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 services should be available for children and young people experiencing any form of violence against women and girls?
246 responses were analysed for this question of which 173 were submitted by individuals and 73 by organisations. Of those organisations, 8 were local authorities/governments, 4 were NHS organisations, 43 were third sector organisations, and 18 were classified as "other" or did not specify. The themes emerging from the qualitative analysis of the free-text responses to this question are presented below.
Theme 1: Counselling and mental health services
Most frequently, respondents highlighted the importance of counselling and mental health support to children and young people experiencing any form of VAWG, including their families. This included 1-to-1 therapy sessions, peer support, group sessions, and play therapy.
Some responses highlighted the need for age-appropriate emotional and practical support as well as resources. Another issue brought was the need for language support to promote inclusivity, as well as removing barriers to access to services as a result of race, sexual orientation, and disabilities. Lastly, some responses expressed that people with complex needs may require specific support (e.g. disabled children).
"Services should be available and provide in-person contact post-pandemic as part of essential safeguarding. Services should provide information and training to professionals working with children about the impact of domestic abuse, how this can effect children and young people and to help prevent retraumatising children in thier daily environments." (Third sector organisation)
"A quicker route to psychological therapies to address trauma as we have told by clients that current NHS waiting lists are 2-3 years long." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 2: Prevention, advocacy and education
Responses also discussed the need for prevention and education on topics related to VAWG. This included preventative work in primary and secondary schools, emotional literacy, workshops, and teachers training. Additionally, risk assessment and safety planning were mentioned by respondents as a tool to help identify and respond to the needs of children and young people experiencing VAWG at an early stage and ensure they have a say in decisions made about their lives. A few responses called for advocacy around court hearings and court appointed services that will allow for a better representation of children and young people views.
"Young people should be given information about healthy relationships and tools to recognise unhealthy warning signs that are age and stage appropriate." (Third sector organisation)
"Preventative work and awareness raising to allow young people to recognise when they're in this situation […] healthy relationships and expectations on how you should be treated and how to treat others." (Local Authority)
Theme 3: Safe refuges and housing arrangements
The third most common response concerned the need for safe refuges, emergency housing and accommodation for victims and families experiencing any form of VAWG. Some respondents also mentioned that the perpetrator should be removed from the family home. A few responses highlighted that refuges and housing arrangements should be of high quality and staff working on refuges should be specially trained to support victims of VAWG.
"Support needs to be more comprehensive to assist non-violent partner to remain in their home; with perpetrator of violence the person who is removed from the property. This should be done so that non-violent parents are able to maintain their social supports, children can continue to attend their own schools and continue to maintain their activities and friendships. Where the above is not possible, emergency housing should be readily available and suitable to non-violent partner's needs. No traumatised woman or family should be moved into unsuitable housing." (Individual)
Theme 4: Single-sex services and facilities
Respondents mentioned the need for provision of single-sex services and facilities for children and young people experiencing VAWG. Respondents frequently pointed out that such facilities and services are key to ensure safety of women and girls experiencing, or have experienced, violence. A few responses explained that single-sex services are needed for women and girls not to be further traumatised when receiving support.
"Single sex services should be available so that females are not further traumatised by dealing with men. However, men should not be present where the female victim has been the victim of male violence. It should not be on offer as a young and vulnerable girl or young woman may feel pressured into saying yes. It must be single sex." (Individual)
"Girls are even more vulnerable than women. Forcing them to share these spaces with biological men and boys would be a massive and deliberate safeguarding failure." (Individual)
Theme 5: Highly skilled personnel and sufficient funding
Responses requested highly skilled personnel and specialists to provide services challenging VAWG and highlighted that professionals should be trained on the subject and have a strong understanding of the needs of the people they come in contact with. In particular, respondents consider that staff should have an intersectional understanding of gender based violence (GBV) and how it affects different faith groups, the LGBT+ community, disabled people, and other groups with complex needs. Some respondents also highlighted the fact that personnel should be aware of the needs of children and young people, in particular, regarding how VAWG affects their development.
"Specialist support must be available to children and young people affected by domestic abuse, sexual violence, or other forms of trauma/ abuse. Staff should have a strong understanding of children's rights and child development, and should be skilled in working specifically with children and young people." (Organisation)
"Services should ensure that staff supporting children and young people are different to those who support their parents to ensure children and young people's voices are heard, their needs are met, and their rights are upheld. Staff in support services must have a strong intersectional understanding of GBV, and should be aware of the nuanced dynamics of abuse experienced by particular groups, including LGBT, BME, faith groups, neurodivergent and disabled people etc." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 6: Practical, legal and financial support
Some respondents discussed the types of practical support that should be provided. According to those respondents, the support could take the form of healthcare, financial support, social work, employment support, and legal information and advice so they are aware of their rights and able to navigate the criminal justice system. A few respondents stressed that measures against perpetrators should be stronger and more proactive, prohibiting them from contacting the non-violent parent and/or child.
"Many young women suggested that to leave an unhealthy or abusive relationship, financial support would be needed. Access to healthcare, navigating police support and social work support was also described, but that they would need to be supported to do this, either through a support worker or advocate. A few people said they wouldn't contact the police or social work, because of a lack of trust due to their own bad experiences, or perceptions of these services." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 7: Helplines, specialist forensic services and crisis support
The next most frequently mentioned theme was the availability of a helpline which children and young people needing support and advice could contact and receive crucial help and information. A few respondents mentioned the helpline could take the form of chat or message services, available 24/7. Additionally, respondents highlighted the need for specialist forensic services and crisis support where children and young people experiencing any form of violence against women and girls could get immediate expert advice and assessment.
"Single-sex advice lines, chat or message services, therapy, and refuges with help to set up on their own where required." (Individual)
Other themes that emerged from some responses comprised the importance of children and young people to have safe contact arrangements and confidential reporting networks, access to the same services as adults and support at school with an emphasis in preserving their social life.
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