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Social Investment Models to Address Domestic Violence in the UK

Last October, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship launched Skoll Academy, a six-week long skills workshop series equipping participants with practical innovation skills to affect social and environmental change. We worked with Big Society Capital to analyse social investment models to address domestic violence in the UK. This blog is an overview of our findings and suggestions.


Domestic violence is purposeful, systematic, patterned behaviour designed to exert control over a partner.  It can take many forms – physical, emotional, sexual or financial (Refuge, 2017).

In the U.K., up to one in three women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. In England and Wales, 76% of all domestic violence incidents are repeat, and each week, two women are killed by current or former partners. On average, victims experience 35 physical assaults before reporting an incident to the police.

We have identified three possible preventive measures and three potential investment models that could make a difference.


Option 1 – Education of Teens (Primary Prevention)

Women between the ages of 16 and 24 are at the highest risk of domestic violence. 25% of girls between 13 and 17 years old reported experiencing intimate partner violence, and nearly 75% reported experiencing emotional abuse. Despite this, early abuse-awareness education in the UK is lacking; 81% of teenagers reported having received no information about domestic abuse whilst at school, 50% of 16-21 year olds reported an inability to identify controlling behaviours, and 37% reported that they were unaware of support systems to turn to if they experienced partner abuse.

Prevention does seem to be possible. For example the Safe Dates dating abuse prevention programme has yielded promising results. Four years after the programme, participants reported statistically significant reduced physical and sexual violence perpetration, and statistically significant reduced sexual victimisation than those in the control schools.

By educating teenagers on healthy relationships, dating abuse, and gender stereotyping, and by equipping teenagers with skills to manage conflict resolution; teenagers will adjust their norms for dating violence and gender-roles, as well as experience reduced levels of aggression; adolescent domestic violence is reduced; physical and mental health services cost in the UK is reduced.

Option 2 – Pregnant Women (Secondary Prevention)

One third of domestic violence either starts or gets worse when a woman becomes pregnant and more than a fifth of women who access Refuge’s services are pregnant. Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge (Refuge, 2017)

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines recommend that antenatal care providers ask questions about partner violence as part of routine care; however, a King’s College London study found that only 15% of maternity staff ask these questions. When provided with specialist training, that proportion rises to 47%.

Nurse-Family Partnerships are one example of early prevention. Nurses develop a close rapport with mothers, and are trained to identify risk indicators of domestic violence before it begins or in its early stages. Nurses are provided with guidelines on how to respond appropriately and support the client through the disclosure process.

By training nurses to identify risk indicators for domestic violence in vulnerable new mothers and providing guidance on how to respond to and support victims through the disclosure process; vulnerable new mothers will adjust their norms for domestic violence; domestic violence is reduced; physical and mental health service costs in the UK is reduced.

Option 3: Pursuing Domestic Violence Crime Convictions (Tertiary Prevention)

In 2016, 160,000 cases were dropped (a 40% increase on 2015) due to survivors withdrawing charges, even after police determined that crimes had taken place (Pratley, 2017).

Half of the dropped prosecutions in domestic violence cases are caused by high rates of victims withdrawing from their cases or not attending court proceedings. Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), play a crucial role in reducing these attrition rates. Moreover, IDVAs also increase rates of perpetrators pleading guilty (from 64% to 71%), thus avoiding trial altogether.

Unfortunately, only one third of current IDVA funding is considered sustainable. Funding for IDVAs comes from an ad-hoc mix of local authorities, Police and Crime commissioners, and charities. The Home Office, which had funded 10% of IDVAs, withdrew funding in 2017 with the expectation that other organisations would fill the gap. There is currently only 65% of the number of IDVAs in England and Wales needed to support the victims who are at the highest risk of serious harm.

Providing further funding to IDVAs to increase their numbers and expand their role to work with victim at moderate risk of violence would decrease rates of victims withdrawing support for their cases as well as increase prosecution completion rates and conviction rates.

By funding IDVAs, domestic violence case withdrawal rates will reduce, convictions will increase, repeat cases will be reduced, and police and court costs.

Funding Models

Football Clubs – CSR Model

We considered a series of corporate partners – some social finance partners and some direct charitable giving models. From our research, we noted The Premier League has an annual £45m Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm: almost 4% of their budget, compared to an average 1% in blue-chip companies. This could be an opportunity for domestic violence programs: a series of studies have demonstrated a connection between matches and incidents of domestic violence. During the UEFA European Cup in 2012, there was a 30% increase in reports of domestic violence to U.K. police.

Football clubs have a strong focus on engaging the youth. Building their brand with a new generation of supporters, particularly young girls, is essential as the women’s league pursues its target of doubling participation by 2020.

Social Impact Bond – SIB Model

Domestic violence costs the UK government £5.5bn annually, covering physical and mental health costs, criminal justice costs, social service costs, housing and refuge costs, and civil legal costs. Additional support can, however, increase short term costs to the criminal justice system. To this end, a social impact bond may offer a solution.

Police investigate a case whether a final conviction is secured or not. The cost savings for police would be the reduction in investigating domestic violence reoffending cases (currently one in three perpetrators will reoffend within six months). These cost savings would be replicated with the CPS, and the court system in general, especially if the number of cracked and vacated trials was reduced. Given the high rates of recidivism amongst offenders, the savings from increased conviction rates could likely be seen within the 3-5 years.

Corporate Consulting – Social Enterprise Model

Domestic violence costs the UK economy £15bn each year (1% of GDP), and UK businesses £2bn each year. This is based solely on estimated costs of lost economic output from time off work due to injuries, and does not factor in economic loss due to decreased productivity, poor performance, absenteeism and employee turnover. 6% (1 in 17) of the workforce endures domestic violence each year, 75% of people who endure domestic violence are targeted at work, 50% of female survivors arrive late for work at least 5 times and miss at least 3 days of work per month, and 80% of survivors reported that violence had affected their work performance.

Given this, we have estimated an average lost economic output per survivor employee of £5,500 per year[1], equating to average lost output per employee of £325 per year (more than 0.5% of total workforce value). While more in depth and current research into the economic costs of domestic violence in the UK is required, this estimate is undoubtedly conservative. This presents an opportunity for the provision of paid domestic violence workplace support services to UK businesses at a price of at least £325 per year per employee. Profits from this business model may be used to reward investment and fund other social enterprises focused on addressing domestic violence.

[1] Assuming an employee value to a business of £30 per hour (after wages and costs), each employee works 40 hours of work per week, 46 weeks per year, and that there are an equal number of women and men in the workforce.


While addressing domestic violence in the UK is challenging, we believe that there are investment models and interventions that could make a difference. References for the statistics cited in this report are available in the file below.

We would like to thank Stephen Muers of Big Society Capital for his mentorship throughout this project, Nazia Ali and the Skoll Centre team for their hard work in planning and executing the Skoll Academy programme, and Hannah Goldie of Social Finance for her time and input.

Last updated | 
8 May 2018


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