The new Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to make important changes to help improve the lives of victims of domestic abuse. Our ultimate aim should be preventing domestic abuse from occurring in the first place.
- Domestic abuse is a horrendous crime, which can have a long-term and devastating impact on families, particularly children. It can take the form of psychological, physical, sexual, emotional or economic abuse, and occur in a wide range of domestic settings.
- The new Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to make important changes to help improve the lives of victims of domestic abuse. Our ultimate aim should be preventing domestic abuse from occurring in the first place. We are supportive of the early intervention and preventative approach set out in this consultation, both for the victims and perpetrators, to ensure they receive the right support at the right time. It is imperative the Government recognises a more co-ordinated, public health style approach is needed to challenge attitudes towards domestic abuse and reduce its prevalence.
- Our recent work with the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner on the role of councils in tackling modern slavery has been a good example of how we can collaborate on this type of issue. We hope to replicate this with the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Councils are already working towards achieving the objectives set out in the National Statement of Expectations (NSE). We hope to make further progress on this work with the Commissioner to ensure local services are victim-centred, strategically commissioned, and include a focus on safeguarding individuals, managing perpetrators and local awareness-raising.
- Successfully addressing domestic abuse requires a multi-agency public health approach to supporting victims of domestic abuse. Police and crime commissioners have a clear role to play given their statutory responsibilities for victims, but councils and other public services have an important role to play alongside the police. Health, housing and education services are vital to tackling domestic abuse. Rather than focus on processes and structures, central government and local partners need to focus collectively on strengthening the culture of local collaboration and joint commissioning. Encouraging this shift in culture across the health service is especially important.
- A key element going forward in any multi-agency response should be a shift towards disrupting the life of the perpetrator, rather than the victim. In order to achieve this, we need to develop accessible, effective interventions that are designed to reduce the number of perpetrators now and in the future. Where possible victims of domestic abuse should be supported to remain in their own home, but only if it is safe to do so. There needs to be clarity on the powers that are available to councils when looking at housing, support and treatment options for alleged perpetrators.
- Reducing domestic abuse over the longer term also means looking at what younger people are taught about relationships. This must include what children and young people are watching online and the impact this is having on their views about appropriate behaviour in a relationship.
- Any legislative changes in the Bill need to be matched with adequate resources and funding. Local government is facing unprecedented levels of demand, with an overall funding gap that will exceed £5 billion by 2020. This means councils are increasingly being forced to prioritise spending for those at immediate risk of harm, rather than on earlier support services that can help families address harmful behaviours, including in areas such as domestic abuse.
- We will continue to work with the Government and our local government partners on this important issue, as the consultation progresses.