Domestic abuse victims will receive direct payments to help them to leave abusive relationships, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has announced.

This announcement comes 1 year after the publication of the government’s Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan.

In a trial of an innovative new approach to supporting victims, the Home Office is working closely with Women’s Aid to provide £300,000 for one-off payments of £250 to victims of domestic abuse, rising to £500 where a victim has children.

The funding is being granted to support victims to leave abusive relationships, following Women’s Aid research which found that almost three-quarters of women living with their abuser are finding it harder to leave as a result of the rising cost of living. Two-thirds of survivors also said that abusers are using the cost of living increase as a tool for coercive control, including to justify further restricting their access to money.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:

It is heart-breaking that vulnerable people find themselves trapped with their abusers without the financial means to leave and find safety.

We’re absolutely committed to supporting victims in the way that best meets their needs and provides them with the opportunity to rebuild their lives after their trauma.

I am proud to be working closely with Women’s Aid to deliver these payments, which could change, and potentially save, the lives of hundreds of victims.

The money is being allocated to Women’s Aid, given their national reach, expertise and existing infrastructure to provide this urgent financial support to victims of domestic abuse who need it most. It will help victims to pay for essentials such as groceries, nappies, sanitary products and rent on their previous property whilst they are in a refuge, or it could be put towards a deposit on new accommodation when they leave a refuge.

Women’s Aid will then provide further assistance for victims to set themselves up sustainably, for example by accessing benefits or finding employment.

Minister for Safeguarding Sarah Dines said:

Domestic abuse is a harrowing crime that comes in many forms, and it is unfortunately true that financial hardship can make victims even more vulnerable.

I’m committed to ensuring victims get the support they need, and am pleased that we are working with Women’s Aid to offer these lifeline payments which will help empower victims to take a vital step forward to safety.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said:

This fund is an excellent start in supporting survivors who desperately need emergency funds to leave their abuser, and an important breakthrough moment. This fund really could be the difference between life and death for the most vulnerable. This fund is thanks to the survivors of domestic abuse who have campaigned for this with us and other organisations, and we thank the government for listening to their voices.

Through our work with women, we constantly hear about the economic barriers preventing them from fleeing their abusers. That’s why we’ve campaigned since last summer for a fund to meet survivors’ financial needs during this challenging time where many costs have risen, and practically, leaving has become much more difficult.

This commitment not only provides life-saving support, it also sends a strong message that the government is committed to helping bring about the day when domestic abuse is not tolerated anywhere in our society.

Allocating this money to Women’s Aid puts into action the ‘flexible funding’ model outlined in the government’s wide-ranging Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, published 1 year ago, on 30 March 2022.

The plan transforms the whole of society’s response to domestic abuse, in order to prevent offending, support victims and pursue perpetrators, as well as to strengthen the systems and processes in place needed to deliver these goals. It invests over £230 million of cross-government funding into tackling this heinous crime, including over £140 million for supporting victims and over £81 million for tackling perpetrators.

Additionally, last month, the Home Secretary unveiled a range of further measures to crack down on domestic abusers. This includes requiring police forces to treat violence against women and girls as a national threat, as set out in a new strategic policing requirement. The move means these crimes will be as important as tackling threats like terrorism, serious and organised crime, and child sexual abuse.

The government is taking action to ensure the most dangerous abusers are recorded on the Violent and Sex Offender Register, including those convicted of controlling or coercive behaviour where they are sentenced to 12 months or more. The government will also be pursuing legislation to ensure these offenders are actively managed by the police, prison and probation services under multi-agency public protection arrangements which will put controlling or coercive behaviour on par with physical violence.

The government also announced its successful ‘Ask for ANI’ codeword scheme, which allows those at risk of, or suffering from, domestic abuse to discreetly receive emergency help, is being piloted in 18 jobcentres and Jobs and Benefits offices across the UK, complementing the more than 5,000 UK pharmacies who already offer this vital service. A new ‘postcode checker’ tool now makes it easier for people to find their nearest location.

Our Domestic Abuse Act became law in April 2021. This is a game-changing piece of legislation which helps millions affected by these awful crimes by strengthening the response across all agencies, from the police and courts to local authorities and service providers.

Published 31 March 2023