Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Stage House of Lords - 25 and 27 January; 1, 3 and 8 February 2021

The Domestic Abuse Bill introduces important measures which will help to raise awareness of domestic abuse and will go some way to providing additional support to domestic abuse victims, whilst also helping to challenge perpetrator’s behaviour. It is a positive step in the right direction.


Key messages

  • The Domestic Abuse Bill introduces important measures which will help to raise awareness of domestic abuse and will go some way to providing additional support to domestic abuse victims, whilst also helping to challenge perpetrator’s behaviour. It is a positive step in the right direction.
  • We support the creation of a statutory definition of domestic abuse, and the inclusion of economic abuse within this. We are also pleased to see that the Bill will place the role of Domestic Abuse Commissioner on a statutory footing.
  • Alongside the Bill’s focus on crisis interventions and criminal justice, tackling domestic abuse requires a cross-government response incorporating health, housing and education. We need an equal focus on, and funding for, prevention and early intervention measures that aims to prevent domestic abuse happening in the first place.
  • In addition to the measures in the Bill, the Government should provide long-term and sustained investment in early intervention and prevention programmes and wider community-based support. This should include investment in perpetrator programmes, which is why we are calling on the Government to introduce a National Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Strategy. We are also calling for the key learning and best practice from Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) to be shared on a national level.
  • This legislation comes at a time when, even prior to the eventual long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, local government’s services, particularly children’s services, were already facing unprecedented demand.
  • The Spending Review announcement of £125 million funding to help enable local authorities to deliver the proposed new duty to support domestic abuse victims and their children in safe accommodation is welcome. We now need further detail on this funding as it is not yet clear how the figure has been calculated and whether it will meet the full costs of the new proposed duty.
  • The new funding needs to fully account for any increases in demand for services, and any additional burdens identified by local needs assessments when the duty comes into force in April 2021. Children have been added into the statutory definition of domestic abuse, so it will be important to assess whether additional provision is required and therefore whether councils need additional funding to meet the new proposed duty.
  • One-off, short term grants do not allow for long-term planning or consistency in service, which is why long-term and sustained investment is needed. Transitional funding is also required to provide support for current domestic abuse services due to close at the end of the next financial year, April 1 2021.

 

Amendment statements

Amendment 7 and 12, tabled by Baroness Wilcox of Newport, Baroness Altmann and Baroness Watkins of Tavistock, seeks to ensure that a carer of a person with disabilities is included in the definition of "personally connected". This also speaks to Amendment 11, tabled by Baroness Grey-Thompson, on unpaid care and caring duties.

It is right that the statutory definition of domestic abuse should include all instances of how domestic abuse can occur. This definition must be enforceable by the police and there needs to be a consistent understanding across all relevant agencies about how the statutory definition applies. The accompanying Government guidance will be important to provide further clarity on the instances of domestic abuse.

We would welcome clarity on how this change to the definition of “personally connected” to include carers, would join up with current safeguarding legislation and the Care Act 2014.

As has already been discussed during the Commons Stages of the Bill, there will need to be careful consideration given to how the legislation and guidance can feasibly differentiate between caring acts to help someone in need of care versus acts of control or abuse. For example, the legislation would need to explicitly recognise the difference between a carer helping someone with their finances who has asked for assistance (which would be a helpful and kind act) versus an abuser controlling a domestic abuse victim’s finances (which is not acceptable).

It would not be helpful, if by including carers in the statutory definition of domestic abuse, that an indirect impact of this change could result in preventing carers from helping others in some circumstances. We would welcome further debate on this important issue.

Amendment 21, tabled by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, Baroness Burt of Solihull and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, specifies that the good practice that the Commissioner must encourage in providing protection and support to people affected by domestic abuse must include substance use and mental health support.

We would welcome the sharing of good practice and investment in wider community-based support services, public health and mental health services.

