SafeLives welcomes the Victims Bill, but calls on Government to not leave any survivor of abuse behind.

We welcome the introduction of the long-awaited Victims and Prisoners Bill to Parliament today and look forward to engaging with parliamentarians as the Bill progresses. There are measures in this Bill which will improve the experiences of many victims of domestic abuse, but it must go further if it is to truly support all survivors.

Idvas (Independent domestic violence advisors) do life-saving work every day to support adult and child victims of domestic abuse to reach safety, recover from trauma, and build the lives they want to lead. These professionals are domestic abuse specialists and survivors repeatedly tell us how much they value the support of an Idva.

We are pleased to see the Government’s ongoing commitment to putting the role on a statutory footing with a statutory definition and accompanying guidance. It is our hope that this move will increase awareness of the Idva role across statutory services and contribute to more consistent and sustainable funding for Idvas across England and Wales, without hindering the ability to develop the various specialisms which already exist and will continue to evolve under the ‘Idva umbrella.’ We will continue to work closely with the Government and the Ministry of Justice to help inform the guidance and make the case that the independence of the role is central to any statutory definition.

It is disheartening to see that the Government has rejected calls to provide funding for community-based services (support services available to survivors whatever their living situation, as opposed to accommodation-based support like refuges) alongside the duty to collaborate. Community-based organisations support 70% of domestic abuse survivors who use a service. The huge social value of these specialist services cannot be overstated. We know that 4 out of 5 victims of domestic abuse do not call the police, so the involvement and investment of the public sector beyond criminal justice bodies is vital. Domestic abuse frontline services tell us funding for community-based services is often on a less sustainable and secure footing than accommodation-based services.

We want the Government to support the right of someone who has experienced abuse to stay where they feel most comfortable, which may well be in their own surroundings, safely, with the right support, at the right time for them. And we will continue to make the case for the statutory duty to include the commissioning of community-based services for all adult and child victims, as well as programmes challenging perpetrators to change. Alongside other organisations in the Violence Against Women and Girls sector, we are also calling for a ringfenced, multi-year, national fund to commission specialist support led ‘by and for’ marginalised groups, including D/deaf and disabled, LGBT+, older, Black, Asian and racially minoritised, and migrant and refugee victims. Community-based services must be available to respond to and support all members of a family who need help, in a way that is appropriate for them and no matter their situation, geography and characteristics.

Where victims of domestic abuse do seek a criminal justice outcome (for example reporting to the police and/or supporting the prosecution of a perpetrator), it is vital that their rights are at the centre of the response. A strengthened Victims Code is crucial to that, with clear accountability and oversight to ensure that victims are made aware of their rights. We welcome the steps the Government has taken regarding the Code and will continue to work with other organisation across the VAWG sector to make this the revolution in victims’ rights we desperately need.

We are disappointed to see the Government has disregarded calls to implement an information-sharing firewall between Immigration Enforcement and statutory services for survivors of domestic abuse. We know that perpetrators use migrant survivors’ immigration status against them, and these survivors face severe barriers to accessing help. We will keep calling for migrant victims to have equal access to life-saving services and for victims with protected characteristics to be free from discrimination when accessing services.

We are also surprised that the scope of the Bill has expanded to include changes to prisoner release powers and parole processes, without consultation with the domestic abuse and VAWG sector. We are concerned the inclusion of ‘prisoners’ shifts the focus away from genuinely improving the experiences of victims and survivors. Victims should be at the heart of this bill, and we call on the Government to appoint a Victims’ Commissioner as soon as possible to scrutinise these measures and advocate for the victims who have been waiting years for this life-changing legislation.

The Victims Bill is a crucial opportunity to ensure that every victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence can access the support they need to become safe and to recover. It must not lose focus or leave anyone behind.

This legislation has the power to genuinely transform the experiences of victims of abuse, but it cannot leave any survivor behind.  Domestic abuse victims who do not leave their homes, victims with protected characteristics, victims with insecure immigration status – each and every survivor must have access to dedicated support to help them reach safety, recover and rebuild. With the right amendments to this Bill, that is possible. We look forward to working with Parliament to ensure we do not miss this crucial opportunity to support all victims of domestic abuse.

Ellen Miller, Interim Chief Executive of SafeLives

Read the report

Our response to the consultation in December 2021 on the upcoming Victims’ Bill and improving victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system across England and Wales.

Victims’ Bill consultation response

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