Mayor’s £15m boost to tackle violence against women and girls
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced he is to invest an additional £15 million to help services that support women and girls who have been the victim of violence in London.
The money from business rates will provide resources for stretched domestic abuse charities, increase support for victims and survivors, and support hard-to-reach communities. Sadiq said Government funding cuts had left services ‘at breaking point’.
The investment comes as new figures reveal the true scale of domestic violence in the capital. Published today, as the Mayor visited the Drive programme in Croydon - which is part-funded by City Hall - alongside representatives from the sector, the ‘Beneath the Numbers’ report by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime shows that domestic abuse offences in London increased by 63 per cent between 2011 and 2018. It also found that last year three quarters of victims were female and that victims were more likely to live in more deprived areas. In 2018 there were 29 domestic homicides – up from nine the previous year.
Supporting victims and survivors is becoming more difficult – they need help navigating the complex criminal justice system, often live in unsuitable accommodation and many have mental health needs. While there is increased demand on crucial support services, victims can now face long wait times for assistance because of chronic underfunding of support services by the government.
National figures in 2017 showed that, under this government, demand for women’s services rose by 83 per cent, while funding fell by 50 per cent1. In London, while 15 per cent of all recorded sexual offences take place in the capital, only six per cent2 of government funding comes to London, leaving services at crisis point.
This is having an impact on victims. Nearly two-thirds of referrals to support services between the end of 2017 and the summer of 2018 were unsuccessful. Rape Crisis Centres across the capital have been regularly forced to close their waiting lists and, for the first time in the middle of 2018, all four centres closed their lists due to demand3.
Sadiq is determined to do what he can to support the sector. Today’s £15m investment comes on top of his Violence Against Women and Girls strategy, which committed to investing £10m each year in a series of programmes that deliver ongoing support for victims and survivors and fund rehabilitation projects for perpetrators of domestic violence.
He has also invested £6.8m in the Violence Reduction Unit, which is tackling the root causes of crime, including domestic violence, by bringing communities and partners in criminal justice, police, health and education together as part of a public health approach to tackling violent crime.
The Mayor has this week written to the Home Secretary, asking the government to play its part and reverse the huge cuts the sector is struggling with, as well as properly fund the police. He also said he would continue to raise awareness of violence against women and girls in London, and work with the sector to communicate this to the public to reduce domestic abuse and violence.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Service takes a robust approach to tackling domestic violence, and safeguarding victims. Operation Athena is the Met’s strategic response to domestic abuse offending across London, with the long-term aim of improving investigations and bringing more offenders to justice.
There are also regular proactive operations across the capital targeting perpetrators, with the latest phase of activity due to take place this week in east London.
In May 2018, the Met launched the Stalking Threat Assessment Centre (STAC) - a unique multi-agency service which aims to improve the overall response to stalking offences for victims, with more effective early interventions.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I am appalled that more Londoners, especially women and girls, are experiencing these devastating crimes which so often happen behind closed doors.
“The number of people killed by someone they knew in our city is shocking and I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure dangerous offenders are dealt with, and that victims and survivors get access to the support they need quickly to help turn their lives around.
"Support services in the capital do an amazing job, but the funding situation has left them at breaking point. Victims, some of the most vulnerable people in our society, are often having to wait a long time for help. This can’t continue- we are doing what we can and investing a further £15m, but the situation is now so bad that services are having to close their doors and turn people away.
“I am committed to working with the sector to tackle violence against women and girls. We not only need to raise awareness of issues like domestic violence, but we need to target perpetrators and support victims by ensuring services have what they need.
“We can’t do this alone. Domestic abuse in London has increased by two thirds since 2011 and we’ve seen funding from central government fall. We need Ministers to show they are taking this issue seriously and provide proper investment for the police and long-term funding solutions for overworked and overstretched support services.”
Marai Larasi, Executive Director Imkaan, said: “Violence against women and girls continues to affect thousands of us across London and we need urgent, widespread change at every level. This can only happen if this becomes a priority for enough of us, and in a time of such deep uncertainty it is far too easy for violence against women and girls to fall off the agenda. We welcome the Mayor and his team reaffirming their commitment to ensuring that London is a safe city for girls, women and their children- particularly shining a light on the dedicated services that are underfunded despite being a lifeline for BME women and girls.”
