Cost-of-living crisis puts domestic abuse refuges under strain

Families are spending longer in refuges as the cost of moving on has risen by £5,000 since 2020.

A woman cowers with a man raising his hands
A woman cowers with a man raising his hands

Domestic abuse refuges are facing a crisis due to the rising cost of living, a charity has warned.

Crisis charity Hestia said demand for its refuge spaces rose 30% in the first three months of 2022 as soaring inflation put more families under “significant strain”.

But rising prices have also made it harder for people to move on from refuges, with Hestia, which provides support to those fleeing domestic abuse, saying a single mother with two children needing £5,000 more than she did two years ago.

Rohana (not her real name), said she was struggling to manage day-to-day after fleeing her abusive partner with her son.

She said: “Sometimes I think: ‘Why did I call the police?’ because at least my son was being provided for and we had food. Now we have nothing.

“But I think at least we are safe and that’s worth a lot. But it’s very hard. I only eat one meal a day – everything goes on my son.”

Research from the University of Loughborough found the up-front cost for a single mother with two children moving on from a refuge had risen by around £1,500 since 2020.

When the weekly cost of providing a minimum acceptable standard of living is factored in, the cost over the first year after leaving a refuge has risen by £5,000 – an increase of around 11%.

The figure is based on Loughborough’s minimum income standard, which looks at the money required to provide what members of the public regard as a minimum acceptable standard of living in the UK. It includes food, rent, clothing, transport and other living costs.

Rohana added: “The system is not working for victims of domestic abuse and it’s only going to get harder. I’m exhausted and I’m dreading the next lot of gas and electricity bills.”

The rise in the cost of moving on has meant families now have to stay in refuges for longer, limiting the number of free spaces at a time when demand is soaring.

Pat Ryan, Hestia’s chief executive, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is having a detrimental impact on those experiencing domestic abuse. Families are coming under significant strain. We need to act quickly and we need to act now.

“During the pandemic, Hestia opened 24 additional emergency refuge beds. We will do everything we can to keep this refuge open as we see the need for refuge places rise.

“This is only possible with the help of our generous supporters who enable us to support families to get to safety and recover from the trauma of domestic abuse.”

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