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Domestic and Sexual Abuse

We’re investing in new approaches, campaigns and research to influence and improve policy and practice for people affected by domestic and sexual abuse and the specialist charities working with them

How we're Influencing Policy and Practice

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Sustaining Specialist Domestic Abuse Services

Improving Domestic Abuse Commissioning

Tackling Perpetrators

Helping Charities to Influence Change


Sustaining Specialist Domestic Abuse Services

Changes to the way government funding is distributed have left many domestic and sexual abuse specialist charities under threat. Through our funding, we’ve sought to help specialist services to survive and thrive.


Many of the charities we fund receive government funding for some of their services. This funding often underpins most of their work. It means money from funders like the Foundation can be used to provide complementary support and meet needs holistically. Yet changes to commissioning (how government decides what to fund and how) have made it much more difficult for specialist local charities to access funding. Grants have shifted to contracts and have often grown to cover more services and bigger geographical areas. As a result, small and specialist charities with deep local knowledge and relationships are too often struggling to survive.


While we want to improve commissioning in the long term, we need to make sure that specialist local services survive now. To do that, we’ve supported the Women’s Aid Federation of England and Imkaan Sustainability Partnership in England and Welsh Women’s Aid in Wales to work closely with specialist charities.


They have helped local specialist services prepare for and be more successful in bidding for government funding. Charities that have been supported through this work have gone on to receive more than £27m in government contracts – and this may even be over £33m if contracts are extended. 


Charities have also received help on partnership development, improved impact measurement and service standards accreditation. Charities have been supported to explore other funding opportunities alongside income from commissioning. We hope that this will help them become stronger in the longer term.


Women’s Aid, Imkaan and Welsh Women’s Aid have also worked directly with commissioners to help them with needs assessments, broker relationships and support them to adopt more collaborative approaches. Through this, they have been able to find out more about commissioners’ approaches and have identified some key areas of promising practice to build on.


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Improving Domestic Abuse Commissioning

Commissioning is the process government uses to decide what services it should fund and how it should fund them. We’ve been working with the sector to help commissioners adopt processes which enable specialist domestic abuse services to access vital funding.


We know that commissioning can be a huge challenge for small charities. Changes to domestic abuse commissioning have led to particularly acute challenges for local specialist services. There has been a shift from grants to contacts. These contracts have grown, including more services and covering bigger geographical areas. Local specialist providers have been pushed out, with services transferred to bigger, more generic providers.


This presents a huge problem for small charities’ survival and the quality of the service available to victims and survivors.


While it’s important that charities are supported to survive under the current commissioning environment, we also need to push for changes to commissioning if specialist services are to thrive in the long-term.


Working with Imkaan, SafeLives, Welsh Women’s Aid and Women’s Aid Federation for England, we have developed toolkits to support collaborative commissioning. These toolkits were developed following discussions with survivors, providers and commissioners.


In Wales, we published a Collaborative Commissioning Toolkit which Welsh Government recommends commissioners should follow in their statutory guidance.


In England, the Home Office built the toolkit into their Violence Against Women and Girls: Commissioning Toolkit.


Our funding to support specialist services to survive has helped to embed these toolkits with commissioners. Imkaan, Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid have used the toolkits in their work with commissioners, running workshops and sharing the resource.


We’ve also submitted evidence to government calling for new approaches to commissioning for domestic abuse services – you can read some of our consultation responses below:


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Tackling Perpetrators

While support for domestic abuse victims and survivors will always be the first priority, efforts to tackle domestic abuse must go further. If we are ever to end the cycle of abuse, we must do more to challenge those who perpetrate it.


Each year, more than 100,000 people in the UK are at high and imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured as a result of domestic abuse. Yet fewer than 1% of perpetrators receive a specialist intervention to change – an intervention that could prevent future abuse.


Too often, people have asked ‘why doesn’t she leave?’ rather than ‘why doesn’t he stop?’.