Mary Mason, Chief Executive of Solace Women’s Aid, said: “The Mayor’s commitment to shining a light on violence against women and girls is exceptionally important and welcome. Many women who experience domestic violence also face other forms of violence, and for some, this is part of a lifetime of abuse. It is vital that we understand how domestic violence impacts the whole of society and all our public services.”
Sara, a survivor of domestic abuse, said: “During the years I struggled with low self-esteem as a result of years of abuse. I was moved around a lot but wasn’t able to find the help I needed. I was eventually was placed in a Solace refuge where they supported me to rebuild my life. If only I’d had this support earlier, I might have been able to avoid some of the abuse. Now I can finally see a future, a life ahead of me.”
Joan Smith, Chair of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls board, said: “The public has yet to realise how widespread sexual violence is, even at a time when incidents in the capital have increased by almost two thirds since 2011. The Mayor’s commitment to the issue is a significant step in highlighting this problem, which blights many women’s lives – especially in deprived areas of London where people are more likely to become victims. I fully support Sadiq’s call for the government to step up funding for victims, who desperately need – but don’t have - swift access to counselling and other essential services, including spaces in refuges.”
Sarah Green, Co-Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “Sadiq’s determination to shine a light on the way harassment and abuse can affect women all through our lives is extremely welcome. London is a place where we prize equality, freedom and respect for all, but sexual and domestic violence is stopping women and girls being free and living the lives they choose. We hope Sadiq’s renewed commitment to ensuring support and protection for abuse survivors, and tackling perpetrators, will make our city one of the best places to grow up as a girl, and live as a woman, in the world.”
Diana Fawcett, Chief Officer, Victim Support, said: “It’s shocking to see such a huge rise in incidents of violence against women and girls in the last eight years. It’s important that those affected know there is support available to them, whether or not they have reported the abuse to the police.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities, said: “It’s great to have the Mayor visit Drive today - I welcome his additional investment, which will make a major difference to survivors and their families. We know that one in four perpetrators of domestic violence are repeat offenders, which is why we’re proud Croydon is leading the way in piloting the Drive programme for London, which is designed to hold high risk perpetrators of domestic violence to account, and achieve a lasting change in their behaviour.”
Notes to editors
1 – Women’s Resource Centre: Hearing Women's Voices - Why Women 2018
2 - London Sexual Violence Needs Assessment https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sexual_violence_needs_assessment_report_2016.pdf
3 - Women’s Resource Centre: Hearing Women's Voices - Why Women 2018
- Link to ‘Beneath the Numbers’ report here: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/201902_beneath_the_numbers_-_an_exploration_of_the_increases_of_recorded_domestic_abuse_and_sexual_offences.pdf
- The table outlines the London homicide figures between 2012-2019 that are categorised in terms of cause of death:
- In 2017 in the UK, demand for women-only services rose by 83 per cent while funding fell by 50 per cent - Women’s Resource Centre: Hearing Women's Voices - Why Women 2018
- MOPAC provides 56 per cent of the funding for the Drive site in London, while the remainder is provided by the Home Office.
- Rape Crisis Centres regularly close their waiting lists and for the first time, during 2018, all four centres in London closed their lists at the same time due to the unprecedented demand
- In 2016, 64 per cent of all referrals during the year were unsuccessful because demand was so high that services were unable to cope.
- Funding to the women’s sector across the country has reduced drastically in the last decade. Many women’s organisations have closed or are under threat of closure because of the funding crisis.
- Government cuts have disproportionately affected women’s organisations, with local authority spending on services for vulnerable women being cut by an average of £44,914 for each council in 2013.
- Analysis shows the level of offending (30 per cent) was higher in areas with greater levels of deprivation, often located in inner boroughs, compared to others (11 per cent).
- Q4 17/18 to Q3 18/19, 1215 women were successful in accessing refuges. 1896 were unsuccessful meaning that 60 per cent of those in London that tried to access provision unable to use this service.
- Sadiq will also be making submissions to the Joint Committee of Human Rights about the government’s hugely disappointing Domestic Abuse Bill, setting out key asks that require national leadership and funding. These include:
- To ensure every victim has access to a Domestic Abuse Advocate who is trained to understand how power and control can play out in court, to support and engage with the system on their behalf- and increase funding for these advocates
- To support the introduction of a Domestic Abuse offenders register, similar to the one that is currently used for sex offenders
- Strengthen orders and ensure greater enforcement and sanctions for offenders who breach their terms
- To provide additional support and training for teachers and professionals at schools to help them identify and act on sexually violent or abusive incidents at school