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High risk domestic abuse services save lives and public money

A new research report by the national charity CAADA has found that ‘high risk’* domestic abuse services are saving lives and a significant amount of public money, despite being seriously under-resourced. The research, which was based on the UK’s largest dataset of domestic abuse cases, found that existing cash-strapped services for victims save at least £2.90 for every £1 spent.

In a series of recommendations aimed at local commissioners, the report advises that more lives and public money could be saved if specialist services were mainstreamed over the long term. The charity also recommends that early identification of victims could be achieved if services were co-located in hospitals, and support for child and teenage victims was improved.

A place of greater safety is informed by over 2,500 cases collected by 60 Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs)** across the UK in the year to March 2012. After receiving support from IDVAs and other high risk services†, 63% of victims reported a total cessation of abuse, with professionals reporting a reduction in risk levels for 74% of cases. 69% of victims also reported that the quality of their life had improved. 66% of victims in the research have children, the majority of whom are under 5 years old.

The research found that victims who are identified through health agencies were likely to be experiencing a shorter length of abuse than victims who are identified by the police or who self refer. These ‘health identified’ victims were also more likely to reflect vulnerable, hard-to-reach groups, including victims who are still living with the perpetrator, teenage victims, those with substance use and mental health issues and victims from black and minority ethnic communities. The charity estimates that an extra 10,000 high risk victims per year could potentially be supported by placing new IDVA services in hospitals.

Local commissioners have to respond to a range of new and emerging statutory obligations in relation to domestic abuse. The 2011 implementation of domestic violence homicide reviews creates an expectation on local areas to undertake a multi-agency review following a homicide. With 70% of victims in the research experiencing at least one form of severe abuse such as strangulation, rape or threats to kill, and 35% of families involved with children’s safeguarding, the research evidences the need for supporting IDVA services or MARACs.

From March 2013 the definition of domestic abuse will also change to include victims over the age of 16. The research found that teenage victims were a particularly vulnerable group, with 67% experiencing at least one severe abuse incident, for example serious sexual assault, broken bones or strangulation. 22% of the teenage victims in the research were pregnant and 26% self harmed.

Diana Barran, Chief Executive of CAADA said: “Our report, which uses direct evidence from over 2,500 adult victims at risk of serious harm or murder, shows that cutting spending on domestic abuse services is counterproductive to saving money. The data clearly shows that in order to reduce public spending over the long term, commissioners should pool budgets to mainstream funding for existing high risk services, for example IDVA services or MARACs. Any new funding which becomes available should ideally be invested in hospital-based IDVA services. Specialist provision for children and young people should also be viewed as an investment: it significantly improves their life chances, and reduces the wider health and social costs associated with violent communities.”