“Good practice is out there, but it’s patchy” says new domestic abuse tsar

Nicole Jacobs says it has been a “horrendous year” for victims of abuse, but that there is a window of opportunity for improvement.

The Domestic Abuse Bill 2020, which includes the creation of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to advise government, reaches its final stages in the House of Lords tomorrow (Tuesday 5 January 2021).

Nicole Jacobs, who will take up the role of Commissioner, warns that there is a lot to do after an “horrendous year”.

Speaking to the Guardian, Jacobs said: “We have a postcode lottery for victims of domestic abuse. We’ve had refuges for over 50 years and greater awareness, but the public is always surprised to learn that progress in a range of areas including health, housing and policing isn’t where it should be.

“For months, use of helplines, chatlines and websites has increased by hundreds of percentage points. They are the quiet ways to seek help when you can’t leave the home so easily.”

The Domestic Abuse Bill also, for the first time, will create a cross-government statutory definition of domestic abuse to ensure that domestic abuse is properly understood, considered unacceptable and actively challenged across statutory agencies and in public attitudes.

“It is vital that in tackling domestic abuse, everyone, from statutory bodies to members of the public, has a proper understanding of it and how to support and protect victims,” says Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding. “A statutory definition of domestic abuse will help to do this, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical or sexual violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse.”

The definition of domestic abuse is in two parts. The first part deals with the relationship between the abuser and the abused. The second part defines what constitutes abusive behaviour.

Jacobs also warned that “there is good practice out there” but that it was “patchy”.

“It’s time to make good practice common practice. I’m hard-headed. I’m persistent and assertive in a typically nice southern way because I know these are the right things to do.”

Find out more about the Domestic Abuse Bill 2020 at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-abuse-bill-2020-factsheets

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