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Leading Violence Against Women and Girls organisations issue urgent joint letter to Government highlighting the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in the sector

Date:8 APR 2024
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Women’s Aid, alongside 57 sector colleagues, have issued an urgent letter to the Government highlighting the deepening recruitment and retention crisis within the sector, calling for an independent task force to be established to tackle the issue and ensure that adult and child survivors continue receiving life-changing support.  

Organisations supporting survivors have faced a funding crisis for over a decade, resulting in a postcode lottery of support for women and children who are being turned away daily at the point of need or crisis. Due to the ongoing challenges presented by the rising cost of living and rapid inflation, services are unable to provide salaries that reflect the vital expertise required to undertake this complex and challenging work, leaving staff to work significantly longer hours, as well as a growing pool of vacancies and delays in recruitment. A survey conducted by Women’s Aid in 2022 found that 78% of organisations were struggling to recruit for roles at the salaries they can pay, reaching 92% for ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women’s services. With a growing number of local authorities issuing a section 114 notice and making significant budget reductions, concerns about the sustainability of the sector are escalating.  

Evidence suggests that those working in the VAWG sector are paid less than those working in comparable sectors, including homelessness, criminal justice or substance abuse. Some of the vacancies advertised, particularly in rural areas and in Wales, fall at rates below the national living wage. Given that the sector largely consists of women who have been severely impacted by the rising costs of living, many workers have been left unable to manage on existing salaries, with some forced to use foodbanks, quit work due to rising childcare costs or to seek better paid roles within statutory services. Those that remain must support a larger number of women and girls, with increasingly complex cases and needs, leading to trauma and burnout.  

The joint letter is an urgent warning about the future of this sector. Despite the Government investing £76 million into a Cost of Living Fund and other short-term funds being made available to the sector, these haven’t met need or solved the long-term problems facing the sector, especially when it comes to recruitment and retention. Additionally, funding has been allocated to bolster domestic abuse roles within local authorities, despite clear evidence showing that women trust and value the independence and expertise of specialist services much more. Sustainable and long-term investment in specialist services is needed to ensure that organisations continue to operate and provide life-saving support. Similarly, investing in the sector now would save the public purse as much as £23 billion every year, an equivalent of £9 saved for every £1 invested.  

The letter is urgently calling on the Government to create an independent task force that would work with specialist services and survivors to gather evidence and understand how the current retention and recruitment crisis is affecting them. The letter is calling for this taskforce to gather evidence with the aim of publishing recommendations to ensure a long-term and sustainable future for the VAWG sector. 

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Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, comments: “My sector colleagues and I are sending an urgent warning call about the recruitment and retention crisis that we are seeing across our sector. Our frontline colleagues provide life-saving support to women and children, helping them take those first steps towards a life that is safe and free of abuse. The growing number of vacancies, as well as burnout, job uncertainty and inability to survive on lower salaries is incredibly difficult to see and could lead to irrevocable damage to the sector. It is vital that the Government provides services with long-term funding to guarantee their future and ensure that survivors continue to feel supported and safe. Domestic abuse is a national emergency and today, the future of life-saving services is at risk.” 

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