In this #NOMORE blog, I’ll be discussing domestic abuse service cuts, refuges and the inequality of provision for men women and children across the UK. I’ll give an overview of concerns about the impact of cuts to vital services and breach of human rights.
I was recently asked to pass comment on The Guardian article regarding refuge provision, or should I say, ‘errosion’ of (?) Which, in itself is an absolute breach of Human Rights, Articles 1-13 for a start.
Two women a week are murdered in the UK, every week, due to domestic abuse and that is just the cases where it is acknowledged there was/has been domestic abuse. How many women and children are murdered that are under the domestic abuse radar – is insurmountable.
Theresa May is aware of these facts, but with her refusal to ringfence finance to refuge services alone, in my view, suggests that she and her department have no interest in reducing the affects of domestic abuse, even when that is specifically linked to murder of women and children. And reference to Local Authority (LA’s) focusing funds on ‘preventative work’ is good in ethos, but preventative cannot address crisis. Services need to be more transparent and holistic. In areas where LA’s have already put a lot of their funds into preventative practices in the UK, I still hear on my training events, those preventative workers whether they’re based in health, education, social care or law, “We cant get there soon enough can we?”
However despite this we are seeing devastating domestic abuse service cuts. Refuges themselves definitely are needed, it seems abhorrent for that to even be questioned. But in some cases, I feel, practices have become siloe’d. In these cases for improvement of experience for the victims, they would benefit an assessment of how their service is delivered. Where there are poor practices – and I must make it clear, I am not stating this be the case with all refuges, by any stretch; there are many good provisions that offer a quality Person Centered focused package of support.
But at points over the years in my working life supporting victims and indeed, when I was put in refuge myself, good practice was clearly not part of the focus of support. As a professional in that arena it has, in some cases been the awful position of placing women and children in refuges because there is nothing else available. This isn’t a positive experience for the women or children and that alone, reinforces to them, that they should stay where they are, rather than going to refuge – this puts lives at risk, quite simply. You only have to read the multiples of Serious Case Reviews up and down the Country, to demonstrate that fact.
With the additional honing down of budgets and therefore provision, even where there are robust good practices, there is insufficient peripheral support for the refuge service to be fully effective in making women and children feel safe – hence victims often go back to their abusers – because the experience of anticipation and constantly looking over one’s shoulder is frightening and exhausting.
Up until the recession we were well aware that if peripheral services were not available to women on leaving refuge, then the long term positive outcome for her and/or her children is poor, because services – or lack of, leaves her unable to turn anywhere else, other than returning to the perpetrator. The lack of effective support reinforces the beliefs of victims, that they are undeserving or that they have no other option ie there is no other way and that their experiences are the ‘norm’.
As quoted in the article, some Local Authorities; Gloucestershire, Cheshire, Devon, Dorset, Sheffield, Nottingham, Somerset, Leeds, Leicestershire and Coventry, are considering or have cut funding and subsequently refuge’s have been closed on the various premise’s that are noted in the article, including where refuge’s made no provision for male victims. To state that without a provision for men, refuge’s must close, is clearly a patriarchal and oppressive decision. Im all in favour of Equality & Diversity in all areas of life, in fact I uphold this as an essential part of intelligent progress of civil society and the Human Race. But how meaningful and comfortable is that for male victims to be an ‘add-on’ to a women and children focused service delivery? Are these LA’s stating men and women are the same? Are the male victims always deamed heterosexual? Are these LA’s stating gay, bisexual or Trans communities wouldn’t become victims of domestic abuse? Effectively in practice these LA’s are stating ‘yes, all victims are the same’. Which feels very much like a return to the archaic one size fits all practices. I can only count my blessings that I am a long standing survivor and no longer an employee within the sector, during these changes.
Additionally to that, female heterosexual victims experiences in abusive relationships, is not even being acknowledged by these practices of mixed gender provision. Often victims have to re learn that trust of males is feasible without fear of abuse – but this takes time, support and intervention of services.
