The Economic Cost of Domestic Abuse in the UK

Not preventing domestic abuse takes a huge toll on the system’s economy. It is very expensive to allow these negative events to happen. A lot of taxpayer money is used in reacting to domestic abuse, and reactive responses are more costly than preventive approaches.

According to the GOV.UK (2019, p. 6) the total cost for domestic abuse was £66,192m, and on average, it costs £34,015 to react to these incidents per victim, and up to £2.2m in cases of domestic homicide. Of course, these are estimates which do not include the dark figure of crime (i.e. the cases which have not been reported). Moreover, these costs include the police, the criminal justice system, the civil legal system, and the multi-agency risk assessment conferences. Furthermore, there are also costs associated with the services offered to victims after an adverse event happens, such as health and victim services. These yearly figures were for the year ending in 2017 (there does not currently seem to exist any more recent report). 

Police Service Provision

The police spend approximately £1,257 million per year responding to domestic abuse. The fees include the investigation, incident response, arrests, the collection of evidence, and the presenting of the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). All this amounts to approximately £645 per person. 

Criminal Justice System 

It costs approximately £336 million per year to cover criminal justice fees related to the CPS which include the services of taking a case to court, holding hearings, legal aid and perpetrator defence. This amounts to an average of £170 per case. The criminal courts are there to take cases involving grievous bodily harm and murder. 

Civil Legal System

This system of courts deals with aspects of domestic abuse related to injunctions (e.g. restraining or non-molestation orders), divorce, child custody, and child protection. The costs amount to a total of £140 million per year, equalling to an average of £70 per case. 

Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences

These meetings involve governmental representatives and third-sector organisations, where information and support is provided to individuals assessed as high risk of being abused. It may also involve members of the police, child protection agencies, health organisations, and housing organisations. These conferences cost around £11 million per year, which amounts to approximately £5 per case. 

Health Services

These fees cover the treatments for injuries caused by domestic abuse, ambulances, and also mental health services treating emotional and psychological trauma. In total, it costs £2,333 million per year, which amounts to £1200 per case. 

Victim Services

Victim support services involve specialists to support the abused individual, and also wider services such as housing, group services, and the support from the Department of Work and Pensions. It also covers third sector organisations and government-funded agencies. The total is £724 million per year, amounting to £370 per case. 

References

GOV.UK (2019) ‘The economic and social costs of domestic abuse’, Home Office, 21 January [Online]. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-economic-and-social-costs-of-domestic-abuse (accessed 26 February 2022). 

Photo by Anete Lusina: https://www.pexels.com/photo/unrecognizable-man-covering-mouth-of-woman-5723186/ 

The Legal Framework of Domestic Abuse in the UK

This article will explore the current key legislation related to domestic abuse, which involves the Domestic Abuse 2021, The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, and Part 10 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which speaks of forced marriage. Of course, this article should also focus on the Human Rights Act 1998, and Equality Act 2010 because domestic abuse is often gender-based violence, and the international community is against it; however, that is beyond the scope of this article, although the topic has already been raised in this blog (please read Women Who Are Mad, 2021). 

As explained before in this blog (Betshy, 2021), the Domestic Abuse Act 2021– in its statutory definition– only protects certain individuals in certain personal situations, and has limitations in including ‘friendships’ as a form of personal relationship. It includes in its scope physical violence, emotional abuse, and coercive control; however, it fully ignores the many forms of abuse that take place in day to day life in all sorts of settings, including employment, education, health and friendship settings. In other words, it does not fully cover what is known as ‘narcissistic abuse’, and what is known as ‘violence against women’. It is the start of a long process of reform to protect victims. It is a positive step nevertheless as it criminalises actions that until 2021 were socially acceptable such as emotional abuse. It protects victims who have engaged in coitus with a perpetrator, or relatives (including children) of perpetrators from domestic abuse. It commands protective measures, and procedural mechanisms for reacting to domestic abuse in support of the victim. It also ratifies Clare’s law, supports legal aid applications; and includes acts committed outside of the UK within the scope, and the establishment of injunctions. It also commands court-ordered treatments for the offender, and places duties upon the Secretary of State to publish a domestic abuse strategy. Finally, it involves the criminal courts. 

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it a crime to perform, or assist FGM whether in the UK or abroad. It also places a duty on parents and guardians to protect their children from this form of abuse, and failing to abide is classed as an offence.  It gives the power to the court to issue FGM protection orders, and places an obligation on regulated professionals to report FGM whenever they encounter it. Furthermore, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, specifically part 10, makes forced marriage an offence in England. It covers both physical and psychological force, oversees procedures, and it stresses that only people with mental capacity can consent to marriage. It also gives power to the courts to issue a Forced Marriage Protection Orders, and the right to confidentiality for victims. However, Scott (2021) reported that children as young as seven years old were being given into marriage through religious procedures in the UK. This is problematic because the Equality Act 2010 protects religion, something that Summers (2021) described as a ‘legal loophole’. 

