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Domestic violence costs £5.5bn a year in England

Peckham 30
Peckham 30

Analysis by Trust for London and the Henry Smith Charity, highlights the costs of domestic violence to the public purse across England – a minimum of £5 million each week in every region.

The release of these figures coincides with the launch of a new report, Islands in the Stream, which demonstrates the effectiveness and low-cost of specialist support for high risk victims and makes recommendations on how to improve domestic violence services across the country.

In England the estimated total costs of domestic violence are £5.5bn which comprises:

• £1.6bn for physical and mental health costs
• £1.2bn in criminal justice costs
• £268m in social services costs
• £185.7m in housing and refuge costs
• £366.7m in civil legal costs
• £1.8bn in lost economic output

The highest total costs in England are in the following areas:

• London (£918m)
• South east (£872.6m)
• North west (£720m)
• East of England (£590.5m)

In addition, the human and emotional costs in England are estimated to be almost £26m per day.

“These figures reveal the huge financial impact domestic violence has across every region and the stress it puts on everything from housing and the NHS to social services. In a climate of cuts, a reduction in specialist domestic violence services would be a false economy. “Our forthcoming report calculates that an independent domestic violence advocate supporting a client at high-risk costs on average £500. The estimated cost of a domestic violence homicide is approximately £1 million, so the economic as well as the moral argument is compelling. “We are therefore calling on local and central government to ensure that services are well co-ordinated locally and provide comprehensive support to victims at low, medium and high risk to respond to the devastating, and potentially fatal, effects of domestic violence.”

Davina James-Hanman, Domestic violence advisor to Trust for London and Henry Smith Charity

Technical notes

1. Methodology
We have used the latest available estimates for the costs of Domestic Violence (Professor Sylvia Walby 2009) to calculate an estimated cost for each local authority area, based on the size of the working-age population. These costs are likely to be an underestimate since they do not include domestic violence by family members who are not intimate partners.

2. Human and emotional costs
The inclusion of human and emotional costs ‘is based on the notion that people would pay something in order not to suffer the human and emotional costs of being injured. The Department of Transport developed its research programme to estimate the cost of injuries in order to identify the full cost of road traffic accidents as part of their cost-benefit analysis of whether building a new road was appropriate or not. The Home Office followed this methodology in estimating the cost of crime. It might be considered that if it is appropriate to include human and emotional costs in decisions on whether or not to fund the building of new roads, it is appropriate to include them in decisions on to whether or not to fund policies to reduce and eliminate domestic violence.’ From Professor Sylvia Walby’s 2009 update to her earlier work for government (2004) calculating the cost of Domestic Violence.

3. Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy support to high-risk victims can enhance safety and reduce repeat incidents according to a new evaluation report by Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, commissioned by the Trust for London and the Henry Smith Charity. This report is now available to download on the Henry Smith website.

This article was published 27 January 2011. You can find up-to-date information here.