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Press release

New survey finds only four in ten adults are confident they’d know how to support a victim of domestic abuse

Research also finds systems of support for child and adult victims of domestic abuse are an “unfair lottery”


2 Apr 2021


Only four in ten (42%) UK adults would be confident knowing where to go, or who to speak to, in order to help, if someone they knew personally revealed themselves as a victim of domestic abuse, a new survey has found. Only 12% of people felt ‘very confident’ they’d know how to help a victim of domestic abuse. This highlights that the public “don’t know where to turn” to support the victims of this pervasive problem that we know has been increasing due to Covid-19. 

Watch EIF chief executive Dr Jo Casebourne on BBC News, Friday 2 April 2021

The same survey has also found that almost three quarters (71%) of UK adults believe that there should be greater support provided to the victims of domestic abuse. The survey carried out by YouGov in March 2021 for the children’s charity, the Early Intervention Foundation, also found two thirds of UK adults (61%) think the government should be doing more to provide support to the victims.   

Adults under 25 were the age group the least confident in understanding what they could do to help, with 55% saying they were not confident about where they would go for support. More than half of over 65s (52%) also had little idea.  

The survey follows on from research out today (Friday 2nd April), from the Early Intervention Foundation which has found that victims, including children affected by domestic abuse, are not getting the help they need. There are significant gaps in support, such as therapeutic services for children dealing with trauma, support for very young children and babies, prevention services such as those focused on perpetrators, direct support for children whose parents are not engaging with services and culturally specific interventions for minority groups.   

The research from the Early Intervention Foundation also found: 

  • Local authority funding constraints and uncertainties remain a major challenge to the provision of local services. 
  • Local authority funding for more holistic support for children and young people, including prevention activity or longer-term therapeutic support, is often short-term and highly vulnerable to funding cuts.  
  • Many of these services are provided by the voluntary and community sector and are propped up by piecemeal, short-term funding from a range of sources, leaving them in a precarious position. 
  • Very few common and popular approaches to providing support for victims, especially child victims, have been evaluated to assess whether they end up improving lives. Evaluation is crucial as a way of strengthening the impact of these services and in turn properly supporting victims.  
  • Local areas often cannot carry out high quality evaluation of local services by themselves and central government has a vital role to play here in facilitating this. We need to build the evidence to ensure that what we do best supports children, young people and families affected by domestic abuse. 
  • In dealing with limited and stretched services, practitioners have told EIF that they are forced to take a ‘something is better than nothing’ approach to referring children for support, for example, by looking for services with no waiting list or with fewer limitations on access. 

“When we get money, we absolutely use every penny of that. We throw it at projects, then the money disappears and you no longer have access to that project. So it feels like this sort of continual wave, where you might have a little bit of a product, then it goes, then you might have a bit.” - Service manager & local area focus group participant 

“You’re often just trying to send the child to wherever you think there might be someone who can pick them up pretty quickly, if I’m honest.” - Early help practitioner & local area focus group participant 

To address this situation, where victims, including children, are not given the support that has been shown to be effective, the Early Intervention Foundation is calling on the government to establish a long-term, cross-departmental fund dedicated to improving knowledge of what works to support child and adult victims of domestic abuse, and to supporting the use of this knowledge to ensure children are provided with the ‘right support at the right time’. This would:  

  • Invest in robust evaluation of promising and widely used support programmes that are being used to support children affected by domestic abuse  
  • Build consensus across the sector on a standard set of outcomes, including specifically relating to children’s wellbeing  
  • Build capacity to evaluate small-scale, local interventions including community-level provision.  
  • Support evaluation of practice-based and system-level approaches as well as specific interventions. 

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive, Early Intervention Foundation commented: “As our survey shows, there’s broad public support for providing more help to the victims of domestic abuse and for the government to be doing more. That’s why we call on government minister, Vicky Atkins, to tackle this problem by creating a long-term fund.  

“This is too important an area on which to lack evidence about what works best to support children who have suffered these traumatic experiences. 

“The current system in local areas is often complicated and very variable, with no consistent response. All too often referrals have to be made only on the basis of what is available. This creates an unfair lottery for victims. While the government has been providing support for victims and deserves credit for some of its initiatives, especially through the pandemic, new funding should be prioritised to ensure we are most effectively helping those affected by domestic abuse, particularly children, who are also victims, as the Domestic Abuse Bill recognises.”   


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,725 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th-21st March 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Download data from YouGov (PDF).

About the contributor

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is CEO at What Works for Early Intervention and Children's Social Care.