More accessible domestic abuse services needed across the UK, research shows

22 December 2021

University-led study highlights continued value of hybrid and face-to-face support services

A new report on the provision of domestic abuse services in the UK under Covid-19 has highlighted the need for more accessible services.

The research highlighted how, during the pandemic, the domestic abuse sector in the UK pivoted rapidly to the remote delivery of services in order to meet increased and increasingly complex demands.

Led by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), the work was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

The continued value of hybrid and face-to-face support services in reducing barriers to domestic abuse support was emphasised in the report with many victims benefiting from them. However, remote services were not equally accessible for all.

In particular, the research highlighted an inadequate provision of support services for several groups, including those with complex needs, in rural communities, black and ethnic minority groups, male victims, older survivors and children and young people living with domestic abuse.

Gaps in domestic abuse provision during the pandemic were attributed to a range of factors including closures of housing services, schools and courts, digital poverty, increased levels of mental health needs, and language barriers. More targeted funding, along with more flexible and rapid funding application processes, were found to be key to closing these gaps.

"The pandemic has emphasised the need for all sectors and services to contribute to the task of responding to domestic abuse"

UCLan's Nicky Stanley, Professor of Social Work

The study also identified a significant shift in thinking towards rehousing domestic abuse perpetrators so that women and children could stay in the family home, and this approach is currently being piloted in London.

The research revealed that over the last year, public messages and media coverage have increased public and government awareness of domestic abuse. However, messages need to be consistent – domestic abuse victims were initially influenced by the call to stay at home before the government changed its messaging. Researchers also recommended that resources are publicised wherever possible including at vaccination and testing centres.

The research follows a significant increase in demand for domestic abuse services across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Women’s Aid June 2020 Provider Survey highlighted that of 22 online support services, 90 percent had seen an increase in demand, with 81 percent of 31 telephone support services also witnessing high levels of calls.