Lots of constituents have been in touch with me in recent weeks regarding the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill – thanks to all of you who have written in.
This legislation could have been the opportunity to bring about real transformative change in how we protect women and girls from domestic abuse. Labour put forward a series of amendments to the draft legislation to improve it. I supported each of the following changes to the draft legislation:
- Data sharing for immigration purposes – this would have established safe reporting mechanisms, so migrant victims of domestic abuse could report this safely without the fear of immigration control.
- Lifting of ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ – this would have lifted the rule about having no recourse to public funds for the duration of the ‘Support for Migrant Victim’s Scheme’, to ensure all migrant victims of domestic abuse could access support services whilst they fled abuse.
- Monitoring of serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements, and a perpetrator strategy – our proposal would have required serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators to be registered on a database and be subjected to supervision, monitoring and management.
- Safeguarding in Child Contact Centres – this would have required Child Contact Centres/Services to regularly check their staff and volunteers against national standards on safeguarding and preventing abuse.
On all four of these Labour proposals, Conservative MPs voted against them and we lost all four votes.
We know that Covid has compounded the issue of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. The lockdown in spring 2020 saw reported cases of domestic abuse rise at an alarming rate, with a 65% increasing in calls to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline and a 700% increase in traffic to their website.
Violence against women and girls can be prevented, and it is essential that the UK Government acts to ensure that protection and support is available for all survivors. It is simply not doing enough to support victims of domestic abuse. A decade of cuts to police, Domestic Abuse services, violence against women and girls services, the Crown Prosecution Service and legal aid have led to the current shameful situation. Too many perpetrators are escaping justice.
Labour has called on the UK Government to ensure all victims of domestic abuse are seen, supported and protected. The availability of specialist support for certain groups (both in the form of refuge accommodation and other support services) is vital – these include ‘by and for’ services, that support black and minority ethnic victims, migrant victims, LGBTQ+ victims and disabled victims.
There must be a co-ordinated cross-government response to domestic abuse. To be properly transformative, the legislation needed to deliver the changes survivors urgently need in housing, healthcare, the immigration system, welfare reform, the family courts and in support for children.
This is why Labour published a green paper with our policy approach to ending violence against women and girls. You can read the green paper here: https://labour.org.uk/ending-violence-against-women-and-girls/
Please be assured that I, and my Labour colleagues in Parliament will continue to press the UK Government to protect women and girls.