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The Changing Landscape of Domestic and Sexual Violence Services: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence Inquiry

The landscape of sexual violence and domestic violence services has changed drastically over the last five years. The violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector has faced disproportionate cuts in funding compared to other parts of the voluntary and community sector. This has coincided with the devolution of commissioning responsibilities and the introduction of new commissioning processes.

This inquiry has highlighted key areas of concern regarding the ability of services to meet women’s needs:

• The current emphasis on services that are oriented towards achieving criminal justice outcomes instead of meeting needs is distorting service delivery and damaging long term outcomes for women and children;

• A move away from accessible and inclusive women-led services with no understanding or analysis of what the impact of this will be;

• A lack of engagement from the health sector;

• The impact of localism and absence of commissioner accountability; and

• The loss of knowledge and expertise built up over the past forty years or more.

The funding and commissioning of sexual violence and domestic violence services have been the leading cause of uncertainty and instability. Funding issues include:

• Short term contracts and funding for services;

• Poor or inappropriate commissioning practices;

• A lack of accurate information about the prevalence of particular types of violence against women and girls and their impact on particular groups;

• Misunderstanding of the Public Sector Equality Duty and a neglect of the UK’s international duties and responsibilities on equality;

• Lack of effort on the part of commissioners to understand the specifi c impacts achieved by specialist, independent services;

• Lack of engagement with local VAWG specialists in order to inform the assessment of local need, or the development of service specifi cation to meet that need;

• Impact of the “localism” approach adopted by central government on overall accountability for the impact of local commissioning on women and girls fleeing and recovering from violence and abuse;

• Historical lack of funding and engagement from the health sector for sexual violence and domestic violence services.This report explores the above themes and puts forward some recommendations to ensure the needs of women and girls are met in the way most likely to promote their empowerment, recovery and independence in the long term.

There is no doubt that the government is committed to taking a fi rm stand against sexual violence and domestic violence. However, there needs to be clear accountability, leadership and guidance for local commissioners to ensure the current commissioning and funding trajectory is reversed and that vital specialist support for victims and survivors remains available in the future.