Whilst the Commissioner has an important role in sharing best practice, this should also be the responsibility of cross-Government departments to encourage support for people affected by domestic abuse to include substance use and mental health support.

The Government’s recent announcement of £148 million funding to cut drug related crime and new investment in drugs prevention and treatment services is a positive step. Extra funding means that drug treatment and prevention can be at the heart of councils’ local public health responses, working closely alongside the police, health service and charities.

Amendment 24, tabled by Baroness Hamwee and Baroness Burt of Solihull, would add provisions around the monitoring and assessing of perpetrator behaviours to the list of things the Commissioner may do in pursuance of the general duty.

We welcome any steps towards monitoring and assessing perpetrator behaviours, to help tackle domestic abuse and prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is why we have supported the Call to Action, co-ordinated by the Drive Partnership, for the Government to publish a National Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Strategy, to ensure there is greater investment in perpetrator interventions at all levels.

It is important to highlight if this provision is added to the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s current duties, the Government needs to ensure there is adequate resources and funding for the Commissioner’s office to fulfil this role.

Some consideration should also be given to accommodation options for perpetrators. This is an important aspect of helping the domestic abuse victim to remain in their own home (if it is safe to do so) and ensuring the perpetrator leaves. This will require a cross-Government approach and we look forward to working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office on this important issue.  

Amendment 28, tabled by, Baroness Grey-Thompson and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, relates to the amendment in the name of Baroness Grey-Thompson to page 4, line 20 and sets out some of the specific actions the Commissioner can take in pursuit of encouraging best practice when using data and technology in the prevention, reporting and detection of domestic abuse.

It is our view that any issues with data collection and usage will be identified in the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Annual Report and recommendations made at this point. Different public authorities will have set data-sharing arrangements in place, for example, for safeguarding or criminal justice purposes. It will be important that any suggested changes to these data sharing practices are considered in line with existing legislation, and in consultation with public authorities about the impact of these suggested changes. There may be additional costs associated with any new burdens placed on public authorities.

Amendments 30, tabled by Baroness Burt of Solihull and Baroness Hamwee, would mean that the Commissioner would report to both the Secretary of State and Parliament. Amendment 46 also includes the Commissioner’s Annual Report.

The LGA has called for there to be sufficient parliamentary time to consider the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Annual Report and any recommendations made. There should be adequate time for both sides of the House to consider the report. It would also be helpful for a parliamentary select committee to examine the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Annual Report as part of an annual inquiry.

Amendment 34, tabled by Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Baroness Meacher, Baroness Sherlock and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, would place a legal duty on the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to investigate the payment of Universal Credit separately to members of a couple and to lay a report to Parliament.

We would welcome an investigation into whether the payment of Universal Credit separately to members of a couple would have an impact on domestic abuse. However, with the limited resources and capacity of the Commissioner’s office, we do not feel this should be a statutory duty placed on the Commissioner’s office to produce this report. We would suggest a Parliamentary inquiry looks into this issue, working alongside the Commissioner’s office.

Amendment 53, tabled by Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, Baroness Crawley, Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, seeks to place a duty on public authorities in relation to training.

This New Clause would require public authorities, in consultation with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to train staff who provide a service to people who suffer or may suffer domestic abuse to make enquiries about domestic abuse, ensure that such enquiries are made, and report to the Commissioner such statistics on enquiries or training.

Tackling domestic abuse is everybody’s business. Raising awareness of domestic abuse and educating people about how to identify the signs of domestic abuse and provide support and guidance, is crucial to help prevent it from occurring in the first place. Training frontline professionals in all industries is an important part of tackling domestic abuse and promoting wider societal change.

Within a council, it is possible there will be a large number of staff who would require training on domestic abuse. To help embed the response to domestic abuse, it is particularly helpful when institutions that provide professional training to council staff (for example social work courses or teacher training courses) also provide training on domestic abuse and wider safeguarding issues. This helps to embed thinking about domestic abuse as an issue from the start of a social workers or teachers’ professional career. This training often covers a range of issues, including modern slavery, child sexual exploitation and abuse, and wider safeguarding issues – which can help equip frontline professionals with the awareness and understanding to better support and protect vulnerable people.

