Government’s announcement of funding boost for survivors of rape and sexual abuse ‘wholly inadequate’

Maya Oppenheim
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Government funding plans for survivors of rape and sexual abuse have been called inadequate by campaigners, who warned they are inadequate and fail to tackle the shortage of services.

Rape and sexual abuse support services across England and Wales are to receive £24m in government funding over the next three years.

Around 79 rape support centres are to be awarded grants – meaning there will be government-funded services in all 42 of the country’s police and crime commissioner areas.

But critics have argued that this is not enough and rape survivors are as a result, not able to access the services they need.

Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women, argued the funding was “wholly inadequate”.

Her fellow director Sarah Green, added: “Today’s announcement of additional funding for life-saving rape crisis centres is welcome, but it is a long way from meeting the huge and increasing need for rape counselling and support in this country. What we need is a root and branch change in the way these services are funded so that they are sustainable and no survivor who needs help is ever turned away.”

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual Violence last year found sexual assault survivors were waiting up to 14 months for counselling because specialist support services were finding it difficult to keep up with “unprecedented demand”.

At the end of 2017-18, there were 6,355 people on rape crisis waiting lists. Some centres had to close their waiting lists completely due to a shortfall of funding.

The report said: "The impacts on victims and survivors who have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse and then are unable to access specialist support cannot be overstated and must not be lost sight of.”

It also called for “urgent action” to be taken and made recommendations “to prevent the destruction of the specialist sexual violence and abuse sector”.

Sarah Champion, the chair of the all-party parliamentary groups on sexual violence and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, also said the new funding was not enough.

“Any increase in funding for victims and survivors of sexual violence is most welcome,” she said. “In spite of their best efforts, specialist sexual violence and abuse services are unable to meet the incredible surge in demand of recent years. Recorded rapes are up 15 per cent and Rape Crisis has seen a 17 per cent increase in women wanting a service. Whilst a 10 per cent increase in the fund is encouraging, it just isn’t enough.”

More than 150,000 sexual offences were recorded by police last year, with one in five women having experienced some type of sexual assault in their lifetime.

The government’s funding will go towards a range of services, including counselling and a national helpline and webchat service for male survivors after a significant rise in the number of men and boys coming forward to report crimes.

Announcing the new funding plan, victims minister Edward Argar said: “Victims of rape and sexual violence show immense courage in coming forward – and they must have confidence that the right support will be there when it is needed."

He added: "Today we are providing funding across more regions than ever, supporting more centres than ever, increasing the overall amount of funding and moving to a three-year funding cycle. We are determined to continue to improve access to these vital services for victims to help them rebuild their lives after these devastating crimes.”