Alexandra is a personal trainer with two beautiful children who runs her own business. She is also a survivor of domestic violence. In the past few years there have been major cuts made to Legal Aid, and the government has created stricter criteria in order to be eligible.  In the aftermath of divorcing her abusive husband, Alexandra has had to take out two loans totaling thousands of pounds to cover legal and court fees, as she was unable to receive Legal Aid.

View Alexandra’s story               

What is the government's policy towards victims of domestic abuse?


Elvira is from the Philippines. In order to support her family, Elvira migrated to Qatar to work as a domestic worker for a family that later brought her with them to the UK. Her employers exploited and abused her.

View Elvira’s story                    

What is the government's policy on modern slavery?

Sophie K

Sophie is a young mum of two who works for the NHS and is also a part time Masters student. Like other young mums Sophie has had a tough time balancing full time work, part time study, and looking after her children. 

View Sophie's story

What is the government’s policy towards young mums?


In order to support her family in the Philippines, Maria migrated to Saudi Arabia to work as a live-in-nanny for a family. Her employers subjected her to abuse and exploitation, even taking her to live in the UK against her will, making her a survivor of human trafficking.

View Maria’s story                     

What is the government's policy on modern slavery?


Megan is a survivor of rape. After the incident, Megan was left traumatised and relied on support services. However, she is unhappy with the way her case was dealt with. With failed police communication, Megan found out the result of her court case through a tabloid newspaper.

View Megan’s story                    

What is the government's policy on sexual violence?


Mena describes herself as a ‘jack of a few trades’. She is a Purposeful Coach, a Trainer, a Motivational Speaker, a Creative, an Activist, a Black Feminist, an American Footballer, a Lover of Life, and believes your aspirations are completely in your hands.

View Mena’s story                         

What is the government's policy on workplace discrimination?


Ntombi is a dancer, musician, and asylum seeker who was trafficked to the UK from South Africa. Ntombia was arrested in the UK for using someone else’s identity to work as a live-in-carer; she felt this was the only option she had in order to end her homelessness and stop living on the streets.

View Ntombi’s story                  

What is the government's policy on modern slavery?


Shirley is a chartered psychologist and a retired university lecturer. She has been left feeling dis-empowered by the changes made to the State Pensions Age (SPA). Like many women, she did not receive a reasonable notification period regarding the changes made to her pension and therefore did not have time to prepare and plan for the adjustments.

View Shirley’s story                  

What is the overnment's policy on state pensions for women


Sophie is an art practitioner and writer. In the last 15 years she has received the Independent Living Fund (ILF) with which she can afford different and fairly paid carers who help her with imperative daily tasks that she is not able to do herself. Without the ILF, she wouldn’t be able to work, cultivate interests, and take any part in public life.

View Sophie’s story                

What is the Independent Living Fund (ILF)?


What is the Independent Living Fund?

What is the government's policy on modern slavery?

What is the government's policy towards sexual violence?

What is the government's policy towards state pensions for women?

What is the government's policy towards victims of domestic abuse?

What is the government's policy towards workplace discrimination?

What is the government's policy towards young mums?

What is the Independent Living Fund (ILF)?

The ILF was established in 1988 to provide financial support for people living with disabilities across the UK. The fund paid an average of £300 a week to around 18,000 disabled people. Recipients of the ILF were considered to be some of the most severely disabled people in the country. The ILF was predominantly used to cover the costs of carers and personal assistants to allow those with severe disabilities to remain in their homes rather than moving to residential care homes. This money came from the central government and was given to recipients in addition to benefits given by local authorities to ensure they can keep up with the costs of care. However, in July 2015 the government ended the programme, and now funding is distributed solely by local authorities.

What are the issues with terminating the Independent Living Fund?

Former recipients of the ILF have protested its termination, worrying about the drastic effects this can have on their financial situations and overall quality of life. The national government has significantly reduced the amount of money being given to local authorities each year from £300 million to £262 million, which has reduced the amount of money available to support people with disabilities The money going to disabled people is not ring-fenced, so it is vulnerable to spending cuts that would have a negative impact on the lives of disabled people. It is probable that local authorities will have to begin making decisions based on cost rather than based on meeting the actual needs of disabled people.

Did you know?

Disabled women and women with long term health conditions make up 1/3 of all women in UK refuges.


What is the government’s policy on modern slavery?

Modern slavery is a problem rife in the UK. Official figures put the number at 13,000 people living as slaves in Britain, however the number could be much higher as slavery is often hidden from view. Many overseas domestic workers, who are more likely to be women, have been subject to physical abuse, exploitation, sexual harassment, and modern day slavery while working in the UK.