The Business Minister’s letter to employers (Jan 2021) outlines some practical and welcome steps to support staff who may be experiencing domestic abuse. The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse website provides resources to support employers including an employers’ toolkit. Meanwhile SafeLives provides guidance and support to professionals and those working in the domestic abuse sector, as well as additional advice for employers on supporting employees working from home. The LGA also provides guidance on our workforce pages.

Amendment 54, tabled by Baroness Burt of Solihull, Baroness Bertin, Baroness Wilcox of Newport and Lord Russell of Liverpool, seeks to place a duty on public authorities who carry out reviews and investigations into deaths where domestic abuse has been identified as a contributory factor to notify the Home Office and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner upon completion and to provide them with a copy of their findings.

The LGA has long called for the learning from Domestic Homicide Reviews to be shared at a national level and for this to be part of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s remit. Currently, Domestic Homicide Reviews are submitted to the Home Office, but there has been little learning made available at a national level. The sharing of Domestic Homicide Reviews and relevant investigatory reports with the Secretary of State and Domestic Abuse Commissioner is therefore a welcome step.

Domestic Homicide Reviews are conducted in such a way that the process is seen as a learning exercise and not as a way of apportioning blame. It would be helpful if the purpose of Domestic Homicide Reviews was recognised at a national level, and reviews helped to improve learning and understanding and as a tool to share best practice.

The amendment suggests a copy of the review or investigation is expected to be sent to the Commissioner and Secretary of State within 28 days of its completion. Whilst it may be useful to set expectations on timescales of receiving these reports, some consideration should also be given to the publication of the report and how this may impact the victim’s family. There would need to be some assurance about how the information from the Domestic Homicide Reviews would be used and which aspects would be made publicly available, in order to provide support for the victim’s friends and family. Consideration should also be given in guidance, as to whether ‘completion of review’ would mean after publication or sign-off by the relevant partnership or panel, as the publication can often be several weeks after the report is completed.

It would be useful if Domestic Homicide Reviews were routinely collected in a centralised place upon completion, and we hope this new clause will help to ensure the learning from these reviews is made more accessible to relevant partners. Further resource, beyond what is currently available for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s office, may be needed to be collect these review findings.

In addition to this, we would welcome any update to the Home Office’s key findings published in 2016, which identifies common themes and trends in domestic homicide and recommends how local areas can use this information to prevent domestic abuse.

Some consideration should also be given to the resources available for conducting Domestic Homicide Reviews, as we understand the costs of conducting these reviews often fall disproportionately on some partners in the community safety partnership, with little to no contribution from other partners.

The amendment refers to Serious Case Reviews and it is important to highlight these have become child safeguarding practice reviews. In addition, Safeguarding Adult Reviews hold enquiries rather than investigations, so this wording may need to be amended.

In respect of Safeguarding Adult Reviews and Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews, it may be useful to share these findings with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, if domestic abuse is considered a contributory factor.  In some cases, there is also a possibility to do joint reviews with local agreement in some circumstances to avoid duplication.

The amendment specifically focuses on deaths where domestic abuse is a factor. However, Serious Adult Reviews and Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews also consider when serious harm has occurred. There could be some wider trends and learning to ascertain from cases of serious harm, as well as deaths.

The Analysis of Safeguarding Adult Reviews (April 2017 - March 2019) identifies that domestic abuse is featured highly across Safeguarding Adult Reviews. In our report, we highlight that consideration should be given to the dissemination of briefings on good practice regarding all forms of abuse and neglect but especially those newly highlighted by the Care Act 2014 within adult safeguarding, such as domestic abuse, modern slavery and discriminatory abuse (hate and mate crime).