For children also, who only see/experience male aggression and violence, instinctively fear all males – based on their imbalanced and negative experiences. This is human behaviour, it is something which has enabled the evolution of our race, yet effectively, we chastise those who defer to instinct. This makes no sense at all. Back in the ‘70s we viewed domestic abuse as a womens issue. Now however we have a greater intelligence in that it is a mens and womens issue as both parts are involved. But not to overlook the fact that males always have the entrenched upper hand due to historical embedded practices of patriarchy, as our global societies have evolved. So undoubtedly we need to clearly demonstrate our understanding of the facts, that;
- Victims can be female or male
- Perpetrators can be female or male
- Abuses across society be they in the home or on the front line, are held in place with the reinforcements throughout our global society since the beginning of time.
It is not a surprise to myself and I imagine to many others in the field, that the LA commissioning processes are clearly designed to legitimise decisions around key and bespoke services being reduced or cut. Where are the ethics? To meet a need there has to be a robust and equipped provision available at point of need. LA’s commissioning on a pay by results basis for such services is an abomination in itself. Its oppressive, irresponsible and ultimately demeaning to victims. In my view there has been a definitive shift away from meeting the needs of women and children who are victims of domestic abuse with the introduction of various commissioning processes over the years. Back in the early 2000’s Supporting People came into the field. At this time I was working in a Safe House; a confidential address, place of safety. The commissioning processes at this time swung over wholey to Supporting People funds – due to little else available and the fact that they held huge funds, putting the service providers in a position of no choice really. And this in my view, began the change of practices significantly; where workers had to account for every minute of their time in the work place and had to evidence that, with reams of paper work. This immediately took away the focus to support the extremely traumatised women and children, who are informed they’ll be placed in safety and support. But this isn’t fully achievable when theres 6hrs of paper work to do to validate activity of an 8hr shift. Emotional and practical support is a huge part of supporting victims especially in a refuge scenario but also beyond that. To have changed commissioning that changes practice in such a way, yet again, deems a victim no way out from living with the abuse and fear.
I would echo Sandra Horley’s comment regarding UK society returning to the ‘Cathy Come Home’ era of the ‘60’s. Interestingly, other than reflecting back on progress of how society functions. We also have knowledge and evidence learnt from others across the world. Such as, in South Africa a women is murdered in relation to domestic abuse, every 6hrs of every day of every week, month, year and so on. In Spain 100% of homeless women have lived with domestic abuse. Is this the type of society government wants to take the UK back into? To unlearn? More importantly, is this the message we want to give victims – who are predominantly women and children?
Ultimately what needs to be done long term across the populous is a clear message on what is right and wrong in reference to interactions with others around us, some, in intimate areas of our lives and others much more distant.
- Until we implement effective and meaningful convictions and opportunities to change – to victims and perpetrators,
- Until we acknowledge and give clear messages to both victims and perpetrators, be they female or male,
- Until we enable a learning for us all to understand ourselves better…
Then we will continue to suffer 2 women murdered every week in the UK, we will continue to abuse and distort our next generations view of how things are and how things are dealt with.
We know the emotional, social and financial cost in terms of billions of pounds every year, which really only reflects the cost of service interventions/take up. Someone once said, “We cant unlearn what we’ve already learned”. Yet with domestic abuse governments and LA’s perpetually ‘unlearn’ on every level. Leaving not just service provision as letting down victims, be they adults or children, but the whole of so called, civil society does too. This alone, leaves victims carrying blame and shame and unsupported to change the direction of their life journey.
Councillor Brenda Dowd’s comment in the article on fear of women becoming institutionalised is an insult and clearly demonstrates her ignorance of not just domestic abuse, but also effective support and what it looks like. Going back to the learned/unlearned theory, we know that for a family unit to survive and stabilise especially after significant trauma, requires intense multi agency support, often for a minimum of a year. When done effectively and at the pace the individual can manage, this approach has long term positive and sustainable outcomes. And this is what service provision should look and feel like.
The practices and decisions discussed here is why CWC continues to campaign and is saying #NOMORE. I have worked with the Freedom Programme since 2003 and I know when delivered effectively with the relevant emotional, practical and therapeutic support around it – it is the most cost effective, empowering, sustainable model we have, in understanding domestic abuse. Whether we’re a victim, a perpetrator, adult, child, commissioner, therapist, refuge worker…the list goes on, the Freedom Programme gives us the tools to identify it, work with it effectively and enable lives to be saved &/or changed.
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