The Modern Slavery Bill Act of 2015 lays out the latest policy to address and combat slavery in the UK. The act issues guidance on identifying and supporting victims of slavery and penalties for abusers. However, domestic workers continue to face abuse and modern slavery is on the rise in the UK.

The government tries to combat modern slavery in three ways: 1) Enhancing law enforcement to catch abusers, 2) Improving the protection and support for victims and 3) Corporate regulations to monitor businesses and ensure they are aware of their worker’s rights. However the revised Overseas Domestic Worker Tied Visa system has made many domestic workers more vulnerable to abuse and has trapped many of them in domestic slavery.

What is the government’s policy on migrant domestic workers?

In 2012, the UK government introduced the overseas domestic worker ‘tied visa’ system. The Tied Visa Law means that migrant domestic workers are tied to their employers through their visa to work in the UK, therefore they will be deported if they try to leave their employer.

This is designed to prevent workers from switching jobs to stay in the UK. However this system has come under a lot of scrutiny, as many domestic workers are easily exploited, abused, and subject to modern slavery under this system. Despite this, the government has refused to end or reform the policy.

Roughly 15,000 to 17,000 overseas domestic worker visas are issued every year in the UK. These domestic workers often work as live-in nannies, cleaners, cooks, and chauffeurs for wealthier families. Little is done to check up on the conditions of these workers as private household employment is unregulated. The previous system allowed domestic workers to change their employer once they were settled in the UK, allowing them to flee their employers more easily if they were abused, without breaching immigration laws and facing deportation.

Levels of abuse reported to Kalayaan, an organisation that supports migrant domestic workers, found that the new visa system for domestic workers worsened the situation for domestic workers. Domestic workers on tied visas reported higher levels of abuse, including physical abuse and they were less likely to be paid at all. You can read their research briefing here 

What are the issues with these approaches?

While Britain is keen to present itself as a leader against slavery, domestic workers have been subjected to exploitation, abuse, and slavery for far too long in the UK. The tied visa system has failed thousands of overseas domestic workers, making them more vulnerable to abuse. Many human rights organisations have highlighted the abuse domestic workers face when working overseas. Domestic workers are more likely to put up with abuse and exploitation from their employers in order to prevent deportation so that they can continue to support their families back home, often because of the difficult situations facing their families in their home countries, such as poverty. Even if they wanted to, it is extremely difficult for these workers to come forward about their cases. Those who do escape their employers become undocumented. The tied visa system strengthens employers and leaves them in charge of workers immigration status, visa, job and the knowledge of their rights.

The visa issuing process outlines that domestic workers should be informed of their rights in the UK. However, many employers are forcing their staff to sign visa papers without being properly informed. Some workers were unaware that their visa was tied to their employer until they managed to escape their employer.

There was a call to amend the tied visa system in March 2015, which called to allow domestic workers to be able to change their jobs when in the UK, however it was rejected by the House of Commons. The government must do more to help migrant domestic workers. Activists urge the UK government to ratify the International Labor Organization’s Convention 189 for Decent Work for Domestic Workers. There are also a number of other government recommendations outlined by Kalayaan, such as obliging employers to issue payslips, and pay domestic workers into a bank account in their name. See here for their other recommendations

Organisations that support domestic workers

In addition to Kalayaan, the Filipino Domestic Workers Association (FDWA) provides much needed help and support to domestic workers in the UK. They help survivors of trafficking and exploitation, and those with abusive employers. They urge domestic workers who are experiencing this kind of abuse, or any problems with their employer, to get in touch with them; similarly if anyone knows a domestic worker in this situation, they should also get in touch. The FDWA also campaign for the government to sign the ILO Domestic Workers Convention.

For more information on the importance of the ILO convention, read this.

FDWA website



What is the government’s policy towards sexual violence?

Violence against Women is a serious human rights issue. Women and girls are at high risk of sexual assault and rape. 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual violence and each year 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales alone. In 2014-2015, 30% of female rape victims were under 16 years of age and 25% were 14 or younger. Steps to prevent sexual violence and to provide support for survivors are vital. Women’s services provide such support which often includes counselling, legal advice, mental health services, and sexual assault support services. Police records show that the number of rapes in the UK have doubled in the past four years, while the percentage of allegations resulting in convictions has fallen.

The demand for women’s services is steadily increasing, yet women’s organisations and specialist rape crisis organisations are chronically underfunded. The UK has failed to meet recommendations from the Istanbul Convention which call for one Rape Crisis centre to be established for every 200,000 women in the population. Most women in the UK do not have access to a Rape Crisis centre. The government should increase efforts to support victims and increase funding to services that help women.