The accompanying Government guidance will need to clarify what is understood to be a “contributory factor” to ensure there is a clear understanding of which reports should be referred to the Commissioner’s office and there is consistency across all areas. One way of ensuring greater consistency could be for the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel could share all relevant reviews with the Secretary of State and Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Although, this would only cover serious incidents involving children.

Many reports will be anonymized; however, the Independent Office of Police Conduct and Coroners reports may name victims so consideration will need to be given as to whether personal information is shared.

There would need to be sufficient resource to review all of these various reports and reviews, in order to ascertain key trends and learning. This task should not fall disproportionately on the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s office, and there should be additional resource available for this work. Some consideration should also be given as to whether there will be additional pressures on children and adult services as a result of this change. We would like to see a cross-Government approach taken to distributing the key learning from these reviews, which will require Government departments beyond the Home Office to be involved in this process.

Amendment 63, tabled by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, would ensure that a risk assessment was carried out, considering any increased risks to a victim likely to occur due to the perpetrator being given a notice about receiving a Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO), before notice is given.

If carrying out a risk assessment before issuing a Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO) is likely to increase the safety and security of the domestic abuse victim, and this risk assessment could be implemented and enforced effectively across all police forces,  then we would welcome this amendment.

Amendment 89, tabled by Lord Rosser, Lord Woolley of Woodford and Lord Young of Cookham and Baroness Hussein-Ece, is part of a group of amendments aiming to strengthen the Government’s existing statutory duty on local authorities to fund support in accommodation-based services. These would clarify what factors authorities must consider when assessing need and preparing a strategy, define refuge services and ensure wide consultation.

It is our view that imposing new statutory duties on local authorities, which are overly prescriptive and do not allow for local flexibility, is not the best way of improving services. We support an improvement-led approach to providing local domestic abuse services. It is our understanding the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will outline how local areas can best assess needs and prepare local strategies in their forthcoming statutory guidance.

The amendment calls for local authorities to allocate appropriate financial and human resources for the implementation of the domestic abuse strategy, including the arrangement of such specialist support. It is important to highlight that local authorities are reliant upon the funding made available in this year’s Spending Review. There has not been an update from the Government on how this funding is expected to be allocated per local authority, and whether this funding will adequately meet the needs of domestic abuse victims on a national level. This is why the LGA has called for transitional funding for local authorities to ensure domestic abuse services can continue to operate past this financial year, in lieu of the Government publishing its funding allocations, statutory guidance or a needs assessment template for local authorities to consider ahead of the duty coming into effect.

In relation to the Government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy, currently open for consultation, we would expect the forthcoming strategy to complement the provisions outlined in the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Amendment 94, tabled by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, Baroness Burt of Solihull and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, puts an obligation on local authorities to provide substance use and mental health support to victims of domestic abuse, where necessary.

People with substance misuse problems need the right support and treatment, which councils are committed to providing despite the ongoing pressures of the pandemic. The causes of substance misuse and finding solutions for it are complex, but we know the positive impact that adequate funding and early intervention can have.

The recent government funding of £148 million for cutting drugs crime and new investment in drugs prevention and treatment services is welcome and we hope this new funding will be a positive step in tackling the scourge of illegal drugs in our communities, while providing much-needed support to those in drug treatment and recovery.

Sustainable, long-term investment in councils’ public health services is needed if we are to reverse reductions in life expectancy and tackle health inequalities across the country. This is why we are calling on the Government to provide councils with clarity on the funding available in 2021/22 as a matter of urgency. The current delay to the announcement is making it extremely difficult for councils to plan effectively at a time when public health services are vital to the fight against COVID-19.

Sufficient ongoing funding is needed to ensure all local authorities can continue to meet their public health responsibilities beyond COVID-19 as well. The Government should match the growth in the public health grant to growth in overall NHS funding under the Long-Term Plan. This means the public health grant would have to increase to at least £3.9 billion by 2024/25.

