Accessible Domestic Abuse Services

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2019 National Disabled Members' Conference
11 July 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that disabled women are more likely to be subjected to domestic abuse than non-disabled women. Domestic abuse can include physical, sexual or emotional abuse – as well as the withdrawal of care from disabled women who require it and threats to ‘out’ LGBT+ women to their friends and families. According to the Women’s Budget Group, one in two disabled women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and they face additional barriers in seeking help and support.

When disabled women seek help they are often failed by inaccessible domestic abuse services that are not tailored to their needs. A recent BBC investigation found that just one in ten domestic abuse refuge spaces in the UK is accessible to disabled people with physical impairments.

However many refuges may also be inaccessible for people with non-physical impairments, in particular neurodiverse women. In addition, there is a need for more accessible ways of reporting domestic abuse, such as text, videophone and British Sign Language services.

Conference notes that disabled women with learning difficulties are more likely to experience abuse from a range of perpetrators. They may have more difficulty reporting abuse and may have more difficulty being believed or being seen as a credible witness. They may also face barriers from services that fail to look beyond the disability to be able to identify indicators of abuse and assess risk.

Conference acknowledges that almost a decade of government cuts has meant that local authorities have reduced funding for domestic abuse services, creating a postcode lottery for disabled women fleeing domestic abuse.

The support required by victims and survivors of domestic abuse in same sex relationships is often overlooked with disabled LGBT+ people facing additional barriers to accessing support that is unique to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and specialist, accessible support is crucial.

Well-resourced specialist LGBT+ support within the domestic abuse sector is key to effective support for LGBT+ victims and survivors, however specialist services are extremely limited; it is vital that non-LGBT+ domestic abuse services are adequately trained and equipped to respond to victims and survivors confidently and sensitively.

Disabled women also face significant barriers in accessing justice, with cases significantly less likely to be referred by police for prosecution if the victim is a disabled woman.

Conference therefore calls on the National Disabled Members Committee, working with the Labour Link and relevant campaigns where appropriate, to:

1)Raise awareness of the disproportionate impact of domestic abuse on disabled women and the need for a full range of accessible domestic abuse services, including accessible refuges and reporting mechanisms

2)Raise awareness among learning disability services and women support services of the particular vulnerabilities faced by disabled women with learning disabilities who experience all forms of domestic abuse, and the greater barriers they may ace in terms of accessing support.

3)Campaign for more sustainable funding for refuges so that sufficient accessible places are available to accommodate all disabled women.

4)Continue to campaign for a justice system that acknowledges the needs of disabled women, including updated legislation that reflects the specific nature of disability hate crime.