A strategy for sustainable support – State of the Sector 2021 published

Today we launched our annual State of the Sector report. As with most years, we began by taking a close look at our annual membership data, and few key things stood out:

  • There was a 22% increase in the number of survivors who could not be supported by the refuge due to the lack of capacity or resources, when compared with the previous financial year.
  • Refuge-based support services supported 283 children per quarter, showing a continued high number of children in refuge during the pandemic with limited access to specialist child support workers.
  • Community based services received a 23% increase in referrals from the previous financial year and a 12% increase in the number of survivors who could not be supported by community-based support services due to resource and capacity issues.

This is Welsh Women’s Aid fifth annual state of the sector report where we have consistently called for the development of a sustainable funding model for the specialist VAWDASV sector. The above figures show just how sorely this is needed, now more than ever.


There was also a significant increase in the following reasons for refusal from refuge over the previous financial year:

  • Unable to meet support needs (around drug and alcohol) (27%)
  • Unable to meet support needs (around mental health) (61%)
  • Unsafe (perpetrator knows the location of the survivor/ refuge) (92%)
  • No/ limited recourse to public funds (29%)

The pandemic had a huge impact on every part of every society, it was magnified however that the VAWDASV sector had a devastating lack of flexibility allowed by the current funding model. This impacted services abilities to deliver support. Despite the welcomed emergency funds during the pandemic providing some assistance the overall model of unstable and uncertain funding means services have not been able to support survivors in some of the most vulnerable situations facing multiple disadvantage.


Another stand out from this year’s report is the sector’s issues with staff recruitment and retention. This a problem they’ve historically struggled with, is now on the verge of becoming unmanageable. The report outlines that this is down to short contracts and being unable to offer competitive pay and job security compared to benchmarked roles in other sectors.


So what’s the solution? It’s hard not to sound like a broken record at this stage but that would be the development and delivery of a sustainable funding model. Sustainable funding doesn’t just mean ‘more money’ it means strategically looking at resources and needs and ensuring there are services and support that every survivor can easily access. It’s about services having the flexibility to respond to the differing individual needs of each survivor and adapt their services to meet unexpected pressures.


VAWDASV specialist support services are currently funded through a patchwork of local, regional and national commissioning and grants as well as charitable funding pots – often with short contracts. Welsh Government continues to provide each local authority with grant funding to invest in VAWDASV, however, this grant represents a very small part of the overall resources that will be invested across Welsh Government and the wider statutory sector. There remain differing funding levels and processes according to different local authorities, Health Boards and Police and Crime Commissioners.


A sustainable funding model for specialist services, is the foundation for ending all forms of VAWDASV. Funding services to run sustainably would not only enable the VAWDASV specialist sector to support women and children in both an immediate sense and living with long term trauma, but also enables the sector to work collaboratively with communities to tackle the root, systemic causes of VAWDASV. Welsh Government has stated 3 years ago it wanted to make Wales the safest place for women, however since that announcement at least 23 women are suspected to have been killed by male violence. It is time for Welsh Government to deliver on its announcement.


The report calls for several clear asks – backed by our membership and survivors, including:

  • A strong Welsh Government commitment to continuing to develop and implement a sustainable funding model for the specialist VAWDASV sector, in the upcoming national VAWDASV strategy.
  • Commissioners to agree contracts for a minimum of 3-5 years and to ensure contracts offer a living wage, to enable services to recruit and retain dedicated, qualified staff.
  • Ensure adequate and sustainable investment in support for children and young people specialist provision. Working with children and young people affected by VAWDASV aligns with work in ACEs and children in the care system; there must be alignment in investment.

The time to fulfil the commitment to protect and support survivors and prevent further violence was yesterday. With an upcoming UK spending review, there is an opportunity to guarantee sustainability for the sector.

Read the full report in:

State of the Sector 2021 – English

State of the Sector 2021 – Welsh


For more information please contact Gwendolyn Sterk on [email protected] or Jordan Brewer on [email protected]