£3.2 million to improve access to support for sexual assault
Each week 1,000 women are subjected to rape or attempted rape. One in four women have been affected by domestic violence.
To help tackle the problem, Public Health Minister Anne Milton has launched an action plan to improve services for women and child victims of violence and announced up to £3.2 million to improve and expand Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
Anne Milton said:
"Violence against women and children is unacceptable. It leads to poor mental health, unwanted pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections and substance misuse. The effects can last a lifetime and have a profound impact on the victims, and also their family and friends. The after effects of violence can carry on for many years.
"For many victims, doctors and nurses are the first or only person they can turn to. It's critical that health professionals have the skills to identify victims of violence and offer appropriate support.
"I've seen excellent work in specialist centres, so we're making more money available to improve and expand them. Women and children can then be referred to the right services. For some, there may be only one chance to save a life."
The Minister launched the Department of Health's action plan, which responds to the work of the Taskforce on Violence Against Women and Children, at a visit to NHS Barking and Dagenham. She also went to a refuge, where she met staff and spoke to victims of violence about their experience of the service.
The Taskforce identified how the NHS response can be improved. The action plan includes:
* How local areas can improve communications activity to raise awareness with the public, patients and staff.
* Workforce, education and training, including working with the Royal Colleges and other organisations to see where training needs to be improved or expanded.
* Improving the quality of services, such as providing joint funding with the Home Office in 2010/11 of up to £3.2 million to improve quality of and access to Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
* Strengthening evidence and information, including looking at how emergency departments can share non-confidential information relating to violent assaults.
Melanie Walker, Chair of the NHS Implementation Group on Violence Against Women and Children, said:
"Violence and abuse against women and children is such a big issue in the NHS that we must ensure that we commission appropriate services for our patients. Voluntary sector specialist services provide valuable support and it's important to recognise their contribution.
"To make sure there are specialist skills to meet the needs of patients, particularly those who have experienced sexual assault, improvements are being made in forensic medical care. I am pleased to announce the first five doctors to undertake the new Diploma in Forensic and Clinical Aspects of Sexual Violence have now successfully completed their examination."
Professor Liz Kelly, Chair of the of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
"Sexual and other violence against women and girls is a human rights abuse that has serious consequences for individuals as well as the community more broadly. We warmly welcome work to ensure that health and other professionals respond better to this issue.
"But we know that most victims first disclose abuse to a friend, family member or someone else in the community and often wish to talk first to services where they can talk in confidence and explore their options. So it is also imperative that there is funding for specialist women's services such as Rape Crisis Centres for the many victims who want this kind of support."
Violence and abuse against women and children is a pan government challenge. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, made a cross-Government statement on Violence Against Women and Girls today. She called on families, communities, charities, local authorities, the police and the NHS to work together to stop senseless crimes against women and girls.
Notes to editors
1. The DH Action Plan, 'Improving service for women and child victims of violence' is available here:www.dh.gov.uk/vawc
2. A communications campaign for VAWC has also launched today. Campaign materials are available at www.dh.gov.uk/vawc
3. The Home Secretary's cross-Government statement is available here: www.homeoffice.gov.uk
4. The Diploma in Forensic and Clinical Aspects of Sexual Violence has been funded by the Department of Health and is administered by the Society of Apothecaries.
5. More than 1,000 women are raped every week (British Crime Survey, 2009/10). Around one-fifth are committed against children under 16.
6. One in four women have been affected by domestic violence (British Crime Survey, 2009/10).
7. In 2009/10, more than one in four women in England and Wales (4.4 million) had been affected by domestic violence since the age of 16.
8. Every two minutes an incidence of domestic violence is reported to the police.
9. Over 100 women are killed every year by current or former male partners.
10. Case studies are available from the DH news desk, 020 7210 5221. You can see Victoria's story at www.nhs.uk/sexualassault
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