Women’s Aid responds to government’s draft domestic abuse bill
Monday 21st January 2019
Today the government has published its draft domestic abuse bill, its response to the domestic abuse bill consultation as well as its research into the social and economic cost of domestic abuse.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“Domestic abuse costs lives and it costs money. That domestic abuse costs society £66 billion a year and the lives of on average two women a week in England and Wales should be a wake-up call for us all. Now is the time to bring it out into the spotlight and address the impact of domestic abuse properly once and for all.
“For far too long, the response to domestic abuse has been a postcode lottery, with resources often focused on so-called “high risk” cases. An estimated 21,084 referrals to all refuges in England were declined in 2017/18, averaging over 400 referrals declined each week. This is not good enough. Our national network of life-saving support services are struggling to meet demand while continuing to do their extraordinary work. Uncertain, shoestring and diminishing budgets make their work harder every year. No woman and child should be turned away from the support they so desperately need. The domestic abuse bill has the potential to create a step change in the national response, to create a more effective approach to tackling domestic abuse; sustainable funding for our life-saving network of specialist support services must be at the centre of this if we are to make a real difference to survivors’ lives.
“We are delighted that the government has listened to our Child First campaign and acted by introducing a ban on abusers cross-examining victims in the family courts. Although this new law is much welcomed, it alone will not protect survivors in the family courts and challenge the “contact at all costs” approach by judges which is putting children in danger. We look forward to working with the government to introduce greater protections in the family courts for survivors, like special measures to safeguard them in the courtroom, and ensure that children’s safety is put at the heart of all decisions made by the family courts.
“We welcome the additional funding to increase support for survivors with additional needs, like disabled women, older women and women who have no recourse to public funds as a result of their immigration status. We know from our work with survivors that these women have faced often insurmountable barriers to escaping domestic abuse, and this much-needed funding will go some way to helping them rebuild their lives free from abuse. But it is not enough. The government must deliver the resources needed as well as legislation to make a real difference to survivors’ lives.
“It is clear that domestic abuse is much wider than a criminal justice issue – it affects us all. Together we can make ending domestic abuse everybody’s business by bringing about change in both attitudes and practice across housing, health, family courts, education, immigration, welfare and specialist domestic abuse services to name a just few. By investing just a fraction of the money domestic abuse costs society every year into early intervention work, like our pioneering Change That Lasts project, and specialist support services, we could transform the response to domestic abuse. We look forward to working with the government, our member services and survivors themselves to make sure survivors have the resources and support they need, as well as address the root causes of domestic abuse so that every woman and child can live free from fear and abuse.”
If you are worried about your relationship or that of a friend or family member, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk.
For more information, please contact the Women’s Aid press office: 020 7566 2511 / [email protected]