Include community-based support services in the Domestic Abuse Bill, say campaigners

Charities and representative organisations have called on the Government to ensure community-based support services are be included within the bill, which currently only includes refuges or support accommodation.

Members of the House of Lords have written an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to consider an amendment to ensure community-based support services are included in the Domestic Abuse Bill.

The cross-party letter comes in the week Peers in the House of Lords are set to debate an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which, if included, would mean public authorities would have a statutory duty to commission support in the community for all victims of domestic abuse – including children.

The amendment is backed by a coalition of charities which support victims of domestic abuse – including Barnardo’s, the Victims’ Commissioner, Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and Children’s Commissioner for England – as well as the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).

As it stands the Bill includes a statutory duty to support victims only if they are in refuges or supported accommodation.

However, the coalition has warned that while the support is welcome, there is a risk – especially with limited funding – that this will create a two-tier system, with the majority of victims who remain in the family home not qualifying for this protection, and potentially not receiving the support they need as a result.

Campaigners say that the Bill, in its current form, could lead to funding being diverted away from community-based services to ensure the new duty on local authorities is fulfilled, creating a “perverse incentive” for victims to place themselves at risk by fleeing their homes while avoiding tackling the cause of domestic abuse: its perpetration.

“Our aim should not be to uproot the lives of adult and child victims, making them move miles away from their support networks, abandon their possessions and sometimes their livelihoods, take children out of school all whilst the perpetrator stays at home,” the letter from peers explains.

“Instead, we should ensure victims can stay at home or in independent accommodation through well-funded community-based services.

“These services not only protect and support victims but provide programmes for perpetrators to prevent offending and reoffending, as we know that a quarter of high-harm perpetrators are repeat offenders, and some have at least six different victims.”

The open letter from was signed by 31 members of the House of Lords and has been sent to the Prime Minister, asking him to look again at the inclusion of community-based services, as well as ensuring perpetrators access quality programmes to prevent offending and reoffending.

Javed Khan, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, said: “As it stands the Bill will not secure support for all victims - adults and children living in refuges will be covered, but the majority of victims who remain in the family home will fall through the cracks.”

"We know from our experience across the UK that with the right support, children who experience domestic abuse can recover and go on to have a positive future, and that’s why it is so important to get this Bill right.”

In a joint statement the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, the Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, said: ““We know that the majority of victims stay in the home and access community-based services rather than domestic abuse refuges.”

“It is therefore clear that without a duty to commission community-based support, including specialist services, the Bill risks creating a two-tier system, which would leave most victims - including children and migrant victims - without appropriate support.”

The amendment to include a statutory duty to commission community-based services is backed by a coalition of domestic abuse and children’s charities and other organisations including:
- Barnardo’s
- Action for Children
- AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)
- British Association of Social Workers
- Centre for Women’s Justice
- Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse
- the End Violence Against Women Coalition
- Hestia
- National Children’s Bureau
- NSPCC
- SafeLives
- The Children’s Society
- Victim Support

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