The government has also not yet made standardised and comprehensive sex and relationships education compulsory in all UK schools. There is widespread demand for this to be implemented not only from women’s organisations, but from students and parents too. The mentality which allows for high levels of sexual and domestic violence to exist in the UK start in schools. UK schools have high rates of sexual harassment, which makes it all the more pressing to teach young people about what healthy sexual relationships look like, including teaching them how to spot abuse. Prevention and support are two key factors that the government needs to invest in in order to help stop sexual violence and rape. This includes adequate funding for support services, education in schools, and raising awareness of sexual violence and challenging stigma.

Specialist Women’s Services and Organisations

Specialist women’s services are vital to supporting diverse groups of women and are lifesaving. Some groups of women experience greater marginalisation and isolation, and have particular experiences as a result of intersectional discrimination.  That is, as well as being female, they also suffer additional discrimination on one or more fronts, for example: racism, homophobia, disablism, and poverty. Generic ‘catch all’ organisations supporting all survivors of violence often cannot provide the expertise and support that is needed for BME women and women with multiple needs. Women-only services develop to meet need, so those services which are led by and for specific communities of women (such as BAMER, lesbian, bisexual, older and younger women, lone mothers, mental health survivors etc.) are crucial.  These women-only services are often able to reach women who would not otherwise engage with services, either in public or third sectors (including general women’s organisations).

As with women-only services generally, women from minority groups want to access services run by women from their own, or similar, backgrounds as they will have a better understanding of their experiences and issues, and greater empathy than people who do not share their backgrounds.  Such specialist services offer therapeutic support, counselling, peer groups, and many services in languages other than English, delivered within a sensitive framework and a safe environment.

Organisations led by, and for, minority women are also necessary in addressing social exclusion.  They enable integration through empowering and building the confidence of their service users, and by helping women who are often on the margins of communities to access opportunities that many other people take for granted.

Megan has written an excerpt about Safe Space Bristol – a group she is working with to help survivors:

Safe Space is a survivor led support group for women who have experienced rape and sexual assault. It provides a free, open and non-judgemental space for women who seek empowerment, validation, and support from other survivors. As a survivor, I felt there was a real lack of survivor led support services in my city but not only that, spaces in general where women could meet and share their experiences and emotions. From speaking to survivors, I recognised there needed to be a change in the way survivors seek support, creating a more open and inclusive space for women who at any point in their lives had experienced sexual violence. I wanted to create a space where women ultimately took back control of how they recover, how they heal and how they access support. Often women feel there is a requirement to be accessing other support services in order to have professional counselling, or be in contact with the police, two factors that can be incredibly challenging and isolating for survivors who face certain barriers and who might not want to have a formal relationship with particular organisations but still want support and understanding. Safe Space is about giving survivors the time and space to work through things they may have held for a long time, allowing them to recognise and internalise their pain and hopefully move forward in a supportive and understanding environment. In a city where twenty women are raped every day, where we have the lowest conviction rate in the UK for rape and sexual assault cases, and where the average waiting time for professional counselling is four to six months, now more than ever we need more Safe Spaces.

What is the issue with cuts to women’s services and organisations?

Women’s services and organisations provide great efforts in supporting victims of violence. Many women rely on these services to rebuild their lives. With cuts to women’s services, less people are able to seek the help they need as a lack of funding means that women’s organizations are left with a limited capacity to help victims. Women’s services not only support these women, they also do work on campaigning for victims of sexual violence, create awareness and tackle the stigma surrounding survivors of sexual violence and rape. Their work is vital.

The government should stop cutting the funding to this sector so that women’s services do not have to turn women that need help away. The government should also collaborate with these specialist services to create a national strategy to end violence against women. It must be noted that smaller specialist women’s organisations, like those for BME women with specific language or disability needs for example, are suffering disproportionately under funding cuts.

  • Rape Crisis (2015) Rape Crisis celebrates International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women despite challenges & uncertainty,


What is the government’s policy towards state pensions for women?

The government have made a number of significant changes to entitlements of State Pension for women. For decades, the State Pension Age (SPA) for women used to be 60. However, the government is gradually increasing the age women can claim their State Pension. Changes to SPA were announced in the 1995 Pensions Act and were to be implemented by 2020. However in 2011, the government sped up the timetable so that the changes made in 1995 to the SPA would be phased in by 2018 instead. The changes increased the SPA for women to 65. In 2011, it was also announced that the SPA between 2018 and 2020 would increase to 66, and will gradually increase in stages until it reaches the age of 68. One of the major concerns about this policy change is that many of the women affected say that they were not properly informed about the changes made to their pensions and therefore did not have enough time to adequately prepare for the financial burden this will bring.

