Autumn Budget a missed opportunity to invest in ending VAWG

As the Chancellor announced the government’s spending plans, lack of funding for prevention work is a missed opportunity for the government to show its commitment to ending violence against women and girls.

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Today (27th October 2021) Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Autumn budget, following a comprehensive spending review to determine government spending priorities for the next three years.

EVAW led a group of violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector experts calling on the Chancellor to ensure adequate funding to provide survivors with specialist support and invest in prevention work so that fewer women become victims of male violence.

Preventing VAWG

We are disappointed that once again, the government has missed a critical opportunity to show its commitment to ending violence against women and girls by investing in prevention. This would not only ensure fewer women endure the trauma of abuse and need to access support services, but it would help tackle gender inequality by ensuring future generations are free from the threat of gendered violence.

In a year when Ofsted found almost all girls experience abuse at school, there is a serious and urgent need to tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls in society. Yet in this budget, the government has failed to make the investment needed to bring about real change.

Rape prosecutions

The Chancellor’s budget has provided an increase of over £80 million in resource funding for the Crown Prosecution Service by 2024-25. This funding is earmarked to “enable the CPS to support the work of 20,000 additional police officers and improve its response to rape and sexual assault cases, in line with the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021 ambitions set out in the government’s end-to-end Rape Review.

However, this funding will only help meet the government’s ambition of getting back to 2016 levels of charging in rape cases if coupled with the far-reaching and systematic changes that are needed to transform how our justice system responds to rape. As last week’s CPS data shows, we have still an enormous way to go and need to ensure we understand what is happening in the courtroom as well as within the police and CPS.

Victim support services

The budget will “bolster support for victims” by increasing annual funding for Ministry of Justice victim support services to over £185 million by 2024-25. This is an increase of 85% from spending in 2019-20. This funding is “set to increase the number of Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisors to over 1,000 and fund other key services such as crisis helplines.”

Estimates from Women’s Aid show that an annual investment of £409 million is needed to fund domestic abuse services. Rape Crisis have estimated that £102.7 million annually to ensure specialist sexual violence and abuse services are available for victims and survivors. While investment in supporting victims is welcome, £185 million is a drop in the ocean compared to what the sector needs to ensure no woman is turned away from support in their time of need.

What’s more, investment in support for victims does not include ringfenced funding for services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women – specialist services that are life-saving and critical in meeting women’s holistic support needs. This sector saves the public purse millions each year, yet many are on the brink of collapse from bearing the brunt of 15 years of austerity and chronic underfunding that has led many services to close. Imkaan has estimated that the total annual cost of delivering specialist support services in the Black and minoritised women and girls sector alone is over £97 million.

EVAW joins a wide section of the VAWG sector in calling for:

  • Widespread, systematic reform to how VAWG services are funded and commissioned
  • Ring-fenced funding for specialist led ‘by and for’ services
  • Funding to address the inequalities in access to support and outcomes for migrant survivors
  • Significant, multi-year commitment to investing in a national VAWG communications campaign that challenges the harmful societal attitudes that drive gender inequality and minimise VAWG
  • Radical reform of public services and policy to better support victims and survivors, such as:
    • changes in family courts
    • adult social care reform
    • an end to the ‘No Recourse to Public funds’ condition for migrant survivors
    • equal access to health care and support services for people with mental health needs
    • non-means tested legal aid for survivors

Rebecca Hitchen, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:

“In a year when we’ve seen women take to the streets in anger and distress, and wide cross-sections of society urging action against VAWG, we have yet to see government follow through on its promises with the spending needed to create any kind of meaningful change.

The absence of investment in prevention work speaks volumes about the government’s priorities – we’re facing a crisis of sexual violence in schools, but seeing an enormous gap in funding work on consent, relationships and sex education and a whole school approach to ending VAWG.

This year, we’ve had announcement after announcement of superficial, headline-grabbing measures such as increased CCTV and street lighting, but little commitment to the difficult but necessary work to challenge the public attitudes that perpetuate and normalise VAWG. Violence against women and girls isn’t inevitable, but it will require bold and ambitious spending if we are to end it.”

ENDS

Media information

EVAW contact: Sinead Geoghegan Tel: 07960 744 502 Email: [email protected]

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