The domestic abuse bill returns to parliament
3rd March 2020
Responding to news that the domestic abuse bill will re-enter parliament tomorrow, Adina Claire, Acting co-CEO of Women’s Aid, said:
“Almost three years after a domestic abuse bill was first promised, the return of this legislation to parliament is welcome and urgently needed. The legal duty on local authorities to provide refuge services could be life-saving, but only if it is underpinned by sustainable funding for specialist women’s services. We estimate that funding support for a safe and sustainable national network of refuges requires £173 million annually, a fraction of the £66 billion domestic abuse costs society every year. Without clarity about where the money is coming from, the future of the national network of refuges is not yet secure.
We need stronger national oversight of the duty, and guaranteed funding for refuge services led ‘by and for’ BME women and other marginalised groups who are all too frequently excluded from local funding systems. Councils must also be required to fund specialist women’s refuges – the current plans could see funding going to generic, unsafe housing services which don’t have the expertise women and children need to escape their abuser and begin to recover. As survivors have told us, it’s also essential that the bill ensures all survivors escaping domestic abuse are a ‘priority need’ for housing, not only those with children.
We are pleased the government has listened to our calls for a wider ban on cross-examination to protect all survivors who face this traumatising practice in the court system. But there remains a long way to go before the family courts will be truly safe for women and children. The law must make survivors automatically eligible for special protection measures in the family and civil courts, not only the criminal courts. Tackling the culture of ‘contact at all costs’ in the family courts remains a fundamental priority in order to keep survivors and their children safe after separation.
Importantly, in its current form, the bill does nothing to support migrant women experiencing domestic abuse. We do not need further government reviews, we need action to ensure migrant women can safely report to the police and other agencies and access support services. Until we have a bill that protects every woman and child, regardless of their immigration status, we will continue to see migrant women and children left with the impossible choice of returning to their perpetrator or sleeping rough.”