2019-03-28

Is Enough Being Done to Tackle Domestic Abuse?

 

In the 12 months leading up to March 2018, 2 million adults experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales alone.

Not only does this have a significant emotional and physical impact on survivors, as well as families, and often perpetrators, but the social cost of this abuse is a staggering £66 billion. This equates to an unsustainable £34,000 per survivor.

While 6% of adults are affected, women are twice as likely as men to experience domestic abuse. Recorded crimes are increasing, but only 38% of those recorded between 2017 and 2018 led to arrests.

As such, this is an issue in need of more attention, so that better support can be offered for survivors, justice proceedings can be strengthened, and cross-sector efforts can be made to address the causes of domestic abuse and prevent future incidents.

 

So What’s The Plan?

Following years of campaigning by policymakers and practitioners, in January 2019 the Government published the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. The proposals have been welcomed by many.

The Bill outlines new legislation that will broaden the definition of domestic abuse to include economic abuse and non-physical abuse. This will hopefully offer service providers a better understanding of the full nature of issues that survivors face, subsequently allowing them to offer more of the support needed if survivors are to find safety from these situations.

It can no longer be the case that families are choosing between abuse, or poverty and homelessness.

The establishment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner is a positive move towards encouraging a better cross-sector response to domestic abuse issues. Improving collaboration between health services and the police as well as victim services is vital if the provisions offered for survivors and families, as well as perpetrators, are to be improved.

As the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins, commented,

 

“The draft Domestic Abuse Bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront. This government is absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows.”

 

 

What’s Missing?

While the 120 commitments being made by the government are a positive step in the right direction, many across the sector have suggested that the Bill doesn’t go far enough in delivering on the changes necessary to fully tackle the wide-ranging causes and consequences of domestic abuse.

Welsh Women’s Aid has called for legislation to encourage employers to provide paid leave for staff suffering domestic abuse.

Others, such as the Centre for Women’s Justice, have suggested that, while the Bill is working to introduce new police powers to deal with perpetrators of domestic abuse, actually the problem lies with there being a wide range of powers that aren’t being fully utilised currently.

The Home Affairs Select Committee have also called for national refuge funding, and Chair of the APPG on Domestic Violence and Abuse, Jess Phillips MP, has urged the government to be more robust in ensuring victims feel safer in courts, when faced with perpetrators.

To hear more from Jess, as well as other sector leaders including from Women’s Aid, College of Policing, NHS England and SafeLives, join us at Inside Government’s Tackling Domestic Abuse and Violence forum in London on Wednesday 19 June 2019.

 

 

This article was written by Lauren Powell