What is the issue with this approach?

The changes made to State Pensions are disadvantageous for many women. An estimated 500,000 women are currently being affected by the increase in SPA. The motive behind the government’s changes is to ensure that the SPA for women is equal to the SPA for men. However, the speed of the changes is a real cause for concern. In addition, the government did not write to any women affected by the rise in the pension age for nearly 14 years after the law was passed in 1995. Many MPs have recognised this and also found that the government had failed to properly communicate with the women affected by the rise in the SPA. The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group set up a campaign in order to address the unfair changes made to the State Pension age imposed on women.

In 2011, the coalition government decided that the rises would be accelerated so that for both men and women, the SPA would reach 66 by 2020. The 2011 decision was made rapidly and with barely any notice. Women born between 1953 and 1956 have been affected the worst as they have had their pension age increased twice, both in 1995 and in 2011. As such, thousands of women who were already being made to wait until they were 63-65 to get their pensions would now face a further delay. Many women are now experiencing hardship, as they have to wait for their state pension and have also not been able to prepare financially. As a result, many women had no choice but to continue working or use their savings to get by. In addition, it may be harder for women to enter the workforce in their sixties as many employers are reluctant to employ people in their sixties.

See the WASPI campaign website here: 


What is the government’s policy towards victims of domestic abuse?

One in four women in the UK has, or will have, experienced domestic violence. In the last year, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), it is estimated that 8.2% of women experienced domestic abuse in 2014 – 2015. This is the equivalent to roughly 1.3 million women. Last year, the government introduced a new strategy to end violence against women and girls, which included £80 million in funding. This is to support vital services such as rape crisis centres. However, this increase in funding has not been enough to fully support women’s services to the extent necessary, and many women who have experienced domestic violence do not believe that enough is being done by the government to support them. New research by Sylvia Walby, Unesco chair in gender research and a Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University, shows that violent crime against women is on the increase, whilst violent crime against men falls.

Who is eligible for Legal Aid?

Legal Aid is support provided by the government in order to help meet legal advice, family mediation, and representation in a court or tribunal. Legal Aid performs a crucial role in providing vulnerable citizens the legal support they need.

To receive Legal Aid, your income and capital must be within certain limits. If your gross monthly income is over £2,657 you will not be able to get Legal Aid. ‘Gross income’ is total income before tax and national insurance are taken off. If your gross income is less than this amount, you still might not qualify. A calculation is then made to assess your ‘disposable income.’ In order to meet the criteria for legal aid, this cannot be more than £8,796 a year and £733 a month. If your monthly disposable income is over £315, you are still required to pay a small monthly contribution if you are getting legal representation through Legal Aid.

In April 2013, the government brought in plans to reform Legal Aid in England and Wales. These reforms reduced the amount of cases eligible for Legal Aid, including divorce, child contact, welfare benefits, employment, clinical negligence, and house law. The changes also mean that victims of domestic violence must now provide ‘proof’ before they are eligible for Legal Aid.

What is the issue with this approach?

Violence against Women is recognised as a fundamental infringement of human rights. Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on sufferers and their children. Many victims of domestic abuse believe that there is no clear pathway for them. Support, such as counselling sessions, tend to come at an extra cost. The government should do more to support victims of domestic abuse through properly funding women’s services, and through providing proper financial and legal support to ensure victims are able to get the justice and support they need.

In order to curtail public spending, the government has made cuts to Legal Aid in its latest reform plan. These cuts have been proven to be problematic for the most vulnerable clients. Firstly, the criteria for Legal Ais is set too high and prevents a lot of vulnerable people from acquiring adequate legal assistance. Also, reduced Legal Aid funding leaves many women to fend for and represent themselves – often leading to them being cross-examined by their abuser. This can be very intimidating and traumatising. Furthermore, domestic abuse is already an under-reported problem in society. If women feel that they may not be able to get the necessary support they need, this may prevent women speaking out against their abusers in the future.

In addition, victims of domestic abuse are now unlikely to get the legal help they require unless they are able to provide ‘proof’. Many women are unable to provide medical or other proof to support their case. Research shows that an estimated 40% of women affected by violence do not have the required evidence in order to apply for Legal Aid. The required evidence amounts to a doctor’s note of evidence of injuries, or similar. This is highly problematic as women often do not report their injuries at the time as resulting from an abusive partner; they often give other explanations as they’re afraid of the consequences of letting authorities know about their situation. This excludes many victims from acquiring legal assistance and seeking justice. It is already extremely difficult for victims to bring their case to court, and this makes it a lot harder.

