Reports from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence

Women’s Aid is the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence.

These meetings provide an opportunity to engage with and influence parliamentarians from the three main political parties on key Women’s Aid priorities. See below for the latest reports and inquiries from this group.

LATEST REPORTS

APPG 2017 Report:

Domestic Violence Recommendations Report on Online Abuse

Download report

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic Violence convened an Expert Discussion on the issue of online abuse in October 2016 with representatives from online providers, the police and prosecutors, support services and Government. The APPG are concerned about the increasing levels of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls (VAWG) perpetrated online and the use of technology and social media to control, abuse and threaten victims. The APPG’s report outlines a range of recommendations on the action needed for a modern, effective response to online forms of domestic abuse and VAWG.


Published on the 27th February 2017

APPG 2016 Report:

Domestic Abuse, Child Contact and the Family Courts

Download report
APPG on Domestic Violence logo

In April 2016, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic Violence launched its report highlighting the urgent need for an end to cross-examination of survivors of domestic abuse by their abuser in the family court.

The report is the result of a Parliamentary Hearing in January about the treatment of cases involving domestic abuse in the family courts. The APPG launched the inquiry after becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of women and child survivors of domestic abuse within the family courts.

The report concluded the APPG’s Inquiry into domestic and sexual violence service provision, which received both written and oral evidence from over 60 organisations and more than 100 survivors of domestic and sexual violence.


Key issues highlighted

The Government, family court judiciary and related statutory agencies take domestic abuse seriously and are committed to working towards protecting children in these families. However, this Hearing has highlighted key areas of concern relating to the experiences of survivors of domestic abuse in the family courts, and these will be explored in more detail in the briefing:

  • A need to ensure safe child contact, not contact ‘at any cost’.
  • Access to Legal Aid and Litigants in Person.
  • A lack of access to special measures in family courts.
  • Implementing Practice Direction 12J – Child Arrangements and Contact Orders: Domestic Violence and Harm.
  • Understanding the impact of domestic abuse on children.
  • Specialist domestic violence training throughout the family court judiciary.
  • The role of child contact centres in supervised and non-supervised contact.
  • A presumption that the father is competent to provide safe and appropriate care and parenting despite their abusive behaviour and assessing the risk a perpetrator of domestic abuse poses to their child.

Recommendations and calls for action

  1.  The Ministry of Justice, and the President of the Family Division must clarify that there must not be an assumption of shared parenting in child contact cases where domestic abuse is a feature, and child contact should be decided based on an informed judgement of what’s in the best interests of child.
  2. The Government must put an immediate end to survivors of domestic abuse being cross-examined by, or having to cross-examine, their abusers in the family court.
  3. The Ministry of Justice must urgently set up an independent, national oversight group overseeing and advising upon the implementation of Practice Direction 12J – Child Arrangements and Contact Order: Domestic Violence and Harm.
  4. The Ministry of Justice and President of Family Division must ensure that special measures, such as dedicated safe waiting rooms for vulnerable witnesses and separate entrance and exit times, are available throughout family court proceedings and any subsequent child contact, to ensure the safety and well-being of both vulnerable women and children.
  5. The Ministry of Justice, President of the Family Division and Cafcass must ensure Judges and court staff in the family court, Cafcass officers and other frontline staff in other related agencies receive specialist face to face training on all aspects of domestic violence, particularly coercive and controlling behaviour, the frequency and nature of post-separation abuse, and the impact of domestic abuse on children, on parenting and on the mother-child relationship.
  6. The Ministry of Justice, President of the Family Division and Cafcass must ensure expert safety and risk assessments in child contact cases are carried out where there is an abusive parent involved and they must be conducted by a dedicated domestic abuse practitioner who works for an agency accredited to nationally recognised standards for responding to domestic abuse.
  7. The President of the Family Division must ensure family court judges never order child contact in support contact centres where a risk assessment has found that the abusive parent still poses a risk to the child or non-abusive parent.

Published on the 20th April 2016

APPG 2015 Report:

The Changing Landscape of Domestic and Sexual Violence Services

Download report
APPG Launch Report on New Inquiry into the Changing Landscape of Domestic and Sexual Violence Services

In February 2015 the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic and Sexual Violence, supported by Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis England and Wales, released a report revealing that funding for violence against women services is not fit for purpose.

The report concluded the APPG’s Inquiry into domestic and sexual violence service provision, which received both written and oral evidence from over 60 organisations and more than 100 survivors of domestic and sexual violence.


