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UK Policy Briefing

Funding for violence against women and girls services: Briefing for a new government

This briefing covers funding for specialist services for victim/survivors of violence against women and girls.


Violence against women and girls (VAWG) includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and financial abuse; stalking; harassment and coercion; forced marriage; so-called honour-based violence and female genital mutilation; child sex abuse; modern slavery; trafficking; pornography; and online abuse.

More than one in four women will experience domestic abuse during their lifetime, and one in four women have experienced rape or sexual assault as an adult.


  • Specialist services to support victims/survivors of VAWG are underfunded. Over 60% of referrals to refuges supporting women in England in 2022-23 were declined. There are 14,000 survivors on the Rape Crisis waiting list.
  • The design of the Home Office’s £8.4 million VAWG Support and Specialist Services (VSSS) fund launched in 2023 did not meet the needs of specialist women’s organisations. The definitions and criteria enabled generic, non-specialist organisations to access this funding.
  • Importantly, the investment announced for the VAWG sector did not include ringfenced funding for services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women.

Investing in prevention measures in schools

  • Despite wide-spread calls within the sector to invest in prevention measures in schools, there has been a failure to invest in tackling the root causes of violence against women and girls in society.

Legal aid

  • Legal aid has been cut for family law cases, although there is an exception where there has been domestic violence. However, victims must report the violence to the police or to a health practitioner, something many women are not prepared to do.
  • The Women’s Budget Group found that ‘domestic violence’ is one of the main issues women seek legal help/advice for (48% of survey respondents). 85% of respondents said vulnerable women are unable to access civil legal aid.

Rape prosecutions

  • The number of adult rape cases in the Crown Court outstanding caseload increased by 346% between 2019 and 2023.
  • However, in the final quarter of 2023, the average mean time from receipt to completion for adult rape cases was 366 days compared with 240 for all offences.
  • Despite an increase in cases, the percentage of victims who drop out of the legal process, (particularly at police investigation stage) has continued to rise and now sits at 61%.

No recourse to public funds

  • The ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule, which prevents survivors accessing certain benefits or services, can be used by an abuser to frighten survivors into staying with them, and make it impossible for survivors to find a refuge space.
  • Leaving can be difficult or impossible if the survivor has no access to benefits. This has been worsened by benefit cuts, including reductions in crisis support from local welfare assistance schemes.

 Social security

  • The social security system is failing survivors of violence and abuse when they need it most.
  • Poverty resulting from the benefit cap, two-child limit or other social security cuts can leave survivors trapped with an abusive partner.
  • Payment of universal credit (UC) into a single bank account can make women more vulnerable to economic abuse. Survivors may also be sanctioned for not applying for jobs that would put them at risk, such as near the perpetrator’s home or workplace


  • A commitment to long-term grant funding for specialist women’s services, including ringfenced funding for services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, Deaf and disabled women and LGBT+ survivors.
  • Ensure all migrant survivors can access protection and support services.
  • More specialist training for police dealing with VAWG cases.
  • Restore women’s access to justice through a commitment to clearing court backlogs and increasing legal aid funding and availability.
  • Invest in prevention measures in schools to address the root causes of violence against women and girls.
  • Reform social security (including uprating benefits and scrapping the benefits cap and two-child limit) to ensure women’s economic independence and their ability to leave abusive relationships.