Better access to justice needed for victims of gender-based violence

Family justice experts from Northumbria University are calling for changes to the support given by government to victims of gender-based violence, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nov 25, 2020
By Paul Jacques

Following research into the ability of gender-based violence victims to access justice during lockdown, academics from Northumbria Law School say there needs to be an easier way for domestic abuse charities to apply for government funding, and better promotion of the services available to victims, including the support offered by police.

The call is being made to mark today’s (November 25) UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – an annual day to raise awareness of violence against women and highlight the scale and true nature of the issue.

Following a survey of 51 different domestic abuse and gender-based violence support services across the UK, researchers Ana Speed, Callum Thomson and Kayliegh Richardson have made a number of recommendations.

They identified that, although the Government announced during the first lockdown that it would be making £750 million available for frontline charities, and a further £2 million specifically for domestic abuse services, complex application forms can make it difficult to access the funding. This is especially true for smaller domestic abuse services which do not have the resources to devote to this.

They also believe a proportion of these funds should be specifically earmarked for organisations supporting victims of gender-based violence, especially given the significant impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the demand for such services.

The team is also calling for better refuge and emergency accommodation provision for victims forced to leave their homes to seek protection during isolation – with empty hotel rooms suggested as a short-term solution.

It says better communication about the options available to victims of gender-based violence is also needed, setting out the support available to them and making it clear that, despite Covid-19 lockdowns, the police will still attend domestic abuse incidents, some refuges spaces are still available and the courts are still hearing applications for protective injunctions and child arrangements orders.

Senior law lecturer Ms Richardson explained: “The restrictions imposed during the pandemic have meant there have been challenges in ensuring victims of gender-based violence are able to access the support available to them.

“Like many other organisations charities have had to find new ways of working, taking some of their services online – but there needs to be better financial and technological support for them to do this effectively.

“The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is a time to raise awareness of these issues and speak out in the hope that changes will be made in the future.”

The research was carried out in April this year, during the UK’s first lockdown, and the researchers say it is more pertinent now than ever given England’s current lockdown and the tighter restriction in place over the winter months.

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