The Domestic Abuse Commissioner responds to the Government’s response to ‘Safety Before Status the Solutions’

Today I have written to the Immigration Minister, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, about my concerns in the Government’s response to my report published last December ‘Safety Before Status the Solutions’.

‘Safety Before Status: The Solutions’, lays out evidence-based estimates of the number of migrant survivors with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) in the UK in need of support, as well as the cost of providing support and the benefits of doing so.

The report set out concrete proposals for the government, drawing on research by the London School of Economics, in partnership with the Oxford Migration Observatory.

Yesterday the Home Office published its response to the report’s recommendations. Whilst I welcome the commitments made in their response, I remain very concerned about the huge gaps that remain for migrant victims and survivors.

I am pleased that the Government has included how perpetrators can use immigration status as a tool of abuse in the April 2023 Controlling and Coercive Behaviour Statutory Guidance. This will be important in improving frontline understanding and recognition of this tactic and type of abuse.

I am also glad that the Government recognises that there is more work to be done and will continue to work with my Office for future policy development on this issue.

However, the Government’s response does not provide any new, or substantive commitments for migrant survivors of domestic abuse. No victim or survivor of domestic abuse should ever be prevented from accessing the support and protection they need because of their status, and victims should be treated as victims, first and foremost.

In my report, I offered two scenarios to improve outcomes for migrant survivors. If adopted, my preferred scenario would have generated overall social gains worth almost £2.3 billion over 10 years of supporting migrant survivors.

Unfortunately, the Government hasn’t accepted either of these scenarios.

The report also recommended that the Government establish a firewall between immigration enforcement and public services. I am extremely disappointed that this has not been accepted and I worry for the many migrant victims and survivors who won’t report their experiences of domestic abuse for fear of deportation.

I will continue to lobby for a firewall to be established by the Government in the Victims and Prisoners Bill which is currently making its way through parliament. I am grateful to the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), along with other organisations and by and for services, for their enormous support with this work.

I am pleased that the Government has committed to expanding the Support for Migrant Victims Pilot for an additional two years, to provide immediate support and access to safety for those with no recourse to public funds.

However, this doesn’t go far enough and is far from the £18.7m funding injection over 3 years that I called for local authorities to be given to ensure safe refuge for those with no recourse to public funds. A long-term solution is absolutely vital for the safety of survivors and sustainability of the services that support them.

Furthermore, as I raise in my report, the NRPF principle places a lot of the financial costs to supporting migrant survivors of domestic abuse onto the shoulders of ‘by and for’ services. I appreciate that the Home Office recognises the importance of ‘by and for’ specialist services and I have enjoyed working with the Department to improve the provision of them. However, this response speaks only to the additional £1.5 million provided to the, now total £8.4 million, fund which was opened to tender last year. This of course is welcome, but it is far from the £262.9 million I have called for. As my report lays out, these services are critical for migrant survivors who do not have access to public funds.

The benefits of survivors being able to access ‘By and For’ services are laid out in the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s ‘Patchwork of Provision’ report which mapped services across England and Wales. It is crucial that these services receive long-term and sustainable funding, as put forward in my recommendation for a ‘By and For’ pot.

Whilst the Government hasn’t accepted my recommendation, I will carry on pushing for this dedicated ‘By and For’ pot to be established in the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Migrant victims are, above all, victims. I firmly believe that any victim or survivor should be able to access domestic abuse support regardless of their immigration status, and I will continue advocating for their needs.

You can read my letter to the Immigration Minister here.

You can read the Government’s response here.

You can read the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s ‘Safety Before Status: The Solutions’ policy report here and the executive summary here.