The government must properly fund women’s services

Women’s services and organisations provide great efforts in supporting victims of violence. Many women rely on these services to rebuild their lives. With cuts to women’s services, less people are able to seek the help they need as a lack of funding means that women’s organizations are left with a limited capacity to help victims. Women’s organisations not only support these women, they also do work on campaigning for victims of sexual violence, create awareness and tackle the stigma surrounding survivors of domestic and sexual violence and rape. Their work is vital.

Did you know?

Domestic abuse cases in the UK have increased year by year and are at a 43% increase since 2007/08.


What is the government’s policy towards workplace discrimination?

The Equality Act of 2010 made it illegal to discriminate in the workplace on grounds including gender, colour, nationality, and ethnicity. However, racial and other forms of discrimination is not a thing of the past. Unfortunately, racism and discrimination remain commonplace both in the workplace and in our society.

In the workplace, women work at a huge disadvantage. Women in the UK continue to be underpaid compared to men, even though 64% of high performing companies reported that men and women have equal influence on strategy in their organisations. Yet women in the UK currently earn 19.2% less than men, and more than a quarter of women have experienced some form of gender discrimination in the workplace. In addition, working women feel that maternity leave and having children affect their chances of promotion and excelling in their career. The gender pay gap is even greater for those over 40, and women between 50 and 59 years of age earn 27.3% less than men.  In 2014, the World Economic Forum released a report estimated that it would take 118 years before women achieved economic equality in the workplace.

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women tend to be even further discriminated against in the workplace. Persistent racial disparity exists in the UK workforce, placing BME women at a disadvantage due to multiple layers of inequality, prejudice and discrimination they face. Facing a ‘double jeopardy’ of oppression for both their race and their gender, unemployment rates for BME women are much higher than for white women. Black workers with a degree earn £14.33 per hour, on average, whereas white workers with a degree earn 30% more, or £18.63 per hour. BME women were more likely than white women to report financial loss, lack of opportunities, loss of status, and decreased job security after having children.

What is the issue with this approach?

Discrimination against women in the workplace takes on various forms .The government must work harder to decrease the gender pay gap and insure women are represented more equally in the workplace. Ending the gender pay gap is critical to ensuring that economic equality is achieved in the UK so that women are able to experience the full extent of economic opportunities that men do.

In addition the government must also tackle workplace discrimination more effectively and create solutions to prevent racial and sexual discrimination in the workplace. There should be policies to acknowledge and tackle persistent racial, gender and disability discrimination and bias in the workforce, and companies should be required to report their strategies to ensure equality in recruitment, hiring, and promotions among protected characteristics. The government should also make companies install in-house ethics boards (with a representation quota for BME women, LGBT people, disabled workers) to evaluate discrimination claims.



What is the government’s policy towards young mums?

There is some support for young mums in education. You may get a special support grant if you have a partner who’s also a student, and one or both of you are responsible for a child or young person under 20 years old who’s in full-time education below higher education level. The amount you get is the same as the maintenance grant or assembly learning grant, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of maintenance loan or loan for living costs you can borrow, and isn’t taken into account when calculating the means-tested benefits you’re entitled to.

Young mothers who are full time students are entitled to a childcare support grant of up to £155.24 a week for 1 child and up to £266.15 a week for 2 or more children. Full-time students with children could get up to £1,523 a year to help with their learning costs. This is called Parents’ Learning Allowance. This is not available for mums in part time study. Young mothers who are not in education can receive a child benefit of £20.70 per child per week, and additional £13.70 per week for any subsequent children.

The government has plans to cut benefits that will have a direct impact on young mums. Families with more than two children will no longer receive housing benefits or tax credits for their third child. This “two child policy” will be implemented in April 2017, and will leave many families worse off.

What is the issue with this approach?

Many young mothers have trouble dealing with cuts made by the government, such as cuts on housing benefits. In summer 2015, the Chancellor announced the removal of entitlement to housing benefits from young people aged 18-21. In addition, for some young mums, a lack of money for transport means they will be left isolated and lonely. A big issue is young mums who aren’t working, are working part-time, or working in low-income jobs; this group is most vulnerable. Young mothers also face stigma, and therefore a focus on the support for young mothers should be addressed and made central to policy making in order to respect their needs.


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