Charity welcomes draft bill; urges faster, more fundamental reform to challenge abusers to change

19th January 2019

The government publishes the draft Domestic Abuse Bill promising to ‘transform the response’; we can only do this if action on perpetrators is a priority, for everyone

Today, the government publishes its draft Domestic Abuse Bill, alongside a vital piece of research that puts the cost of domestic abuse to the whole of the economy at £66 billion. SafeLives welcomes the proposed changes in legislation, and the non-legislative measures, including increased funding for children and groups often not recognised as victims, including those over 60 and people in same sex relationships.

There is refreshing honesty in the announcement that those causing domestic abuse are costing the public purse the sum of £66 billion. This vast figure, along with the knowledge that two million people a year are affected by domestic abuse, is a stark reminder that it is worth not only responding to abuse but also vital to invest in prevention.

Suzanne Jacob OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives says:

“We warmly welcome the publication of the draft Bill and the recognition that more has to be done to end domestic abuse. This devastating crime – abuse by someone who is supposed to love you - costs the economy £66 billion a year. Astonishingly, this is more than the cost of alcohol and drug misuse, cigarettes and obesity combined. As we sit here today, the vast majority of perpetrators remain unchallenged and unchanged. The response to survivors – adults and children - is still siloed and patchy.

“Neither situation will be improved until we see a whole government approach which identifies those responsible and stops their harmful behaviour. There are positive signs in today’s announcement that some parts of government understand this, and some policymakers have begun to ask, ‘why doesn’t he stop’ rather than ‘why doesn’t she leave’. We’re pleased to see that changing and hope to see all parts of government taking this further.”

The charity is calling for a whole government strategy which directly addresses people at risk of using abuse, with work focused at every possible opportunity to stop or reduce harm. Hundreds of survivors told SafeLives during consultation on the Bill that they want radical improvement in the visibility and response to those who abuse.

  • New risk assessment of perpetrators will need to be robust, used as a common tool across multiple agencies, and subject to rigorous evaluation.
  • Proposed changes to Relationship and Sex Education need to be properly funded, led by trained professionals who understand abuse for young people, working with those young people to identify early the signs of their own use or experience of abusive behaviours.
  • Unacceptable behaviours need to be identified and stopped: the charity calculates it would cost around £45m – a tiny 0.07% of the cost of domestic abuse and a figure dwarfed by the spend on other crime types - to provide programmes that challenge and support perpetrators and disrupt them if they try to continue as before.
  • Conventional criminal justice response needs improvement – the Bill is a positive step in this direction - currently less than one in ten cases is prosecuted, an even smaller number translates into a conviction. 
  • Health and social care services are highly likely to be in contact with people using abuse and need support to play an appropriate role in identifying and responding to it.
  • Friends, family and employers are most likely to identify a cause for concern and need to know what to do.

Jacob continues:

“We welcome the full breadth of proposed changes including the definition of an offence in law, oversight by the new Commissioner, and improvements to protection orders designed to stop harmful behaviour and increase victim safety. To truly place the onus on the perpetrator, we need to change and improve the understanding of the dynamics of abuse all the way through the system. A piece of paper alone cannot protect victims and prevent abuse; it needs professionals with the right understanding, time and empathy. We look forward to working with government on a comprehensive perpetrator strategy as well as improvements to the support provided to victims, survivors and children.”

Notes to editors

About SafeLives: SafeLives is a UK charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insights from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Last year alone, over 60,000 adults and 100,000 children received dedicated support from interventions we have designed with partners in the sector.

Domestic abuse affects us all; it thrives on being hidden behind closed doors. We must make it everybody’s business.

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