Debate on violence against women and girls in the UK, House of Lords, 29 June 2023

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Key messages

  • Councils are determined to help tackle Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), working alongside police and criminal justice services, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), health and education services, the voluntary and community sector and wider support services, to help ensure women and girls are protected from all forms of abuse.
  • To successfully tackle VAWG, there needs to be comprehensive, multi-year funding made available to local commissioners to allow for long-term strategic planning and delivery of VAWG services, including prevention initiatives. One-off grants and short-term funding pots make it difficult for local commissioners to plan on a long-term basis or provide consistent, comprehensive services. 
  • Recent high profile, violent crimes perpetrated against women prompted a huge response to the Government’s consultation on its VAWG strategy 2021-24, as well increased investment in street-lighting, CCTV, and proposed support for the night-time economy.
  • However, we would highlight that a longer-term, comprehensive approach focused on preventing VAWG is needed with greater co-ordination across Government departments to focus on both support for victims and tackling and preventing perpetrators’ violent or abusive behaviour. A whole-system approach and a wider culture change is required, spanning education, health, housing, families, and communities through to policing and criminal justice measures. The Government VAWG Strategy, wider work on victims, perpetrator interventions and the Government’s Domestic Abuse Strategy, should complement one another and work cohesively with existing and new legislation and guidance to help tackle VAWG issues. Too often, we are seeing a lack of coordination between Government departments on duties and policies impacting victims, with local partners left to join them up locally.
  • There are key differences and risk factors associated with different types of VAWG, and this is important in how they can be tackled and prevented. Many of the factors that affect an individuals’ risk of violence arise through their circumstances and experiences in early life. Therefore, a life course approach to understanding and tackling VAWG is needed. 
  • There needs to be a focus on community level initiatives and communications campaigns that seeks to raise awareness about VAWG and the available support, to ensure those who are seeking help know where to access it. These campaigns should also prompt perpetrators to recognise their own abusive behaviour and seek help to stop it or prevent it escalating. There must be a shift from asking what safety precautions a women or girl can take to ensure their own safety, towards how can we disrupt and prevent a perpetrator’s abusive and violent behaviour. 


  • We understand VAWG to mean ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women and girls, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’. It can take many forms and can affect women and girls in many different ways. It can include, but is not limited to, rape and sexual violence, domestic abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour, forced marriage, so called ‘honour-based’ abuse, female genital mutilation (and other culturally specific forms of abuse), stalking, sharing of personal intimate images without consent and online harassment.
  • It is estimated that domestic abuse alone affects 2.4 million adults every year. It is high harm - one in five homicides is a domestic homicide - and it is high cost; the social and economic costs of domestic abuse are estimated to be in the region of £78 billion (2022 to 2023 prices) over a three-year average period of abuse.
  • Due to the hidden nature of some types or cases of VAWG, it is very difficult to quantify or assess the true scale of this issue. For a variety of reasons, certain instances of VAWG may not be reported to any agencies. Whilst police-recorded offences or convictions may provide part of the picture of how women and girls are affected by certain types of VAWG, there will be a vast number of instances that aren’t captured in this data.
  • Violence against women and girls can affect any person regardless of background, ethnicity, religion, age or gender. However, some women and girls will face additional barriers to support, and therefore there is a need for the Government and local partners to consider the systemic barriers facing Black and minoritised women, migrant women, Deaf and disabled women, women from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community and LGBTQ+ survivors. Research indicates that disadvantaged and vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by VAWG.

