The Billions Lost to Domestic Abuse: A Cost of Living Crisis We Can’t Afford to Ignore

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Domestic Abuse Remains Widespread

Domestic abuse continues to inflict terrible suffering across the UK. Over 2 million people each year – mostly women – endure physical, mental or financial abuse from a partner. While the trauma caused by such violence is clear, its economic impacts often go unrecognised. As this article will demonstrate, even today domestic abuse still costs the UK billions annually in lost productivity, extra healthcare spending, and wasted police resources. It remains a hidden public scandal.

Lost Productivity Imposes a Heavy Burden

The most direct economic cost comes from lost working hours. According to a 2022 Home Office review, domestic abuse now accounts for over 15 million lost work days annually – equivalent to £2.3 billion in foregone economic output. Victims require time off to recover from injuries and trauma. But beyond missed work, many struggle to hold jobs long-term or realise their full earning potential. Individual lifetime income losses can reach hundreds of thousands of pounds. With widespread abuse, these individual costs amalgamate into a tremendous national burden.

Healthcare Spending Soars Due to Abuse

Domestic abuse also exerts major strain on the UK’s healthcare system. A 2020 study by Imperial College London found abuse victims require medical treatment over 4 times more often than non-abused women. Their hospitalisation rate is 7 times higher. Overall, the NHS now spends approximately £2.3 billion per year treating domestic abuse – covering only physical health impacts, not mental healthcare. More effective prevention and early intervention could substantially reduce this massive healthcare expenditure.

Policing Costs Continue to Spiral

Responding to domestic violence also imposes steep costs on UK police forces and the criminal justice system. Home Office statistics show domestic abuse accounts for 15% of all recorded crime, costing forces over £1.3 billion per year. With most incidents going unreported, real policing costs far exceed official figures. On top of this, the courts and prisons spend huge sums prosecuting and incarcerating abusers. More community-based interventions could potentially lower reoffending and costs.

The True Costs Are Likely Even Higher

Worryingly, the scale of the economic burden from domestic abuse appears to be growing. Reported cases have risen 50% in the last 5 years as more victims come forward. However, SafeLives estimates the true number of victims could top 4 million annually – implying the real economic costs are even higher than current estimates. The longer we ignore this crisis, the more it will cost the nation in productivity, health spending, and criminal justice resources.

Effective Solutions Require Investment

The good news is many costs can be reduced through smart investments. The government must fund thorough training programmes to help police, doctors and social workers identify warning signs early. Expanded funding for counselling, shelters and financial assistance would enable more victims to safely leave abuse. Tougher sentencing and rehabilitation for serial perpetrators is critical to deterring reoffending. Such spending is an investment that can substantially reduce the economic impacts of domestic abuse.

A Scandal We Can No Longer Disregard

While the awful human impacts of domestic violence are reason enough to act, the sheer economic costs make clear this is a crisis we can no longer afford to overlook. Allowing abuse to continue unchecked harms not just victims, but society as a whole. Britain prides itself on compassion and justice, yet falls short on domestic abuse. It is time we bring this hidden scandal into the light, and provide victims the protection and support they need. The costs of inaction grow ever higher.


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