19 Jun 2023
by Razi Hassan

Accelerating access to legal support and protection for abuse victims | Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days

Providing police forces with an immediate pathway to civil legal support and protection to help victims escape domestic abuse. A blog submitted for Tackling VAWG and RASSO Impact Days by Razi Hassan from the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance

Tackling an epidemic of abuse

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates that 2.4 million adults (1.7 million women and 699,000 men) experience domestic abuse[1]. The costs of domestic abuse in England and Wales for the year ending 31 March 2017 is estimated to be approximately £66 billion[2].

When we established the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance in 2019, we had a clear vision to make a positive and meaningful contribution to tackling this epidemic of abuse in the UK.

We saw the extended length of time it took victims of domestic abuse to access legal assistance and protection. This process could often take up to two weeks, and sometimes even longer once a referral had been made to a specialist support service and appropriate local legal support secured.

Helping victims to cope and recover

That’s why we created WEPROTECT – an immediate referral pathway to professional and compassionate civil legal support for anyone experiencing abuse. With WEPROTECT we’ve reduced the victim-contacting timeline to a matter of hours, and sometimes even minutes. The WEPROTECT pathway is not intended to replace criminal justice outcomes. However, given the current delays abuse victims face in criminal proceedings, coupled with low conviction rates in cases of domestic abuse, securing civil legal protection can enable victims to feel safe again and begin the process of healing from their trauma.

A recent service assessment of our impact in Cambridgeshire revealed:

  • 72% of victims (for whom the DA Alliance had helped secure a court order) were no longer suffering from abuse.  
  • 86% of victims were satisfied with the service provided by the DA Alliance. 
  • 74% of victims were satisfied with the service provided by their appointed solicitor.

This tells us that WEPROTECT works.

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Improving police force compliance in processing civil orders

A recent independent review into the police use of protective measures recommended that Chief Constables should review their policy on how their police force processes notifications on civil orders so officers can easily identify if an order exists. As well as supporting victims, our technology is helping police forces to improve compliance in processing civil orders by reducing the time it takes for court orders to be uploaded to the Police National Computer.

Independent evaluation

WEPROTECT is the only referral service of its kind to be selected for independent evaluation, conducted by the University of Birmingham, through the Home Office What Works Fund. This 30-month study, which is currently underway, will assess the impact of WEPROTECT in reducing revictimization, and the mental health burden on survivors. It will also include an economic analysis of the service.

The University research team will rigorously evaluate whether a remote service, that circumvents many of the delays faced by domestic abuse survivors in accessing legal support, works and is cost effective. The impact of DA can have severe and lasting impacts on the mental and physical health of survivors and adversely affect their families, communities and the economy. In addition to the acute and chronic experiences of the trauma itself, engagement with the UK legal system, due to its complexities, lack of support, particularly in the initial stages and slow speed can leave survivors stressed, overwhelmed, and frightened. This can make them more vulnerable to re-victimisation and exacerbate its physical and mental health consequences. Survivors need to have safe and supportive journeys through the family court and criminal justice systems.

If WEPROTECT is effective in improving re-victimisation rates and mental health outcomes, there are likely to be important cost implications for the public sector and society more broadly, both in the short and longer term. We look forward to collaborating with techUK and our fellow members to voice our ideas, and showcase our work, to support statutory services to meet their obligations to tackle VAWG and RASSO.

For further information, Twitter: @DAAllianceUK

[1] Office for National Statistics Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2022


Razi Hassan

Razi Hassan

Co-Founder, Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance

Razi Hassan is co-founder, and direct of partnerships and communication for the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance.