Parliament is close to passing the Domestic Abuse Bill into law. Members of the House of Lords will be debating it on Monday 8th March. The Bill will create a new statutory definition of domestic abuse, making it clear that children are also victims in their own right, and establishes in law the office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who is to lead on driving improvements to the response to domestic abuse in the UK and champion the rights and needs of victims.
The Bill also introduces a duty on local authorities to deliver support to adult and child victims of domestic abuse in accommodation-based services. This is vitally important, and will do much to ensure that those impacted by domestic abuse have the lifeline of safe accommodation if they need to flee.
However, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa, along with organisations right across the domestic abuse and children’s sectors that specialise in supporting survivors of domestic abuse, and the Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner herself, has expressed concerns regarding the potential of the legislation to have unintended consequences for specialist community-based domestic abuse services. These are forms of support like Independent Domestic Violence Advisors and therapeutic dedicated counselling services, that help the vast majority of adult and child survivors who will never move into a refuge.
It is disappointing that community-based services are not provided for within the Bill when 70% of victims who use services do so in community-based settings. To do so would recognise the hugely important role they play in supporting victims to become safe, and protecting and maintaining that support into the future.
Ahead of the upcoming debate in Parliament, the Police and Crime Commissioner is calling on the Government to build on the hugely important steps already being taken to tackle domestic abuse, and to support a cross-party amendment which would make sure the Bill provides for vital community-based domestic abuse services too.
Mr Dhindsa said: “We know how crucial specialist community-based domestic abuse services are in providing support to survivors. While it is heartening to see the proposed statutory duty for accommodation-based services, like refuges, there are concerns that this could create a two tier system of provision for domestic abuse victims.
“I’m urging the Government to ensure that both accommodation-based and community-based services are provided for, so that each person affected by domestic abuse can access the help that best meets their individual needs, no matter where they live.
“We need to do all we can to help victims become safe and recover.”
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Posted on Wednesday 3rd March 2021