Women’s Aid CEO, Farah Nazeer, responds to the Victims and Prisoners Act reaching Royal Assent 


We were pleased to see that during the ‘wash up’ period in Parliament – shortly before it was dissolved ahead of the general election – that the Victims and Prisoners Bill was prioritised and reached Royal Assent. Despite the many positive and important promises made in the bill, some of the vital changes that we, and others in our sector, pushed for to truly transform support for survivors of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls (VAWG), were dismissed and ignored. Domestic abuse has long been used as a tool for short-term political wins, itself undoubtedly a form of sexism,  with much of the wider context and needs of survivors and the sector being overlooked, despite Women’s Aid and VAWG sector colleagues’ consistent engagement with the legislative process, which led to limited meaningful progress when it came to this legislation. 


Given the commitment to bring forward a ‘Victims Law’ was first made back in 2015, the legislation finally becoming law does mark an important step forward to improving support for survivors of domestic abuse. Following our extensive campaigning, we were particularly pleased that our concerns were listened to and Clause 15 was replaced – which covered ‘Guidance about independent domestic violence and sexual violence advisor’ – with a new clause on guidance about ‘specified victim roles’. The Government agreed with us that only naming Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVA) and Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVA) in the Bill could have created an ‘unintentional hierarchy’ of services. The previous clause did not recognise advocacy roles that did not fit this model, such as those provided ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised services, and also failed to recognise the broader work of community-based support services, so this change reflected the wide range of services survivors rely on which was welcome 


In addition, we are pleased to see the introduction of joint strategic needs assessments, Jade’s Law – which suspends parental responsibility for parents found guilty of murdering their partner or ex-partner with whom they have children with – and Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) for those guilty of coercive or controlling behaviour.   


However, the Bill being renamed the ‘Victims and Prisoners Bill’ from the ‘Victims Bill’ demonstrated a shift away from the bill’s focus on the needs and experiences of victims – which is reflective of the watered-down measures in the final Act. The shift in the language alone could be damaging to survivors – many feel their needs and experiences are dismissed and ignored, and the grouping of ‘victims and prisoners’ further emphasises this, placing survivors in the same group as those who caused them harm in the first instance.  


We were disappointed by the lack of progress on commissioning, with no funding allocated to specialist domestic abuse services which are evidenced to best support and meet victims’ needs. Huge credit to Latin American Women’s Rights Service, who’s campaign we supported, for all their work on the firewall amendment, which would have acted as much needed protection to migrant women by enabling them to safely report domestic abuse without fear of their immigration status being disclosed to authorities. Its removal of in the rushed final stages of the Bill, was also hugely disappointing.   


Lastly, we were also dismayed to see that beyond Jade’s Law, the Bill does not include any wider reforms to the family courts, which fail to manage the risk posed by domestic abuse perpetrators to adult and child victims. Despite years of campaigning from Women’s Aid on the critical need to reform the family courts, perpetrators continue to be free to continue abusing the system, causing significant damage to survivors’ mental wellbeing, leaving many feeling ‘re-traumatised’ and isolated.  


We fundamentally believe that this painful reality and lack of progress in these key areas is due to political decisions and not economic ones. Domestic abuse is an incredibly serious issue that affects countless women and children – we know that survivors across the country are facing a postcode lottery of support, largely due to funding challenges. We will continue striving to improve access to all specialist services – whether that be refuges or community-based services, as we work towards our common goal of making domestic abuse completely unacceptable in our society 

Scroll to Top