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 role should third sector organisations play in the provision of specialist services to women, children and young people experiencing violence against women and girls?
234 responses were analysed for this question of which 159 were submitted by individuals and 75 by organisations. The organisations that answered this question included 8 local authorities/governments, 4 NHS organisations, 44 third sector organisations, and 19 classified as "other" or did not specify. There were eight themes emerging from the qualitative analysis of the free-text responses to this question
Theme 1: Provision of mental health support
The most common theme was suggesting that third sector organisations should offer mental health support to women, children, and young people experiencing VAWG – particularly through crisis support services and help with the development of coping mechanisms. Respondents believed these provisions would offer immediate and impactful assistance to those currently in need of support.
Some responses highlighted the importance of mental health support concerning self-confidence building as this would help individuals experiencing VAWG to escape from abusive environments, move on from the trauma, and make their own choices. Lastly, some respondents suggested counselling and peer support groups, which were believed to allow survivors to openly express their feelings, come to terms with their trauma and find solidarity.
"The organisation should also support the service user by empowering them to make decisions regarding their own safety and experiences of violence/abuse." (Third Sector Organisation)
"They should give the person the feeling that they are in control, that they are heard and validated, and that they are safe." (Individual)
Theme 2: Provision of single-sex spaces
Responses frequently highlighted the need for single-sex spaces and emphasised that the role of third sector organisations should be the provision of single-sex spaces, run by female personnel, allowing women and girls to feel safe.
"Ensure that traumatised or vulnerable women and girls are never pressured or coerced to share any accommodations, however minor, with male people." (Individual)
Theme 3: Working in close collaboration with statutory services
Respondents frequently shared the view that third sector organisations should have a complementary role along statutory services. Respondents believed that third sector organisations should not completely replace statutory services, rather that they should complement them with more specialist provision, working in close collaboration with the rest of the sector.
"Close partnership working should ensure seamless provision of care across different sectors and organisations. Strong partnership working between local third sector organisations providing specialist VAWG services and local public sector organisations is key to seamless pathways of provision. Public sector partners provide universal services, but also provide very specialist resources such as eating disorders teams or female offenders peer support groups." (NHS organisation)
Theme 4: Offer security and comfort to victims
The feeling of comfort and safety that victims experience in third sector organisations was the next topic discussed by respondents. Specifically, respondents believed that victims of VAWG often feel intimidated by statutory services, while third sector organisations are perceived as parts of the local community, and thus they are being considered more approachable. Many responses indicated that third sector organisations should act as a bridge between victims and the statutory services, encouraging reporting of VAWG incidents, especially among hard-to-reach groups.
"Third sector organisations should provide advocacy and support, immediate safety advice, partnership working and also raise awareness about GBV. They are unique in that they can bring the voice of the lived experience to the statutory sector. They can support the statutory sector with public protection duties by ensuring that the survivors voice is heard. Women experiencing GBV might not want to approach the statutory sector out of fear, nervousness, and a reluctance to engage with authority. The third sector is more approachable and can be more accessible to particular groups of women, i.e., BME women, women with disabilities, etc, and can offer specialist services to these particular groups." (Organisation)
Theme 5: Legal aid and advocacy services
Respondents also discussed the role of third sector organisations in providing legal aid and advocacy. In particular, they highlighted that victims of VAWG may encounter difficulties navigating the legal system and may not be emotionally able to attend court proceedings. Some respondents suggested that third sector organisations should advocate both for the engagement with statutory services and the legal system.
"They [i.e. third sector organisations] can provide dedicated services to women, children and young people advocating on their behalf supporting them to engage with statutory agencies. They are able to adapt and tailor their support so the individual so that a positive outcome is achieved." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 6: Housing support and refuge
According to respondents to this question, third sector organisations should have a pivotal role in offering housing support and refuge. Respondents raised concerns about the timing and availability of these services, stating that it is key to ensure rapid allocation and wide geographic coverage. Some respondents further highlighted that refuges are also needed for children and young people, regardless of whether or not they are accompanied by an adult woman.
"[young women] understand the importance of financial support, refuge, and safe spaces, advocacy and legal support." (Third sector organisation)
"Third sector organisations can and do provide; safe and secure accommodation, counselling, emotional and practical support in a non judgemental setting." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 7: Provision of assistance and training
Some respondents suggested that third sector organisations should provide assistance to non-specialists, as well as employees of statutory organisations. The main sub-theme was the provision of training to VAWG workers and volunteers regarding trauma-informed care, types of gender-based violence, and risk assessment. The second most common sub-theme was the provision of training to non-specialists, allowing them to also support VAWG victims.
"Third sector organisations should have a greater role in the delivery of training and improving learning and knowledge across the workforce landscape. Whilst specialist knowledge and skills are essential learning can be enhanced when framed by a whole family approach. This can promote improved assessment of need for all those affected by domestic abuse (those who experience domestic abuse against them and those that perpetrate it)." (Third sector organisation)
"Supporting non-specialist professionals to meet the needs of service users most effectively and understand the complexity of VAWG." (Third sector organisation)
Theme 8: Regulation and oversight
Lastly, respondents discussed the need for regulation and oversight. While the vast majority agreed that third sector organisations should have a significant role in supporting victims of VAWG, a considerable minority believed that this role should be subject to regulations, oversight, and scrutiny in order to ensure accountability and quality provision.
"Any third sector should be closely monitored to keep from having ideological barriers put up that might prevent women from seeking help." (Individual)
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