Statement by West Yorkshire’s PCC Mark Burns-Williamson OBE on the Domestic Abuse Bill – Support for victims and survivors
5th March 2021
“Parliament is close to passing the Domestic Abuse Bill into law. Members of the House of Lords will be debating it on Monday 8th March. The Bill will create a new statutory definition of domestic abuse, making it clear that children are also victims in their own right, and establishes in law the office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who is to lead on driving improvements to the response to domestic abuse in the UK and champion the rights and needs of victims.
“The Bill also introduces a duty on local authorities to deliver support to adult and child victims of domestic abuse in accommodation-based services. This is vitally important and will do much to ensure that those impacted by domestic abuse have the lifeline of safe accommodation if they need to flee.
“However, as Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, I along with organisations right across the domestic abuse and children’s sectors that specialise in supporting survivors of domestic abuse, and the Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner herself, has expressed concerns regarding the potential of the legislation to have unintended consequences for specialist community-based domestic abuse services.
“These are forms of support like Independent Domestic Violence Advisors and therapeutic dedicated counselling services, that help the vast majority of adult and child survivors who will never move into a refuge.
“It is disappointing that community-based services are not provided for within the Bill when 70% of victims who use services do so in community-based settings. To do so would recognise the hugely important role they play in supporting victims to become safe, protecting and maintaining that support into the future.
“Ahead of the upcoming debate in Parliament I am calling on the Government to build on the hugely important steps already being taken to tackle domestic abuse, and to support a cross-party amendment which would make sure the Bill provides for vital community-based domestic abuse services too.
“We know how crucial specialist community-based domestic abuse services are in providing support to survivors. While it is heartening to see the proposed statutory duty for accommodation-based services, like refuges, there are concerns that this could create a two tier system of provision for domestic abuse victims.
“I’m urging the Government to ensure that both accommodation-based and community-based services are provided for, so that each person affected by domestic abuse can access the help that best meets their individual needs, no matter where they live.
“Implementation of such measures should also be on a phased basis recognising the amount of work that would be needed, by local authorities and their partners.
“Most importantly, the Government needs to recognise that there is not enough funding currently available for community based support services for victims which I have consistently raised awareness of publicly. So there is a real risk that the Government gives local authorities extra responsibilities, but not the adequate resources to implement them.
“The additional funding that the Ministry of Justice has put into these services over the last 12 months during Coivd19 is very welcome, however, it is unfortunately the case that more needs to be done to address the needs longer term. We need to do all that we can to help victims become and stay safe, and to cope and recover.
“No one organisation can do this on its own, it needs integrated partnership work of the highest quality. PCCs, the Police and criminal justice system, local authorities, the NHS and the third sector all have vitally important roles to play in helping achieve this.”