Amendment 101, tabled by Baroness Burt of Solihull and Baroness Butler-Sloss, seeks to insert a new clause to allow victims of domestic abuse to access a local welfare assistance scheme in any locality across England.

This new clause intends to make provision for every local authority in England to deliver a Local Welfare Provision scheme which provides financial assistance to victims of domestic abuse. We are concerned these individual clauses which seek to place duties on local authorities to deliver particular aspects of domestic abuse support are not co-ordinated and do not take a whole-systems approach to tackling domestic abuse. Local authorities need the flexibility and adequate resources to tackle domestic abuse, rather than an overly prescriptive duty.

We have long-called for greater investment in early intervention and prevention initiatives to tackle domestic abuse, and sustained investment in wider community-based support. This would include local welfare assistance for domestic abuse victims. Any welfare assistance scheme for domestic abuse victims should be considered with all relevant partners, including Police and Crime Commissioners (who have a statutory responsibility to commission local services to support victims and survivors of crime), domestic abuse organisations and charities, and domestic abuse victims. We would welcome the Domestic Abuse Commissioner looking at this issue in further detail.

Amendment 148, tabled by Lord Rosser, Baroness Hamwee, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, seeks to ensure that certain provisions under the Immigration Acts – including exclusion from public funds, certain types of support and assistance and the right to rent – do not apply to survivors of domestic abuse. There will be a review into the operation of this provision.

If the amendment is not accepted, the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession should be extended to help support domestic abuse victims who have no recourse to public funds. As the No Recourse to Public Funds Network highlights, the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession may enable some victims to access benefits and housing assistance whilst they are making a claim for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. However, this is not available to all victims who experience domestic abuse and there is no legal aid to help other groups identify what their alternative immigration options may be.

Whilst the Government has announced a £1.5 million Support for Migrant Victims (SMV) pilot fund to cover the cost of supporting victims with no recourse to public funds, the No Recourse to Public Funds Network reports this does not go far enough to address this urgent need. Legal aid should also be made available to enable all victims of domestic abuse to get advice about their immigration options and to make the appropriate applications.

The LGA wants to work with the Government to provide greater clarity and funding for councils’ responsibilities for all those who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status. Councils also do not receive any specific funding from central government to support people with NRPF. Latest data for 2019/20 showed that 66 local authorities supported 2,450 households at an annual cost of £44 million; however, this was before the coronavirus crisis. High numbers of people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) have been approaching councils for support during the pandemic, following, for example, loss of employment. We have called for a temporary suspension of the NRPF condition which would enable people to access welfare benefits and could prevent them from becoming homeless.

Amendment 149, tabled by Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Baroness Bertin and Lord Rosser, would ensure that those who were previously personally connected are protected from any coercive and controlling behaviour (including economic abuse) that occurs post-separation.

Economic abuse is a form of abuse designed to reinforce or create economic dependency and/or instability; limiting someone’s choices and their ability to access safety. Economic abuse goes beyond financial abuse, as the abuser may also control things that money can buy, including food, clothing, transportation and housing.

As Surviving Economic Abuse outlines, economic abuse does not require physical proximity, it can continue, escalate or even start after separation, creating a significant barrier for victims seeking to rebuild their lives. This amendment is needed because abusers often continue to use coercive control after separation and victims are at a heightened risk of homicide in this period. Lack of access to economic resources can result in a victim staying with an abusive partner for longer and experiencing more harm as a result.

For further information, please see the Domestic Abuse Bill briefing by Surviving Economic Abuse.

Amendment 150, tabled by Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Baroness Meacher, Baroness Primarolo, Baroness Burt of Solihull, would exempt domestic abuse survivors from having to repay any benefit advance made to mitigate the effects of waiting at least 5 weeks for a first universal credit payment.

Any additional support which can be provided to domestic abuse victims, to help them re-build their lives and be free of their abuser, is welcome.