Key findings

The key findings and recommendations of the report are:

  1. Data collection: There has been no clear improvement on this issue since the publication of the last report on women’s access to justice. It remains the case that data collection is poor, while that which is collected is often unreliable and frequently inaccurate. We continue to recommend that the government reviews data collection procedures and liaise with members of the All Party Group to help establish a more effective means to collect and categorise data.
  2. Sustainable funding: The current model for funding specialist domestic and sexual violence services is not fit for purpose. Many services are under huge financial pressure and are drawing upon reserve funding just to survive, whilst some have already been forced to close. More will be lost over the coming years if they continue to be funded on a hand to mouth basis. We recommend that the government introduces a sustainable and secure funding model that protect funding for specialist services. This will ideally require cross-party support to ensure consistency and continuity of service provision.
  3. Ministerial leadership: Our inquiry has shown that the current ministerial structure of the UK Government could be improved in order to better coordinate the provision of domestic and sexual violence services. We therefore recommend the creation of a new Minister of State within the Cabinet Office whose portfolio would be specifically dedicated to the prevention of violence against women and girls. The Minister’s primary responsibilities would be the coordination of service provision on a needs-led basis and the introduction of a sustainable funding model to support and maintain services across the entire country.
  4. Needs-led approach: Evidence provided by stakeholders and survivors at the inquiry demonstrated the need to fundamentally reform the way in which specialist domestic, sexual and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) services are commissioned. Many organisations raised concerns that services are allocated using a one size fits all approach that is based purely on financial criteria. The current system therefore does not take into account the specific needs of individual survivors. We need to introduce an equitable needs-led approach that will guarantee survivors are given access to the service best suited to them.
  5. Joint Guidance: The All Party Group believes that joint guidance on the co-commissioning of domestic and sexual violence services should be issued by a coalition of government bodies consisting of the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health and local government authorities. Coordinated departmental guidance will ensure local authorities and health commissioners are better informed about the UK’s international and legal obligations to provide domestic and sexual violence services in every part of the country.

Recommendations

  1. This APPG recommends that the government adopts a needs led approach to tackling sexual and domestic violence and bolsters services that address women’s needs.
  2. This APPG recommends the development of a cross cutting ministerial position based in the Cabinet Office. The Minister’s function will be tackling violence against women and girls and ensuring a cross-departmental approach to regulating the commissioning of services.
  3. This APPG recommends that all national and local VAWG strategy, priority setting and commissioning is based on an equitable needs analysis of all forms of violence against women and girls.
  4. This APPG recommends the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice, local government and the Department for Health provide joint guidance on co-commissioning, with clear guidelines for local authority and health commissioners about their obligations to provide sexual violence and domestic violence services under the Equality Duty and the UK’s international obligations.
  5. This APPG recommends the development of sustainable and secure funding models for specialist sexual violence, domestic violence and BME-led services ideally agreed on a cross party basis to ensure consistency and continuity of service provision.
  6. This APPG recommends that statutory data relating to all forms of violence against women must be sex disaggregated, include protected characteristics and work to consistent definitions.

Published on the 24th February 2015 by:
Women’s Aid Federation of England
PO Box 3245, Bristol, BS2 2EH
© Women’s Aid 2015
ISBN 978-0-907817-97-0

APPG Inquiry into Women’s Access to Justice

Download report
Women's access to justice

In March 2014 the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic and Sexual Violence released a report revealing that the criminal justice system continues to fail women when they experience domestic violence.

The report concluded the APPG’s Inquiry into women survivors’ access to justice, which received both written and oral evidence from 90 organisations and nearly 50 survivors of domestic violence.


Findings

The report revealed:

• Many women experiencing domestic violence, including sexual violence in intimate partner relationships, do not have access to justice;

• The criminal justice system frequently fails to hold perpetrators of domestic violence to account. When sanctions are imposed they are often so limited and the violence so pervasive that perpetrators are able to continue abusing their victims;

• 89% of respondents to the APPG Inquiry felt there were barriers to women disclosing domestic violence to the police and/or other criminal justice agencies;

• Where criminal justice agencies fail to respond appropriately to domestic and sexual violence, women pay with their lives.


Recommendations

The report recommendations include:

  1. Data collection: Members of the group found the government is failing to collect vital statistics relating to domestic violence. The government should review its data collection procedures as a first step to building a greater understanding of domestic violence.
  2. Training and awareness: All front line police officers and justice officials should receive domestic violence awareness training to ensure a change of culture in the way victims, particularly women, are treated.
  3. Closing legislative loopholes: Government should review the current legislation around domestic violence to close legislative gaps, such as giving consideration to criminalising coercive control and patterns of abusive behaviour.
  4. Effective prosecutions: Law enforcement agencies should move away from evidence solely based on victim testimony. The police should begin to build a case against a perpetrator the moment they walk through the door.
  5. Victim-centred approach: Government should work to break down barriers to justice, increase information and communication with survivors about their case, invest in court facilities and technology.

Published in March 2014 by:

Women’s Aid Federation of England
PO Box 391, Bristol, BS99 7WS
© Women’s Aid 2014
ISBN 978-0-907817-82-6

Toggle content goes here, click edit button to change this text.

© 2015 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

Terms & conditionsPrivacy & cookie policySite mapProtect yourself onlineMedia │ Jobs

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?