Charity Awards 2024

Social Care, Advice and Support 2023 winners: Refuge

Why they won

  • Innovative: Refuge was the first UK organisation to create a tech-facilitated and economic abuse service
  • Value for money: The project costs £450,000 a year
  • Sustainability: Work with partners has helped to change laws and industry practices to better protect survivors, and training has been rolled out to 500 frontline Refuge staff and 1,000 people in external agencies

In 2017, Refuge analysed its data and identified from case workers’ records that women were increasingly seeking help as survivors of domestic abuse perpetrated through technology. Tech abuse takes multiple forms, including stalking via mobile phone trackers and online harassment. It can be distressing and relentless, and outside agencies often lack the skills and knowledge to help.

Many of the women the charity worked with in 2017 had been told to disconnect from technology to stay safe, an unacceptable and unrealistic solution in a tech-driven society, especially if it means survivors become isolated from support networks. Refuge also identified a strong link between tech and economic abuse.

RefugeTherefore, it planned to develop a dedicated team that could directly support survivors, research trends and design solutions for both survivors and frontline workers supporting survivors in other Refuge services, as well as using research and expertise to advocate for changes to technology policy and legislation. To achieve this, it needed new specialist staff and resources.

Since then, Refuge’s pioneering ‘Tech Team’ has directly helped 2,815 women experiencing tech and/or economic abuse, across the UK. In 2021-22, 96% of women said they felt safer when they left the service and 99% were confident about where to access help.

The positive impact of the work, and additional demand, has enabled Refuge to grow the team to 11 people. It has created an up-to-date, accessible tech safety website with resources to help survivors stay safe online. Over one year it had over 25,000 unique visitors.

Refuge has also trained over 500 frontline staff to recognise and respond appropriately to tech and economic abuse concerns, and has used learning from the Tech Team’s work to influence the Online Safety Bill.

Charity Awards judge Richard Hawkes said that all the judges in the category had scored the application highly, and it was obvious why: “This project is innovative, it’s interesting, it’s scalable, there was good reach, and it was value for money.”

CC Reg no. 277424

Highly Commended

Affordable Justice

Affordable Justice is charitable family law firm based in Hull, run by women for women, specifically geared towards those affected by violence and abuse. It provides low-cost legal help for women not eligible for legal aid, who cannot afford high street prices, across England and Wales. In its first six years, Affordable Justice helped 1,027 women and saved them collectively over £1.34m, based on comparable minimum high street prices. A recent external evaluation found that women felt respected, believed, and that staff are on their side, with 96% achieving the legal outcomes they wanted in full or in part. The pricing made a significant difference to 80% and rates of self-representation have reduced by 69%.

Visit their website

Islington Mind

LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees experience years of legal and cultural persecution and escape their home countries carrying significant trauma. Islington Mind’s unique, London-wide project, Freedom From Fear To Love, supports around 100 LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and refugees every year. Through the service, clients improve their chances of being successfully granted asylum in the UK, and find tailored, specialist support throughout their move-on process. During 2022, the project provided 48 weekly in-person drop-in sessions, and over 180 weekly peer support groups and activities, while 75 clients received help during their challenging asylum application processes.

Visit their website