work experience and strengthen their skills, while supporting peers in the same situation.

Theme 7: Outreach and local services

Responses frequently suggested offering outreach services comprising in-school help, care workers to remain at home with women who cannot or do not want to leave, telephone-based support to engage with women who may face additional barriers to engaging with other support channels (e.g. those in rural areas). Some respondents also highlighted the need for local services (e.g. council level) stating that this will allow for better coordination with other local agencies such as police services or hospitals.

"Outreach service to reach those in rural areas with poor transport links." (Third sector organisation)

"Outreach to include in schools-so people know where to seek help." (Individual)

Theme 8: Health services

Respondents also discussed health service provision, with many of those respondents mentioning this service along with refuges, mental health services, financial assistance, prevention, among others. Some respondents highlighted the need for trauma-informed health support. While most responses did not describe the type of health services that should be available, some respondents mentioned mental health services, gynaecology services, forensic medical provision for rape and sexual assault and emergency contraception.

"Mental health support is vital, as is access to sexual health and maternity support for women who may need emergency contraception or who have been affected by an unwanted pregnancy, or sexually transmitted disease." (Individual)

Theme 9: Holistic, flexible and specialised services

Respondents mentioned the need for holistic services, described as the combination of healthcare, forensic services, mental health support, financial aid, legal advice and refuges delivered in an integrated and coordinated way. Respondents frequently mentioned that a holistic service approach will ensure that the multiple and overlapping needs of women and girls experiencing violence are addressed and the pathway for each case is flexible to each person's needs.

"In addition to thinking about the individual services that women experiencing VAWG may benefit from, there is also a need to consider the pathways of support that should be in place for women affected by VAWG within local communities. Rather than taking a siloed approach to service delivery, there is a need to adopt a joined-up, person-centred approach to supporting women who have experienced VAWG that recognises and responds to the different information and support that women may need from different services at different points in their recovery journeys." (Multi Agency Network)

Theme 10: Trained specialist staff

Lastly, a few respondents discussed the need for staff being trained in trauma-informed support. Respondents addressing this theme highlighted that this approach would prevent survivors from experiencing further trauma, although those responses do not describe in more detail the type of training required and how it will lead to a better approach.

"Services need to provide a safe space and the people providing services need to be well trained and understand trauma and its effects." (Third sector organisation)

Additionally, a few responses pointed out that women experiencing violence would benefit from interacting with staff they can relate to, such as people sharing similar cultural backgrounds, religion, as well as women who have gone through similar experiences. Finally, some respondents also highlighted the importance of having bilingual staff to interact with migrant communities.



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