Amendment 152, tabled by Baroness Lister of Burtersett and the Lord Bishop of Manchester, provides for the benefit cap to be dis-applied for 12 months for a person (B) making a new universal credit claim in her own name where she has separated from a partner (A) who has subjected her to domestic abuse.

Any additional support which can be provided to domestic abuse victims, to help them re-build their lives and be free of their abuser, is welcome.

Amendment 163, tabled by Baroness Burt of Solihull, Lord Young of Cookham, Baroness Deech and Lord Kennedy of Southwark, seeks to insert a new clause on the transfer of joint tenancies and survivors of domestic abuse

Joint tenancies can sometimes be used as a means of control by perpetrators, to prevent the domestic abuse victim from leaving the relationship, due to fears about their own housing security. Many councils will have already encountered this particular issue and will have policies in place to provide a new tenancy for the victim, but this suggested amendment could mitigate the risk further. We welcome steps to reduce the risk of homelessness as a result of domestic abuse. We also emphasize the importance of domestic abuse victims being able to remain in their own home (if it is safe to do so) and removing the perpetrator.

Amendment 165, tabled by Baroness Greengross, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Uxbridge, on a duty to report suspected abuse.

It is important to highlight that local authorities will already have statutory duties to safeguard adults and children at risk under the Care Act and Children’s Act respectively. The proposal refers to concerns arising during a financial assessment, where local authorities will have established referral pathways for sharing necessary information. We would hope the sharing of best practice and training would help to raise awareness of domestic abuse, in particular relation to adult social care. To this end, we do not feel an additional statutory duty is required in the legislation.

Amendment 166, tabled by Baroness Greengross, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Uxbridge, intends to expand social workers powers of entry.

It is our understanding that these powers currently exist with the police and we believe this remains the best route, building on the joint responsibilities across councils, health and the police, to keep people safe.

Amendment 167, tabled by Baroness Bertin, Baroness Burt of Solihull, Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Stasburger, would require the Government to provide a comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abuse, within one year of the Domestic Abuse Act being passed.

The LGA has long called for the Government to introduce a National Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Strategy, and we support the Call to Action co-ordinated by the Drive Partnership. In order to transform the response to domestic abuse, there needs to be a broad range of support packages available to supporting victims of domestic abuse and intervene with perpetrators to change and prevent their behaviour. The right interventions at the right time can stop abuse from occurring, recurring, or escalating.

We know that one in four perpetrators are repeat offenders. Some have as many as six different victims. According to Respect, there are approximately 400,000 perpetrators causing high (including murder) and medium levels of harm across England and Wales, and yet only a small percentage of these – fewer than one per cent – gets a specialist intervention that might prevent future abusive behaviour.

Therefore, we support this New Clause which calls for a national perpetrator strategy to help improve the identification and assessment of perpetrators, increase the number of rehabilitation programmes, and increase specialist work to tackle abusive attitudes and behaviour.

The strategy should also focus on community level initiatives and communications campaigns, to ensure those who are seeking help know where to access it and that perpetrator interventions are responsive to the cultural context in which they are delivered.

Programmes for children and young people are also needed, to ensure they are appropriately educated about domestic abuse and that prevention starts at the earliest stage. These programmes should also be available for those excluded from mainstream school.

Some consideration should also be given to accommodation options for perpetrators. This is an important aspect of helping the domestic abuse victim to remain in their own home (if it is safe to do so) and ensuring the perpetrator leaves. This will require a cross-Government approach and we look forward to working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office on this important issue. 

Amendment 175, tabled by Baroness Burt of Solihull, would extend the duty on local authorities to provide school places for “looked after children” to children who are forced to change schools as a result of domestic abuse.

It would be helpful to clarify how many children and families this proposed change would bring into the scope for council support. Domestic abuse is unfortunately a common factor with children in need or those involved on child protection plans, so councils will be providing some support at this stage. An indication of the number of children who have changed schools as a result of domestic abuse, but are not currently receiving council support, would be helpful to assess the impact of this amendment.

