Review of the position of and provision for children in English refuges

January 1, 1995


This study investigated work with children in refuges for women and children experiencing domestic violence. The study also explores the effects on children of experiencing and witnessing such violence. A multi-methodological approach was adopted involving archive research, a literature review, a detailed telephone survey of all refuge groups and nine in-depth refuge case studies. Details are provided in relation to:

  • the history of work with children within Women’s Aid;
  • childwork in refuges in England – the overall picture;
  • in-depth case studies of refuges, viewed from a child-centred and child work perspective;
  • children’s views of refuge life.

Main Findings from the Telephone Survey:

  1. The total number of children housed in a single year by 141 refuge groups was 20,284, an average of 145 per group.
  2. The mix of children in refuges in terms of age, ethnicity and disability is unpredictable, with considerable implications for the provision of services to/for children.
  3. At the time of the study almost a third of refuge groups had no designated workers for children, which was due, in the vast majority of cases, to lack of resources.
  4. The majority of funding for work with children comes from insecure funding sources, and a considerable proportion relies upon allocation of general revenue and/or donations.
  5. Structured work forms an increasing element of work with children in refuges, especially in WAFE affiliated groups, but this requires resourcing at levels above that which most groups have access to.
  6. The part-time and sessional basis on which most child work is undertaken militates against children’s workers being able to participate in training and group meetings, and against their ability to act as advocates for children’s interests in refuges.
  7. Less than 50% of groups have a child protection policy, and an even lower percentage have a written policy which is followed through by regular discussion/information sessions.
  8. A substantial minority of refuges continue to have difficulty in finding school places for children – refuges are often unable to get children into local schools, with implications for children’s safety.
  9. The needs of all children for space to play, and of older children for private and quiet space needs to be borne in mind in the design/choice of buildings for refuges – the benefits to children of not sharing rooms should inform local and national policy on refuge provision.

See Research Report: Children, Domestic Violence and Refuges: A Study of Needs and Responses

Grant Holder: University of Bristol

Sponsor: The Women’s Aid Federation of England (WAFE) Charitable Trust

  • Project Team:
    Audrey Mullender, Ellen Malos, Gill Hague, Liz Kelly, Thangam Debbonaire