Domestic Abuse Bill doesn’t go far enough

SafeLives, the UK-wide charity working to end domestic abuse for everyone and for good, welcomes the new Domestic Abuse Bill which is introduced to Parliament today – but says the bill will not achieve meaningful change without funding attached.

It is welcome that the Domestic Abuse Bill is back in parliament. SafeLives welcomes the announcement that the Government will fund the cost to police forces of implementing the new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPOs) and Notices (DAPNs), as well as the ban on perpetrators cross-examining their victims in family courts and the extension of special measures. These are both welcome steps forward which will make a meaningful difference to victims.

However, the bill still does not include any funding for frontline community specialist services which provide vital support to adult, teen and child victims and survivors of abuse; approximately 65,000 victims and 85,000 children are supported in the community as well as 12,000 in refuge. The statutory duty which requires local authorities only to provide accommodation-based support risks creating a two-tier system, in which cash-strapped councils divert funds away from life-saving community based services in order to meet their obligations.

SafeLives research shows we still have only 75% of the Independent domestic abuse advisors (Idvas) needed to support those victims at the highest risk of murder or serious harm, while specialist children’s services are declining. Specialist provision for BAME, disabled and LGBT+ victims is non-existent in large parts of the country. A domestic abuse bill that does not address these gaps in provision is a missed opportunity; all victims of domestic abuse need and deserve dedicated specialist support to help them to get safe, and then begin the process of recovering from the trauma they have experienced.

Neither does the bill make provision for more quality-assured interventions for perpetrators – those who cause the harm in the first place – or funding for training of frontline workers in the police, NHS, education, children and adult social care, prisons, probation or the judiciary – all of whom would benefit from a greater understanding of coercive and controlling behaviour.

Two million adults each year, and one in five children will experience domestic abuse. This is intimate terrorism – it deserves the same urgency and funding we accord to other forms of terrorism.

Victims and survivors have been waiting for this bill for two years – and calling for change for much longer. Legislation is only the beginning, but we urge the Government to make the most of this opportunity and provide a serious package of long-term sustainable funding for very stretched specialist community services, alongside a dedicated fund to train frontline professionals and a public health campaign to shift our cultural understanding of abuse. We want to see this bill help to end domestic abuse for good.

Suzanne Jacob OBE, SafeLives Chief Executive

Domestic Abuse Bill

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