Refuge secures domestic violence helpline grant ahead of former partner Women's Aid

The two charities have run the helpline in partnership for a number of years, but decided to independently bid for the £1.2m grant

The domestic violence charity Refuge has been awarded a government grant of more than £1.2m to run the National Domestic Violence Helpline, after a tendering process that resulted in its former partner charity Women’s Aid missing out on the funds.

The 24-hour freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline was established in 2003 to offer confidential information and expert support to people affected by domestic abuse. 

Women’s Aid and Refuge had worked in partnership to run the helpline for a number of years. 

But in July 2018 the Home Office put the helpline out to tender as part of wider measures to combat violence against women and girls. 

Despite having worked together previously on the helpline, the charities launched separate bids for the funding.

Nicki Norman, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, told Third Sector the decision to bid independently for the funding was driven by a concern that the existing model of delivery was not offering sufficient support to victims of domestic violence. 

She said: "Our decision to bid independently for the National Domestic Violence Helpline was not taken lightly and was motivated by our concern that the existing model of delivery does not and cannot give survivors the best-value service in terms of consistent quality and number of calls answered, which is important when approximately 30 per cent of calls remain unanswered. 

"In short, we could be doing more for less. Our goal has always been, and continues to be, to maintain and promote the very best service for survivors, with the highest levels of integrity and efficiency."

The Home Office announced on Wednesday that Refuge had been awarded the funds to operate the helpline and would be taking over sole management of the service from November.

The charity also secured additional funding to develop new digital and mobile resources to support greater numbers of victims, including the development of web-chat services and increased capacity to answer live calls. 

A statement on the Women’s Aid website, published on Wednesday, said the charity was "very disappointed at the news that we will not receive further helpline funding from government from the 31st October 2019".

The charity added that it would be "exploring how we can continue to provide the very best quality support to survivors whose voices will always be at the heart of our work".

Refuge did not respond to Third Sector’s request for comment by the time of publication, but a statement on its website said callers would "receive specialist support from the same dedicated, highly trained team of helpline staff and volunteers." 

Commenting on the announcement earlier this week, Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "We are delighted to have been awarded this contract grant funding, which will increase the support available to those experiencing domestic abuse.

"Two women a week die at the hands of their partners and every year thousands of children witness and experience abuse in the home.

"No one should live in fear of violence and abuse; everyone has a right to live in safety. The National Domestic Violence Helpline can save lives and change lives." 

Refuge and Women’s Aid will continue to work in partnership on the National Domestic Violence Helpline until 31 October 2019, at which point the helpline will be run by Refuge. The grant will run until March 2022.

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