The Role of Statutory Agencies & Government Departments

When domestic abuse happens, statutory and government services are obliged to respond. Every agency and department has a role which is unique and tailored sometimes to specific populations, although many of these departments and agencies interact and collaborate. For instance, schools and colleges play a role in spotting domestic abuse through their safeguarding  systems. They are under the obligation to report domestic abuse to the local authorities when this is identified. Children’ Social Care services are often involved in cases of domestic abuse, and they have a responsibility to recognise the abuse and to support children and young people. They also conduct risk assessments and make sure that children are safe. Moreover, the Adult Social Care services are also involved, as many vulnerable adults get domestically abused, and their role is to assess care needs. They must be trained to spot domestic abuse when they encounter it, and must duly report it to the local authorities where warranted. Furthermore, the NHS has become the first point of contact for victims of abuse as they provide treatment. Their role is to treat injuries and trauma, and to signpost/refer affected individuals to other support services. What’s more, local authority housing departments have an obligation to ensure that those residing in safe accommodation have their needs met. 

Also, the Department for Work and Pensions have a duty to safeguard individuals who might be experiencing domestic abuse, and to signpost them to other support services. They also pay the benefits that individuals are entitled to. Moreover, the police are often involved in cases of domestic abuse and have to attend the crime scene. They should have an awareness of the topic, and also of the barriers to disclosure. They must report the cases to the local authorities for safeguarding in order to protect the victims involved. They must investigate, make arrests, apply injunctions where necessary, and collect the evidence for court. In other words, the police play a huge role between the crime being committed and the crime being prosecuted. Furthermore, the CPS is responsible for the prosecution of the perpetrator, and  courts are responsible for the effective issuing of injunctions, as well as of sentences. Also, the Prison and probation services have a role in conducting risk assessments to ensure that the victims are safe from the perpetrators, and incapacitating the offender from doing it again. Finally, local criminal justice boards are responsible for the coordination of agencies locally, and for implementing strategies to reduce crime rates. 

References

Betshy (2021) ‘Women Who Are Mad, 27 November’ [Online]. Available at https://betshy.com/2021/11/27/women-who-are-mad/ (accessed 26 February 2022). 

Scott, J. (2021) ‘MPs back raising minimum marriage age to 18 to protect children’, BBC News, 19 November [Online]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-59344731 (accessed 19 February 2022). 

Summers, H. (2021) ‘Child marriage “thriving in UK” due to legal loophole, warn rights groups’, The Guardian, 4 May  [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/may/04/child-marriage-thriving-in-uk-due-to-legal-loophole-warn-rights-groups (accessed 19 February 2022). 

Photo by EKATERINA  BOLOVTSOVA: https://www.pexels.com/photo/lady-justice-and-a-gavel-6077123/ 

The Occupational Impacts of Domestic Abuse

The perpetrator’s control, whether overt, coercive or psychological; impacts on the day to day life of the victim(s). He terrorises the vulnerable person, and the victim might be living with all sorts of restrictions such as not being allowed to go out, or only allowed to go out for specific purposes (e.g. school or work). Everything could be under the perpetrator’s control including the victim’s fashion choices, social networks, and even her diet. 

The victim might be materially dependent on the abuser, or might be coerced into materially supplying for the abuser. In extreme cases, even basic activities such as using a phone or accessing the internet might be restricted. This is because the perpetrator wants to express supreme dominance over the victim. He wants to subjugate her, and the victim might be living in chronic fear of consequences. Furthermore, the victim will most possibly become isolated, manipulated, and made to live in distress, secrecy, and horror. All of this can of course take a toll on the occupational performance of the victim. 

Individuals who are affected by domestic abuse can at times display behaviours that challenge their institution. They may take a study break in order to comply with the perpetrator’s capricious requests, or to heal actual bodily harm (ABH). They might also ask for time out in order to cope with their mental health, or to use substances as an escape route. Individuals might perform poorly in exams and assessments, might display demotivation and lack of ambition, and there is a disruption to long-term career plans.  

Furthermore, individuals affected by domestic abuse might be prevented from getting to work as a result of physical injury or restraint, might be threatened, gaslighted, and given all home-based responsibilities to stop them from going out. If the victim manages to go to work, there might be a clear deterioration in performance or jobs might be poorly done. If a manager is not engaging in trauma-informed practice, it is more likely that they will not be able to effectively safeguard a victim when she shows symptoms. The victim might not disclose the abuse, and the manager might actually exacerbate her situation with this type of subjugation. The victim might lose her job, career, and/or prospective promotions. Finally, in extreme cases a perpetrator might stalk and/or harass the victim within the workplace, and trigger conflict between the victim and her colleagues, especially if these are unaware or unsympathetic. 

Impacts on Children 

Children affected by domestic abuse find it more difficult to form secure attachments, and often show deficits in language, cognitive, emotional, and social development. This may manifest in the form of poor educational achievement, behaviour that challenges, mental health problems, and interpersonal maladaptations.  Those in puberty might behave in similar ways to their perpetrators, and engage in disruptive behaviours. They may experience truancy, and/or might attempt to protect their perpetrators. They might become isolated, and might be prevented from forming friendships. When a child is subjugated, they are prevented from exercising their freedom of thought, and from expressing their subjectivity. All this affects their psychological health, and can impair performance.