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Barrow Cadbury Trust, LankellyChase Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust commissioned DMSS to undertake a wide ranging review as part of their work to broaden the approach of the Corston Independent Funders Coalition to look at the underlying causes of risk and disadvantage for women and girls. We have been supported by a committed Transitional Steering Group, which comprises Clinks, Women’s Breakout, User Voice and a range of other organisations.


The review looked across the life course of women and girls who experience poor outcomes (offending, homelessness, prostitution and exploitation, chronic mental health and substance abuse) and whilst highlighting significant gaps in the evidence in this area, drew out key messages:


  • Gender inequality affects all women, but there is a gradient of gendered disadvantage with poor, black and minority ethnic women at the bottom.
  • Prevalence research shows that girls are at greater risk of most kinds of abuse, including severe maltreatment and child sexual abuse.
  • In Britain 1 in 4 women experience physical violence perpetrated by a partner at some time in their lives
  • There is an accumulation of risk over the life course and the poorest outcomes are for those who experience abuse and violence as both children and as adults.
  • Many of the outcomes of violence and abuse increase the risk of further victimisation; women who become homeless, misuse drugs and/or are involved in criminality are highly likely to experience further violence.
  • Responses to adversity, including abuse, tend to be differentiated by gender, with boys more likely to externalise problems (and act out anger and distress through anti-social behaviour) and girls to internalise their responses in the form of depression and self-harming behaviours.
  • For women, there is co-existence of different negative life experiences and that women with multiple problems frequently experience difficulty in accessing support.
  • The evidence from service evaluations and research with women at risk supports a model of integrated, holistic, one-stop, women-centred services as being valued and engaging for those who use them although the evidence for achieving specific outcomes is under developed.


The report is critical to the development of a new Alliance of organisations which will bring together a shared narrative and create energy to take action on these issues. Looking across the life course of women and girls, this review demonstrates to the emerging Alliance the importance of having a strong gendered narrative and an understanding of the effect of inequality, violence and abuse.


The full review and key messages summary are both available with the following links: