The Domestic Abuse Report 2021: The Annual Audit


(view in pdf)

This report presents information on the provision and usage of domestic abuse services in England, mainly focusing on the financial year 2019-20. This year we have included an additional section on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are some of the key findings:

The service users

Our analysis of national On Track* data gives us the following key findings. Our sample was 27,130 survivors (supported by 68 organisations running 101 domestic abuse services in England and using On Track during 2019-20).

  • There were 32,094 children of service users in the sample, averaging 1.2 children per service user across all services.
  • The length of abuse experienced ranged from less than a month to 64 years; the average was six years.
  • 36.9% of service users in a sub-sample of 23,132 service users (where a detailed abuse profile was available) reported feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts as a result of the abuse.

*The Women’s Aid case management and outcomes monitoring system.

The provision of services

We took data from Routes to Support* to examine the types of domestic abuse services provided in 2019-20, the number of bed spaces available in refuge services, the people supported by these services and changes to provision over time.

·       On the 1st May 2020, there were 222 domestic abuse service providers running 370 local services throughout England.  These 370 services deliver a range of service types including community-based support, open-access support such as helplines and therapeutic support like counselling. Of the 370 services, 263 included refuge services and 222 included dedicated services for children/young people. 

·       The number of spaces in refuge services in England still falls short of the number of spaces recommended by the Council of Europe by 1,694, which represents a 30.1% shortfall.

·       Only 4.0% of all vacancies posted on Routes to Support in 2019-20 could consider women who had no recourse to public funds.

·       Less than half of refuge vacancies posted on Routes to Support in 2019-20 could accommodate a woman with two children, this fell to less than one in five for a woman with three children

* Routes to Support is the UK violence against women and girls directory of services and refuge vacancies, run in partnership by Scottish Women’s Aid, Welsh Women’s Aid, Women’s Aid Federation of England and Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland  

The work of support services

We looked at responses to the Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2020 to examine the work of domestic abuse services in 2019-20. This survey was sent to all domestic abuse services in England which run both or one of refuge and/or community-based support (CBS) services. 77 organisations running 150 service entries on Routes to Support responded to this year’s survey. This gives a response rate of 40.1%.

  • Of those 68 organisations responding to the annual survey that provided refuge support in 2019-20, 50 (73.5%) were commissioned by their local authority to run refuge services in 2019-20. 40 of the 59 responding organisations that ran community-based services in the last financial year (67.8%) were commissioned by their local authority for community-based support.  However, for most organisations local authority commissioning did not cover all or most of the costs of running the service.
  • 54.5% of respondents to the annual survey indicated that they were running an area of their domestic abuse service without dedicated funding in 2019-20.

This year our baseline and estimated figures on numbers of referrals are taken from national On Track data, rather than annual survey responses (as they have been in previous years)

  • All refuge services in England supported an estimated 10,592 women and 12,710 children in 2019-20, and all community-based services supported an estimated 103,969 women and 124,762 children.
  • 57.2% of all the referrals received in refuge services using On Track were rejected (for various reasons). The main reason why referrals to refuge services were rejected was a lack of space or capacity (18.1% of all referrals received were rejected for this reason).

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

We used information from our annual survey and from Routes to Support to examine the impact of Covid-19 on domestic abuse support services.

  • During the first lockdown in England (Spring 2020), the number of vacancies available at a given time was consistently around half the number available in the same week in 2019.
  • A special mid-year snapshot of refuge spaces on Routes to Support to determine the impact of emergency Covid-19 related funding showed an additional increase of 361 to 4,251 spaces by 1st November 2020, although not all of these spaces will remain when temporary emergency funding comes to an end.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on domestic abuse services, including services having to rise to the challenge of meeting increased demand following changing government guidance, changing their way of working, adapting to new service formats and new technologies, all at a very fast pace.


For more information about this report, please email