Cost of Living Crisis London VAWG Sector Response 

The cost-of-living crisis is presenting huge challenges for many people across the UK. It is having a particularly acute effect on survivors of violence and abuse, with women and girls finding it harder to leave because of increasing financial dependencies on perpetrators, and more opportunities for economic abuse that keep women trapped.

As the “region with the highest poverty rate in the UK,”[1] evidence points to London being the epicentre of the cost-of-living crisis. So, it is not surprising that organisations supporting women survivors of VAWG in London report seeing an increasingly high level of poverty amongst women accessing their services, with an increase in women being forced into debt and dependency. 

Figures from Refuge’s specialist technology-facilitated and economic empowerment team show an 87% increase in referrals for support with complex cases, which they state can be directly linked to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. 77% of their frontline staff said the cost-of-living crisis is stopping women from leaving their abusers.[2]

Recent Women’s Aid research found that 73% of women living with and having financial links with their abuser said that the cost-of-living crisis had either prevented them from leaving or made it harder for them to leave.[3] The cost-of-living crisis is putting more women at risk of harm, destitution or death.  



The specific population demographics in London require a nuanced and targeted approach to support women and girls in the capital. The government’s levelling up agenda fails to highlight the significant socioeconomic and geographical inequalities within the capital that mean low-income residents in London are actually, “at the highest risk of experiencing hardship and deprivation.”[4] 

London has a higher-than-average unemployment rate[5] and housing costs[6] compared to the rest of the UK. London also has a higher proportion of workers earning less than the real living wage than across the rest of the UK.[7] More than a third of the city’s population is living in (much higher priced)[8] rented accommodation compared to 19% outside London.[9]

Even in 2021, London Councils’ polls[10] showed that Londoners were reporting the cost-of-living as the biggest issue they were facing.  Since then, the capital has been hit by increasing costs of food, energy and housing, with an inflation rate above the national UK average.[11]



All of this has left many Londoners particularly vulnerable to this looming crisis. Within this picture of London as a whole, women in the capital are more likely to be disproportionately negatively impacted by financial hardships due to the further disadvantages they face in the labour market, which sees them occupying more lower-paid and part-time roles.[12]

Within women as a group, Black and minoritised women and girls are even more likely to be worried about job security than those living in other parts of the UK.[13] The highest rates of poverty are being experienced by Black and minoritised households in London,[14] whose residents form 40% of the city’s population (compared to 11% of the general UK population).[15] This will widen already existing inequalities experienced by Black and minoritised women.

All of this has a huge impact on women, as we know that poverty increases women’s vulnerability to sexual exploitation. While all women can experience VAWG, there is research that shows a link between increased levels of poverty and exposure to domestic abuse.[16] Debt and risk of destitution are often used as tools for control in abusive relationships, at the same time as materially limiting women’s options to escape. 

Those who are disabled or have insecure immigration status are even more at risk of falling through the cracks. The higher levels of illegalised people or those with insecure immigration status’ in London highlight the need for extra resources for these women survivors of VAWG.  


 VAWG Organisations in London 

In addition to the increased complexity of cases, massively increasing operational costs are having a severe impact on the ability of London-based VAWG organisations to provide their lifesaving, frontline support services.

The challenging economic environment is causing particularly serious concern for the ‘led by and for’ Black and minoritised women’s sector, which has historically been underfunded. For these organisations, the increase in demand and reduced resources is compounding an already existent funding crisis.  

The crisis is affecting organisational budgets and the ability to cover operational costs:

  • Imkaan, a membership organisation run by and for Black and minoritised women, report that ongoing and new funding streams are not taking their increased costs into account. Therefore, organisations are not able to increase salaries in line with inflation, resulting in difficulties recruiting and retaining staff. They also report an increased and more complex workload for existing staff, many of whom worked throughout the pandemic and risk burnout.
  • Refuge, the largest domestic abuse charity in the UK, has warned that it will need an additional £1 million to address the rising costs of running its specialist services.
  • Refuge providers are seeing an increase in rents, energy and running costs, which not only minimises their capacity to support women, but further reduces the number of bed spaces for women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) too.
  • In September 2022, 32% of 41 partner organisations in the VAWG Grassroots Fund, supported by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime(MOPAC) reported the cost of-living crisis as their primary concern. “When we consider the nature of their work – which includes safety planning and supporting the recovery of abused and exploited women and girls – this is significant.”[17]


London-based funders and commissioners  

Commissioning practices which offer short-term funding and pay in arrears undermine sustainability and resilience in the VAWG sector.  

Competitive funding practices prioritise cost-cutting and, therefore, keep wages in the sector unmanageably low.  

The situation currently facing women in London and the organisations which support them undermines not only the London’s recovery board commitments for ‘A Robust Safety Net - By 2025’, but also undermines the Mayor’s commitment that London will be a safe city for women and girls by ending VAWG and supporting survivors. 


For London statutory funders, Trusts and Foundations: 

  • Coordination of an emergency fund for VAWG organisations in London to deal with rising costs, using the London Community Response Fund that was created by London Funders during the Covid-19 pandemic as a blueprint. 
  • The guaranteed continuation of all existing London VAWG funding, with ring-fenced funds for ‘led by and for’ groups (e.g. MOPAC Grassroots VAWG fund; Domestic Abuse Act Tier 1 Duty Funding)
  • Higher operational costs need to be reflected in increased grant sizes.
  • Apply an ‘uplift’ to existing funds to account for increased operational costs for London VAWG organisations.
  • Reevaluate funding application procedures to include guaranteed 3-5 year contracts, which allow organisations to plan for the longer term; full cost recovery factored into all bids; challenging current concepts of ‘value’ and ‘success’ that determine funding decisions.
  • Ensure all grants are paid in advance, as organisations do not have the reserves to subsidise this work using their own funds.  
  • Develop more ‘add-on’ funding for policy/campaigning/infrastructural work in order to develop the resilience and collective voice of the sector.


For the Mayor of London:

  • Use your lobbying capacity to push for a specific energy price cap for all charities delivering frontline VAWG services.
  • Apply greater pressure in enforcing the London Living Wage, especially in the care sector where many Black and minoritised women work, as well as all direct and subcontracted work by London borough councils.



Women’s Resource Centre


London Black Women’s Project


Woman’s Trust

Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Association

Latin American Women’s Aid


Women’s Aid


Hopscotch Women's Centre

Sister System

If you would like to add your organisation name in support of this statement, please email [email protected].