The horrific impact on survivors and widespread prevalence of domestic abuse has come into sharp focus over the last two years and we have seen strong calls from the public for a more robust response to against violence against women and girls in the home and on the streets.
Today the Government has announced its new Domestic Abuse Plan which focuses on the need for prioritising prevention, supporting all victims and pursuing perpetrators. It has also published its supporting Male Victims Position Statement.
What’s in the plan?
A welcomed cross-government approach and a wider co-ordinated community response to preventing and tackling domestic abuse
This plan reinforces the Home Secretary’s commitment to make tackling domestic abuse a priority across Government and other agencies like police, health and housing so we can intervene to tackle domestic abuse as early as possible.
This reflects the fact that everyone has a responsibility when it comes to tackle domestic abuse – from health, education, business to police, the criminal justice system and many others. I firmly agree that we need to focus our efforts on this kind of co-ordinated community response.
In line with this approach the plan allows up to 7.5 million to set up effective intervention within healthcare settings, including more training for healthcare professionals around domestic abuse and to improve coordination within health settings and other organisations.
An extra £3.3 million has been ring fenced to help update and roll out the Domestic Abuse matters training for police forces across England and Wales who have yet to receive it.
There is also extra money for 700 more specialist support workers for survivors; ring fenced pots for community-based services for both male and female survivors of domestic abuse and a doubling of funding for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which helps so many victims when they need it most.
The Male Victims Position Statement focuses on the specific experiences of men and boys and I am glad to see that funds have been put aside for community based services for male victims of domestic abuse.
The Domestic Abuse Act recognised children as victims for the first time and it is right that there is money to back this up. I am pleased to see £4.1m of extra funding for organisations who provide specialist support for children who are victims of domestic abuse and urge the government to use this as foundation to help us transform our response to children as victims of domestic abuse.
It is also welcome to see the commitments for employers to review whether current statutory leave provision for employees does enough to support victims of domestic abuse. This again reflects the concept that everyone has a role to play.
When it comes to domestic abuse, we must always support victims and their children, but there should be an onus on the perpetrators of these crimes to change their behaviour. In this plan the Government has set aside £75million over the next three years to directly address abuser’s behaviour and that is positive.
Early prevention and intervention will require more investment in community-based services (like counselling support for victims and their children) which are a lifeline for many experiencing domestic abuse.
The Commissioner’s work to prevent future deaths and centre the voices and experiences of survivors
It is very welcome to see the support outlined in the Domestic Abuse Plan for my office which will be used to create a Domestic Homicide Oversight Mechanism to help prevent future deaths linked to domestic abuse.
A clear oversight and accountability mechanism bringing together learning from a whole range of reviews and led by my office, would help to drive effective implementation and share lessons nationally in the long- as well as short-term.
There is also funding that will allow us to focus more on survivor engagement and this will help ensure that the lived experiences of victims is at the heart of the Government’s future policy making.
What’s next? Creating long-lasting change for all survivors
The Victims’ Bill.
I warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to ringfence funding for community-based services but this must be a first step to achieving long term sustainable funding which I hope to see underpinned in the forthcoming Victim’s Bill by placing a statutory duty on local authorities to fund community-based services.
For victims of domestic abuse accessing support, 70% of them will do so via community-based services, with the vast majority never spending time in refuge accommodation.
These services very often face a precarious financial future and it’s time that this is properly addressed so we can move towards a proper holistic approach to tackle domestic abuse where survivors can rely on getting the long term support they need.
Support for victims and survivors without recourse to public funds
One of the key priorities for me as the Domestic Abuse Commissioner is support for migrant survivors who have no recourse to public funds meaning they can’t access support or refuge accommodation when they need it most.
I welcome the £1.4 million funding announced in this plan as an extension of the Migrant Victim’s Pilot fund which was due to end tomorrow but believe that this feels like a stop gap measure.
I would like to see the Government draw from the evaluation of the first year of the pilot and our forthcoming research to create a universal pathway to support for migrant victims of domestic abuse which would provide them with the support they need to rebuild their lives.
In my report last year Safety Before Status, I called for a much larger funding pot of £6.2m a year to be made available in the interim, and for a specific funding pot of £165.3m over three years to improve the availability of specialist by and for services for Black and minoritised victims including migrant victims.
We must also see moves to build on the commitment in the Domestic Abuse Plan to develop a protocol around data sharing between the police and immigration enforcement to create a full fire wall so that no data is shared.
In all, this is an ambitious plan which marks a positive step in the right direction.
Now we need to see government and agencies coming together so all victims can see that their voices are being heard and action is being taken so survivors don’t have to live in fear in their own homes.
The Domestic Abuse Plan is available here.
The Government’s supporting male victims position statement can be read here.