It is important to highlight that academies and free schools have more powers to refuse to admit a pupil than maintained schools. Councils would need to have additional powers to direct these schools to admit a child to the most appropriate school, irrespective of status.

Amendment 176, tabled by Lord Polak, The Lord Bishop of Derby, Lord Rosser and Lord Russell of Liverpool, requires local authorities, police and crime commissioners and clinical commissioning groups to take reasonable steps to ensure sufficient provision of specialist domestic abuse support services in their local areas, in both the community and in refuges. This must include sufficient provision, where need arises, of services for children and young people, survivors with protected characteristics and migrant survivors, as well as perpetrator programmes.

It is our view that imposing a statutory duty on local authorities, which is overly prescriptive and does not allow for local flexibility, is not the best way of improving services. We support an improvement-led approach to providing local domestic abuse services.

There should be a whole-systems approach to tackling domestic abuse, which doesn’t just focus on criminal justice issues or crisis response, but includes partners in housing, health and education. Effectively tackling domestic abuse will require comprehensive approaches that all partners are funded to implement. There must also be flexibility to ensure services can be tailored to the needs of different areas.

With regards to the amendment extending the current statutory duty to Police and Crime Commissioners and Clinical Commissioning Groups, this is a step we would welcome and have called for previously. There needs to be a mutual duty on a range of organisations to ensure there is provision of emergency accommodation, and not just a duty placed on Tier 1 local authorities.

It is not clear whether the funding made available in the Government’s Spending Review will be adequate to meet the needs of all domestic abuse victims, as the allocation of funding per area is still to be announced. Councils are also awaiting statutory guidance and the needs assessment template, which will help to identify levels of unmet need. Until these assessments have taken place (once the duty has come into effect), it is not possible to ascertain whether there will be sufficient provision where need arises for all domestic abuse victims.

We would not want to see an extension in the remit of the statutory duty to include community-based services, unless it was confirmed this could be fully supported financially by the Government. A statutory duty to deliver community-based services and specialist services will not be effective without a clear commitment from Government to provide adequate and sufficient funding.

Currently, there is a variety of different funding streams for domestic abuse specialist services, often these are one-off, short term grants that do not allow for long-term planning or consistency in service. In order to transform the response to domestic abuse, there needs to be a broad range of support packages available to supporting victims of domestic abuse and intervene with perpetrators to change and prevent their behaviour.

We have long-called for wider investment in prevention and early intervention services, community-based support and perpetrator interventions. It is disappointing these services were not considered at the consultation stage, when the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government conducted its review of emergency accommodation.

There needs to be a cross-Government approach, with all departments taking account of how to tackle domestic abuse rather than taking a siloed approach. There should be a clear Ministerial lead for tackling domestic abuse, rather than individual departments making different funding announcements and publishing separate guidance.

Amendment 184, by Baroness Burt of Solihull, Baroness Massey of Darwen and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, intends to place a duty on the Secretary of State to publish separate statutory guidance on teenage relationship abuse. The statutory guidance would cover not just victims of teenage domestic abuse but extend to those who perpetrate abuse within their own teenage relationships.

We would welcome any further guidance which addresses the issue of teenage relationship abuse. This should also be accompanied with resources and provision of support for those experiencing abuse in their own teenage relationships, in order to intervene at any earlier point and prevent domestic abuse from escalating and occurring in the first place.

Amendment 185, tabled by Baroness Lister of Burtersett and Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, seeks to ensure that statutory guidance issued alongside the Domestic Abuse Bill takes into account any violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy adopted by the Government, so that efforts to prevent and address domestic abuse are linked to integrated and coordinated responses to tackle VAWG.

The Government is currently consulting on a Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy refresh. This refresh should complement the provisions outlined in the Domestic Abuse Bill, in order to prevent and address domestic abuse and wider VAWG issues in an integrated and co-ordinated way.