How violence against women and girls can be prevented and addressed

  • To effectively tackle domestic violence and VAWG we continue to advocate for a whole-system approach underpinned by sustainable funding for the full range of critical services, including children and family services. Long-term, sustainable Government funding enabling long-term planning and the delivery of appropriate and accessible provision is needed to help councils and their partners deliver a comprehensive approach to tackle VAWG and domestic abuse.
  • Our ultimate aim must be to prevent domestic abuse and wider VAWG from occurring in the first place. On domestic abuse we would like to see increased national investment in evidence-based domestic abuse perpetrator programmes intended to prevent perpetrators behaviour. Funding should also be available to commissioners to provide perpetrator interventions and identify suitable alternative accommodation options for perpetrators to be removed from the home, rather than victims being the ones who are disrupted.
  • Investment should also be made in specialist organisations such as the National FGM Centre, which works with communities to prevent FGM.
  • There is a need for best practice from Domestic Homicide Reviews to be shared on a national level, and action should also be taken to address the systemic issues with the DHR process, including delays in final reports being returned to local panels.
  • It is helpful that councils are now receiving funding to provide accommodation-based support for victims of domestic abuse. However, demand for the service is high and outstripping supply.  The Government must provide clarity on future funding for the Act beyond 2023-24 and 2024/25, and as committed, use the results of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s mapping exercise of support services across England and Wales to identify gaps and better target central government funding to local services.

Children and young people

  • Funding must also be used to support non-crisis interventions. For example, councils’ youth services and early-intervention children and family services play a vital role in identifying and supporting victims of abuse and stopping escalation to prevent violence occurring in the first place. There is clear evidence on the social and fiscal benefits of prevention and early help programmes, which shows that these interventions deliver both improved outcomes and cost-savings. However, these services remain under significant pressure with many councils consistently having to overspend on their children’s services budgets. 
  • Schools can be a reflection of the wider world; therefore, it is important that steps are taken to address violence against women and girls in our society in order to tackle it effectively in schools. The introduction of compulsory relationships and sex education is a positive step in ensuring young people understand what healthy relationships look like, and the importance of consent, respect and privacy. We also urge consideration of how schools are resourced to ensure relationships and sex education is taught effectively, including teacher training and the use of specialist teachers.
  • We should ensure that national personal, social, health and economic (PSHE), and relationships and sex education (RSE) curricula in schools actively tackles harmful gender stereotypes (for men and women), including the impact of media online. All young people should learn about domestic and gender-based violence, hate crime and their right to report and right to justice.
  • Consideration should be given as to how schools are adequately resourced to ensure RSE is taught effectively, including teacher training and the use of specialist teachers.
  • Raising awareness about healthy relationships and behaviour with children and young people should occur in both academic and non-academic settings, including schools, pupil referral units, youth services, scouts’ groups and wider community clubs. We must continue to invest in youth services, to help build trusting relationships with children and young people and raise awareness about this important issue. Youth interventions should also focus on teenage and adolescent relationships. Additional research is required to assess the emerging forms of online abuse, such as revenge porn or abuse via dating apps.

Other issues and measures

  • Outside of familial/close relationships, we have seen evidence from across the country that female leaders and councillors are subject to more abuse than their male counterparts and in some cases, harassment from the electorate can act as a barrier for women entering local politics. This issue must be recognised in law, which in turn would also help support efforts to address misogynistic culture and practice more widely.
  • The LGA would also welcome more national funding for local initiatives that aim to address and prevent wider community safety issues. We have called for the extension of both the Safer Streets Fund and Safety of Women Fund to invest in community safety initiatives that help ensure our residents can enjoy public spaces and venues at night. Government should provide multi-year funding for future projects, with adequate time for the delivery and evaluation. We are also calling Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) to be funded on a long-term basis and for the Government to extend VRU funding, already made available to 20 Police and Crime Commissioners, to the remaining 21 local areas.
  • We would welcome investment in community level initiatives and communications campaigns that seek to raise awareness about violence against women and girls, and help women and girls feel empowered. Initiatives should also focus on prompting perpetrators to recognise their own abusive behaviour and seek help to stop it or prevent it escalating.
  • Similarly, employers can be encouraged to join the Employers Initiative against Domestic Abuse and make use of the valuable tools and resources available to support employees within the workplace.