‘Deeply unjust’ postcode lottery risks domestic abuse victims' lives, says commissioner

Domestic Abuse Commissioner Credit: PA Media

There is a “deeply unjust” postcode lottery putting the lives of victims at risk, the domestic abuse commissioner has warned in a report that maps services nationally for the first time.

New research shows huge regional inequalities in access to support across England and Wales, according to findings released ahead of a more detailed report later this week.

Data was collected by the Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, from more than 4,000 victims and survivors, 500 service providers and 150 local commissioners.

Findings suggest counselling is the most in-demand service, but there was a 21 percentage point difference in the ability of victims and survivors to access such support between the highest-performing area (58% in the north east of England) and lowest-performing area (37% in Wales).

There were also significant variations in accessing mental healthcare, with 47% able to receive it in the north east of England compared to 31% in the South West, according to the commissioner’s office.

And more than half of survivors reported wanting their perpetrators to receive support to change their behaviour, but this was accessed in just 7% of cases overall, according to the findings.

Victims have also reported wanting the perpetrators to receive support to change their behaviour. Credit: PA

The report also suggests black and minority ethnic domestic violence victims find it particularly difficult to access support.

Within this group, 78% said they felt safest using “by and for” services – organisations that are designed and delivered by and for minority groups – but only 51% were able to access them.

The commissioner has urged the government to take on 29 recommendations made in the report, which include a £263 million national funding pot for “by and for” services over three years.

She is also calling for an amendment to the Victims Bill to place a duty on local commissioners to conduct needs assessments along with a new central government obligation to provide adequate funding to meet that need.

Ms Jacobs said: “Who you are and where you live decides whether you will get access to domestic abuse services. This postcode lottery is deeply unjust and puts lives at risk.

“Help and support is available, but it can be patchy because of the chronic lack of funding for services. It is too often short-term and insecure, and some organisations – particularly those run ‘by and for’ minoritised communities – find it almost impossible to access any statutory funding at all.

“Lives remain at risk if this is not tackled with urgency.”

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