Adina Claire, Co-Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“We welcome this report and thank the Joint Committee members who listened to survivors, and a broad range of domestic abuse experts including Women’s Aid, and have agreed with many of our recommendations.
We now call on the government to act on these recommendations and create a domestic abuse bill that meets the needs of all survivors, including children, migrant women and disabled women.
Crucially, the draft bill needs to recognise the gendered nature of domestic abuse. Gender inequality is a cause and consequence of domestic abuse, and we need to acknowledge this fundamental fact in order to understand how domestic abuse works and respond to it effectively. As such, we fully support the Committee’s recommendation that public authorities should be required to have due regard to the disproportionate impact of domestic abuse on women. This could be a critical step forward.
The report recognises the insurmountable barriers that migrant women face in escaping abuse and accessing life-saving support. We are pleased that the Committee urges the government to dismantle ‘Hostile Environment’ policies that prevent migrant survivors from reporting to the police, and to expand the Destitute and Domestic Violence Concession without delay. Migrant women have fundamental rights to safety and dignity, regardless of their immigration status.
We welcome the Committee’s recommendations on strengthening safety and protection for survivors in the court system, including equal access to special measures across all courts, improvements to the proposed ban on cross-examination in the family courts, and urgent reform to bail conditions. However, the draft bill must go beyond the criminal justice system and ensure that survivors are fully supported to rebuild their life after domestic abuse. Every survivor must be able to access specialist domestic abuse services in their area, and all survivors should be considered priority need for housing by their local authority. Survivors continue to tell us that the child contact system is their number one priority for reform; we are still calling for a change to the law to ensure that contact decisions always prioritise a child’s safety in domestic abuse cases.
We urge the government to listen to the Committees’ proposals to give the Domestic Abuse Commissioner the power to deliver real change. Requiring the Commissioner to report directly to the Cabinet Office, and insisting that government department co-operate with the Commissioner, could give this role the authority it needs to oversee a whole-society response to domestic abuse.
The draft domestic abuse bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the response to domestic abuse, so we urge the government to seize this opportunity to take decisive action and help build a society where every survivor receives the life-saving support they need.”