Tackling domestic abuse

LGA calls for long-term and sustained investment in early intervention and prevention programmes

As first was going to press, the LGA was briefing Peers on the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is in Committee Stage in the House of Lords until 8 February.

This important legislation introduces measures that will help raise awareness of domestic abuse and go some way to providing additional support to victims, while also helping to challenge perpetrators’ behaviour. 

The LGA supports 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 the 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 aim to prevent domestic abuse happening in the first place.

So, in addition to the measures in the Bill, the LGA is calling on the Government to provide long-term and sustained investment in early intervention and prevention programmes and wider community-based support, including a national domestic abuse perpetrator strategy. Several Peers were supportive of these measures in the earlier Second Reading of the Bill.

LGA Vice-President Baroness Eaton (Con) said a perpetrator strategy “would be helpful”, while Baroness Uddin (Crossbench) said she hoped the Government would “heed the calls of the domestic abuse commissioner and the LGA for an effective perpetrators’ programme”.

Baroness Donaghy (Lab) called for a “cross-government response, including health, housing and education, and an equal focus on funding for prevention and wider community-based support”.

The LGA is supporting an amendment to the Bill that would require the Government to provide a comprehensive perpetrator strategy, within one year of the Domestic Abuse Act being passed.

We are also calling for the key learning and best practice from domestic homicide reviews to be shared at a national level, and are supporting an amendment that would place a duty on public authorities to do this by notifying the Home Office and domestic abuse commissioner of their findings.

Peers also raised at Second Reading the proposed statutory duty on local authorities to support victims of domestic abuse and their children in safe accommodation. They said this was welcome, but that it must be viewed within the wider context of community-based support for domestic abuse victims.

The Spending Review announcement of £125 million to help local authorities deliver this proposed new duty is welcome. We now need more detail as it is not yet clear how the figure has been calculated and whether it will meet the full costs of the proposed duty – including any increases in demand for services, additional burdens identified by local needs assessments when the duty comes into force in April 2021, and for the inclusion of children in the statutory definition of domestic abuse. 

This legislation comes at a time when, even prior to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, local services – and particularly children’s services – had already been facing unprecedented demand. 

One-off, short-term grants do not allow for long-term planning or consistency in service, which is why sustained investment is needed. This would support councils to improve services and keep their communities safe.

For more about the LGA’s parliamentary work, please visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament

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