Funding story: Using advocates in domestic abuse cases

In the north and in London, charities are joining together to tackle the persistent problem of violent domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse has forced its way up the agenda over the past few decades. It accounts for a quarter of all violent crime in England and Wales, affecting one in four women and one in six men at some point in their lives. Every year, more than 100 women are killed by their partners or former partners.

"We still have a long way to go," says Cullagh Warnock, who is in charge of the safety and justice programme and the domestic abuse initiative at the Northern Rock Foundation, the charity that targets disadvantage in Cumbria and north-east England. "It's a complicated area, because this is about how we conduct ourselves as a society.

"An inter-ministerial group on the issue, chaired by the Home Office, is getting much better at understanding how to identify and protect the people at the highest risk. But this is focused on crime reduction, not those wider societal issues."

Warnock also coordinates the Association of Charitable Foundations' network on domestic abuse, which brings together a number of funders that have made the issue a priority. Northern Rock itself has committed £4m to a seven-year project. Two five-year pilots, involving partners from across the statutory and voluntary sectors, are running in north-east England.

"There's a lot of evidence to suggest that what works is trained advocates who support people in taking perpetrators through the criminal justice system," Warnock explains. "There are also specific workers supporting victims, working with perpetrators and with children." The University of Sunderland is carrying out a seven-year evaluation of the work.

Elsewhere, poverty-relief organisations the City Parochial Foundation and the Henry Smith Charity have launched a similar, £1.6m initiative in London. Sioned Churchill, principal officer at City Parochial, says: "We were both funding work in the domestic violence area but wanted to be more strategic, so we developed a joint programme around domestic violence advocacy support."

And the Nationwide Foundation, which specifically targets social exclusion, is investing £1.2m in work on the issue. Warnock says this makes perfect financial sense. She explains: "If you invest at this end, you're saving millions at the other end."

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