SafeLives responds to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on the Domestic Abuse Bill
SafeLives welcomes the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee but would like to see more on the importance of a strong response to the person causing harm – the perpetrator.
As the government prepares to introduce a new Domestic Abuse Bill to tackle one of the most widespread, pernicious and lethal types of crime in the UK, we welcome the committee’s considerable work to ensure that the legislation proposed is right first time.
More than two million people in the UK experience domestic abuse every year. We want to see an end to domestic abuse, not just a response to it – and that means changing the behaviour of perpetrators. This is no easy task, but we are asking the government to be ambitious.
Government should use the Bill and its imminent Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy as tools to influence social attitudes. It should fund evidenced-based perpetrator programmes and oversee a tighter approach to probation.
Chief Executive of SafeLives, Suzanne Jacob, said,
‘There is much to welcome in this report. It is right to emphasise the need to widen the focus of the Domestic Abuse Bill. We know that far too many children are living with domestic abuse, and welcome the call for a strategy to support them effectively. It is also right that the report draws attention economic abuse, including the impact of systems like universal credit on victims and survivors.
'However, the Domestic Abuse Bill presents an opportunity to be far more ambitious than this. We need systemic change in the way we deal with those causing the abuse, and in the way we act to stop domestic abuse before it starts. The time for tinkering around the edges is over – we need radical change.’
SafeLives agrees with the committee that there is a huge shortfall in funding for the domestic abuse response, and an urgent need for a new national funding mechanism to close those gaps.
This funding needs to be targeted at prevention as well as support. This should include funding for programmes to reduce perpetrator re-offending as well as a £5m public awareness campaign along the lines of ‘Time to Change’ in the mental health sector, so that domestic abuse is taken from a private matter into the public domain. There should also be support for survivors and their children to stay safely in their own homes; we should not expect victims to uproot their lives when it is the perpetrator causing the harm.
We also welcome committee recommendations around improving the justice system for victims. We agree the family and criminal courts interact poorly with each other and that this can leave victims and their children in harm’s way.
We agree with the committee that the government should consult on provisions to introduce statutory domestic abuse leave for employees who have suffered domestic abuse; and on the importance of independence and adequate funding for the proposed Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
We want to end domestic abuse for good – for everyone. The time to be ambitious is now.