Government plan to tackle domestic abuse does not go far enough, say charities

While Home Secretary Priti Patel’s plan has been broadly welcomed, some charities have called for more funding of support for survivors.

Sophie Wingate
Wednesday 30 March 2022 17:38 BST
Home Secretary Priti Patel has launched a new bid to tackle domestic abuse (Yui Mok/PA)
Home Secretary Priti Patel has launched a new bid to tackle domestic abuse (Yui Mok/PA)

The Government’s new bid to tackle domestic abuse has been broadly welcomed by charities, though critics have said it “goes nowhere near far enough”.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, on Wednesday unveiled the plan, which aims to pursue perpetrators, prevent domestic abuse from happening in the first place and help all victims and survivors.

The Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan also hopes to improve the systems and processes that underpin the response to domestic abuse across society.

As part of measures to tackle perpetrators, Ms Patel is exploring options for a new register for domestic abuse offenders, which could require them to report to the police when they move or open a bank account with a new partner.

We need a proper register, an ambitious perpetrator strategy and support for victims to be put on a statutory footing

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper

Electronic tagging of high-risk domestic abusers following release from custody will be trialled, while the Home Office said there are plans to invest £75 million over three years in directly addressing the behaviour of abusers.

But Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for the proposals to be translated into concrete action.

She said: “This plan to tackle domestic abuse goes nowhere near far enough. It confirms the stark truth that action on domestic abuse is getting worse, as far fewer domestic abusers are being prosecuted on the Home Secretary’s watch, with more victims being let down.

“We welcome any action to tackle domestic abuse but we need a much stronger plan than this to turn this round.

Labour has been calling for a domestic abuse perpetrators register for years while the Government opposed it, but even now they are only going to explore it as an option with no timetable for action.

“Meanwhile the domestic abuse prevention programme is only a small number of pilots with no commitment or timeframe to roll it out further.

“This is just not good enough. We need a proper register, an ambitious perpetrator strategy and support for victims to be put on a statutory footing. Pilots and reviews just aren’t enough when so many victims’ safety and lives are at risk from domestic abuse.”

About 2.3 million people in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the last year, and about one in five homicides are related to domestic abuse, the Government said.

The new plan aims to deliver provisions set out in the Domestic Abuse Act with a £230 million investment.

As part of measures to prevent domestic abuse, the Government will support schools in teaching the recently refreshed relationships, sex and health education curriculum.

On victim support, the Government is reviewing whether the current statutory leave provision for employees does enough to help those who are trying to escape domestic abuse.

A total of 700 Independent Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Advocate roles will be funded, with additional cash being given for 300 roles, which will refer and support victims and survivors, later this year.

There are ring-fenced pots for community-based services for survivors of domestic abuse and a doubling of funding for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline by 2024-25.

Meanwhile, the Ask for Ani codeword scheme, which allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal they need help, will now be piloted in Jobcentre offices across the UK.

Around 2.3 million people in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the last year (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

It was launched initially in January 2021 in pharmacies.

Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, welcomed the “co-ordinated community response” set out in the plan, which she said “marks a positive step in the right direction”.

“I warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to ringfence funding for community-based services but this must be a first step to achieving long term sustainable funding which I hope to see underpinned in the forthcoming Victim’s Bill by placing a statutory duty on local authorities to fund community-based services.

“These services very often face a precarious financial future and it’s time that this is properly addressed so we can move towards a proper holistic approach to tackle domestic abuse where survivors can rely on getting the long term support they need”.

Charities welcomed the publication of the plan, but called for the Home Secretary to go further.

Niki Scordi, chief executive of domestic abuse charity Advance, said: “While we welcome the Domestic Abuse Plan putting some further investment in victim support services and having a greater focus on prevention – in reality it falls far short of what is needed to tackle the urgency and scale of the problem.

“We are pleased to see investment in highly skilled, independent, domestic violence advocates (IDVAs), who provide short-term support for women considered at the highest risk.

“But we are hugely disappointed the Government has again ignored calls from expert frontline services, including Advance, for greater funding for a wider range of long-term, community-based support for survivors, from vital emotional support to help with legal and financial issues, enabling them to rebuild their and their children’s lives”.

Refuge chief executive, Ruth Davison, said: “While the plan offers welcome steps forward, and provides cause for optimism, some of the announcements appear to reflect existing policies and unfortunately don’t offer anything new.

“We hope the Government will use this plan as the start of an ongoing conversation with the sector about how to ensure women and girls are able to access the protection they need and deserve.”

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “We welcome the publication of the Domestic Abuse Plan, but believe this needs to go further in supporting the complex needs of child victims.

“It is essential that a proportion of the funding set aside for community-based services and support for young victims is used to train specialist practitioners to work with children.

“Domestic abuse can have a devastating impact on children and derail their lives, but with access to support services in the community they can recover.”

In unveiling the plan, the Home Secretary said: “Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that ruins lives and tackling it is an important part of this Government’s Beating Crime Plan.

“For far too long the focus has been on what the victim might have done differently, rather than on the behaviour of the perpetrators themselves.

“This must now change. My Domestic Abuse Plan focuses on taking the onus off victims and making it easier for them to access the help and support they need, while taking tough action against perpetrators.”

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