Perpetrators’ behaviour needs to be challenged, rather than leaving them to continue their abuse with more victims.


We invested £1m in Drive to tackle this.


Drive is a new approach to tackling high-risk domestic abuse perpetrators’ behaviour. It was developed by Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance, with the Foundation as the lead charitable funder.


Over the three-year pilot, Drive worked with over 100 high-risk perpetrators. The approach brings together individual case management alongside a coordinated multi-agency response. Drive case managers challenge perpetrators to address their behaviour as well as disrupting their opportunity to abuse by working closely with police and other agencies. They also try to address other issues such as substance misuse, housing and mental health which can increase the risk to victims and stand in the way of changing a perpetrator’s behaviour.


Importantly, Drive works closely with IDVAs (Independent Domestic Violence Advisors) to strengthen the safety of victims and to reduce the risk of abuse continuing.


The approach is being evaluated by the University of Bristol and the results from two years are positive, including:

  • reduction of physical abuse by two thirds
  • reduction of sexual abuse by over three quarters
  • reduction of controlling and jealous behaviour and harassment and stalking behaviour by more than half
  • 30% reduction in police-recorded incidents of Domestic Abuse when Drive was involved, compared to no change when Drive was not involved


The initial three-year pilot has now spread to new areas and we’re continuing to call on government to prioritise a long-term cross-governmental strategic response to ending domestic abuse. This must be backed by funding to support the expansion of victim and survivor services alongside high-quality perpetrator interventions.


We’re also supporting ten charities to gain Respect accreditation, recognising the need to ensure perpetrator interventions are of the highest quality, particularly with regards to safeguarding victims and survivors.


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Helping Charities to Influence Change

Across the domestic and sexual abuse sectors, charities are pushing for change to improve the response for victims and survivors – whether that’s changes to services, attitudes or systems. We support them to do this with funding to help them influence across a range of specialisms.


In 2017 we launched Transform, a one-off funding programme for the domestic and sexual abuse sectors. Through this programme, we helped charities to influence policy, build the evidence base, develop and share models and develop partnerships across a range of areas. 


Through Transform, 16 projects have achieved important changes, including:

  • 38 services accredited/working towards accreditation for the quality standards for services supporting male victims/survivors of sexual violence
  • A city-wide policy statement on supporting adult survivors or childhood sexual abuse adopted by statutory bodies in Leeds
  • £600k secured to deliver sexual violence support as a region-wide consortium
  • New guidance adopted by police around immigration controls
  • 11 local Champions’ Networks developed, improving the response to domestic abuse across a range of services
  • Reports and evidence used to influence the Domestic Abuse Bill

You can find out more about each of the projects here.

Throughout the programme, we brought Transform projects together to share learning, build connections and develop their expertise. They were supported to develop a Theory of Change and access mentoring support through external evaluators, DMSS. 


You can read more about what was learned through this approach in our programme evaluation.


The Domestic Abuse Bill presents a landmark opportunity to introduce a step-change in the response to domestic abuse. We have supported policy capacity at Women’s Aid Federation of England, aimed at helping to coordinate the sector’s influence on the Bill, to ensure the legislation reflects the sector’s expertise and needs. Alongside this, we have provided both written and oral evidence to Government and the Joint Committee examining the Bill, highlighting the expertise and vital work of the charities we fund. It’s critical that the Bill ensures all victims and survivors get the support they need and that perpetrators’ behaviour is challenged. For the Bill to be effective, it must be backed up with sustainable, long term funding for domestic abuse services.


The charities we fund are also using their expertise to influence Lloyds Banking Group’s practice and services. We’ve helped small charities to shape how the Group improves its response to colleagues and customers affected by domestic abuse. By sharing their knowledge of where victims and survivors face difficulties with financial services, grant holders have helped the Bank to make improvements. Importantly, these charities have also acted as a critical friend, helping the Bank to think through whether their proposed ideas will work in practice.


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Further Reading

You can read and watch our submissions to government to push for change on domestic abuse: