« Back to "Policy blog"

It’s been a good week for funding news for domestic violence services. We’ve just heard that SafeLives’ funding from the Home Office to support Maracs and train Idvas will continue – as will the Home Office’s funding direct to local areas to support Marac co-ordinators and Idva services, and the national helplines. And the Department for Communities and Local Government has just confirmed which local councils have won a share of the £10m they previously announced for housing support for domestic abuse victims.  

All of this is, though, set against a national picture where the funding available to help victims of domestic abuse isn’t close to meeting the need. It’s often split across multiple funders and not spent according to a joined-up strategy. And in recent years, many specialist services have even seen their funding cut.

The current picture of support

It can be difficult to know the exact picture of what’s out there to support victims, so, in late 2014 SafeLives decided to run our first annual survey of Idvas in England and Wales.

Over the last ten years, Idvas have transformed the landscape of domestic abuse services. Before, victims at high risk of murder or serious harm often had little choice but to go to a refuge, regardless of whether they needed to move home to become safe – and if that wasn’t the right option for them, there was little else.

Idvas are different: they work with the victim to understand the risk she faces, and help her create a plan to become safe. It’s a personal connection between the worker and the victim: each situation is different, and the Idva can work 1-2-1 with the victim to come up with a plan that works for her, manages the risk posed by the perpetrator and meets the victim’s needs.

Maybe she wants to take out a court order to stop the perpetrator returning, or needs help with mental health or practical problems like money. Maybe she’s worried about her kids and wants to get help for them too. Often the emotional support of an Idva is vital in helping the victim regain her confidence. And crucially, rather than working separately from the system, through the Marac the Idva is linked in to all the other agencies that need to help the victim become safe and stay safe – the police, housing, the council, local health services and others.

All this means that the victim gets a great service – and one that gives her the best chance of getting safe. Victims tell us they value the support from a dedicated expert who focuses on them. And nearly two-thirds of those helped by an Idva and Marac report that the abuse stops: it’s the most effective intervention for domestic abuse victims in the UK currently.

What the Idva survey told us

Over the past decade, the number of Idvas has been steadily rising. Here at SafeLives, we set up the role in its current incarnation, working with a group of brilliant small charities to pilot and refine it. And we train and support the UK’s Idva workforce: our externally-validated training is the original and the best. There are SafeLives-trained Idvas all over the UK, working every day to cut the risk victims face and make them safe.

The survey in 2014 was our first chance to really understand where Idvas were working, and with whom. We only asked about those working with high-risk victims, and we excluded those who weren’t working as Idvas, like outreach workers.   

Here’s what we found:

  • There are just under 500 Idvas working with high-risk victims across England and Wales
  • 930 Idvas are needed to support all high-risk victims in England and Wales (on SafeLives’ estimate). So we have just half the Idva capacity we need.
  • 80% of Idvas work in voluntary agencies, with the rest being employed by the public sector
  • Many Idvas are working with caseloads vastly higher than SafeLives recommends – this means they can’t always offer full wraparound support
  • 20 police force areas have less than half the required Idva capacity to support high-risk victims – and five have less than a quarter.

How many Idvas are there in each police force?

Our next steps

Over the past couple of months, we’ve written to the police and crime commissioner for each area to ask them about their plans to increase Idva capacity. Lots have responded positively, noting how valued the Idva services are by victims locally. And we’ve seen some areas really step up to the challenge: last week, the Mayor’s office for policing and crime announced funding for 40 new Idva posts in London. And in January, local partners in Essex funded an increase to 24 Idvas working with high-risk victims across the county.

The challenge now is to make sure the number of Idvas keeps going up, so that every area has enough to make sure that victims get the right help. And they need to be working alongside a great Marac, where every agency takes responsibility for making victims safe. We need every Idva to be SafeLives-qualified, and work as part of a great service which is big enough to be resilient and knows the impact it is making.

And here at SafeLives, we need to work out whether the Idva model can adapt to support other victims. We found that there are already 150 Idvas who work with medium- or standard-risk victims as part or all of their caseload. We know Idvas work for high-risk victims – and it’s obviously right to prioritise victims at the highest risk of murder or harm. But can the model work for medium-risk victims? How are those victims different, and how do we cut the risk to them? There’s some work for us to do on this – watch this space!

Here at SafeLives, we’re proud of the work that Idvas all over the country do – and we’ll always champion and support them. Or, as one Idva told us:

“We know how much we mean to victims – so often we hear ‘Thank god for the Idvas’ and ‘I’m not sure what I would have done without you.’”