Prevention is key to tackle domestic abuse

By Sophie Linden, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime

The Mayor and I passionately believe that all agencies have a part to play in the prevention of violence. That’s why we created England’s first Violence Reduction Unit and why the public health approach – working with partner agencies and communities to identify and address the underlying, long-term causes of violence – is at the heart of our work to prevent violence in all its forms in London.

The Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently making its way through Parliament will put that approach on a statutory footing around the country, placing a duty on public authorities to collaborate and plan to prevent and reduce serious violence. As the Bill currently stands however, there is a significant omission from the definition of serious violent crime proposed for this new duty; violence against women and girls – particularly domestic abuse and sexual violence.

In London we are firm believers in the value of a partnership approach to addressing violence against women and girls. To give one example, recognising that contact with GPs and other health workers can be an important, safe moment for victims to disclose abuse, through the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit we have invested a total of £2.84m since 2019 in the funding of the IRIS programme. IRIS supports front line healthcare professionals such as GPs with training and resources to respond effectively to disclosures of domestic abuse by patients and to make appropriate referrals to other services. IRIS also provides emotional support to patients who have disclosed abuse, together with practical help including financial and housing advice and support in reporting to the police. Service user feedback has been positive, and our funding has increased IRIS’s delivery across London by 70%, enabling the service to reach an additional 7 boroughs by the end of 2021. 

The trauma of witnessing parental abuse and extra-familial abuse plays a key role in the behaviour of our young people and the VRU is also working with partners to address this. This includes a new service currently in development for Children and Young People Impacted by Domestic Abuse, to deliver therapeutic play and counselling services for 11-15 and 16-24 year-olds. 

The impact of domestic abuse and sexual violence is devastating for victims, for families and communities. The scale of these offences and the harm they cause reverberates through generations and corrodes our society. By anyone’s definition these are amongst the most serious crimes and they affect women and girls in every part of the country. There should be no room for doubt about the duty on all agencies to work together in tackling these offences, or about the value of doing so. That’s why we support the proposed amendment by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Baroness Bertin to extend the definition of serious violence in the Bill to include domestic abuse, domestic homicides and sexual violence.