Today is exactly two years after the Government promised to introduce a timetable to ratify the Istanbul convention. That important international convention aims to prevent domestic violence and, crucially, to underpin that with support services for victims. The Prime Minister has rightly prioritised tackling violence against women, but what does the Budget contain that shows a commitment to preventing violence against women and girls? Absolutely nothing. The stark evidence on the underfunding of victim services is harrowing. Rape Crisis, the largest national provider of specialist sexual violence services, has a waiting list of over 6,000 people. According to Women’s Aid, on a typical day, 94 women and 90 children are turned away from refuges due to a lack of space. A Council of Europe study shows that England provides only 67% of the recommended capacity for sexual assault referral centres, which are critical in offering services to victims.
When it comes to costing violence against women and girls, there are three areas of consideration: first, the lost economic output of women forced to miss work as a result of mental and physical injuries sustained during an attack; secondly, the cost to the Treasury of providing services that prevent and respond to violence against women and girls—for example, health, police, courts and specialist advocates; and thirdly, the physical and emotional cost to victims, which is a loss to both the individual and society.
Last month I asked the Treasury whether it had made an assessment of the cost of violence against women and girls. It never answered, but passed me to the Home Office, which said that its most recent estimate is nearly a decade old. That suggests that there is no sustained attempt to understand the economics of violence against women and girls.
However, there is more recent research by Professor Sylvia Walby. Taking her 2014 research and adjusting for inflation, the cost of violence against women and girls in this country stands at £23.7 billion per annum. From that we can extrapolate the cost per constituency of not preventing violence against women and girls. In my constituency, the cost is £32.7 million every year. In the Chancellor’s constituency, it is £39.1 million every year.
If the Chancellor looks carefully at the research, he will see that we can do more by investing in support services. Thereby we do the morally right thing, but also the economically right thing. Will the Government please put their money where their mouth is and ensure that all Departments prioritise this?