The Government has promised more support for victims and survivors.
Following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021, and the subsequent public conversation about the safety of women and girls, the Government reopened its consultation on the Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) 2021-24 Strategy – and received an overwhelming 180,000 responses to help shape the strategy.
In July, the Government published its updated strategy, setting out an ambition to prevent violence against women and girls, increase support for victims and survivors, and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
It is right that the strategy focuses on all forms of violence against women and girls, including rape and sexual offences, stalking, domestic abuse, ‘honour-based’ abuse – including female genital mutilation, forced marriage and ‘honour’ killings – ‘revenge porn’ and ‘upskirting’. These are acts of violence that have a disproportionate effect on women and girls.
The LGA welcomes the Government’s immediate and strategic response to improve safety for women and girls.
There will be a new national policing lead on violence against women and girls, who will report to the National Policing Board, chaired by the Home Secretary. The new policing lead will also be the point of contact for every police force, to ensure best practice is shared and that progress on improving the response to these crimes is being monitored.
There will also be two new VAWG transport champions, to help promote positive change and tackle problems faced by female passengers on public transport, as well as a national communications campaign that focuses on raising awareness and creating behaviour change.
It was also encouraging to note the intention to provide better support for teachers to deliver the relationship, sex and health education curriculum.
Councils have commended the Government for acknowledging the need to do more to address women and girls’ safety through the Safety of Women at Night Fund, but we are disappointed that currently only £5 million has been allocated for this purpose.
We hope more funding will become available to help ensure our residents can enjoy public spaces and venues at night as we see a return to a vibrant night-time economy.
It is clear that if society is to truly achieve significant reductions in violence against women and girls, as well as support victims, long-term funding for tackling domestic abuse is key.
That is why the LGA continues to urge the Government to revisit this area as a matter of urgency.
There needs to be an equal focus on, and funding for, prevention and early intervention measures that aim to prevent abuse from happening in the first place. Furthermore, in the LGA’s response to the VAWG strategy consultation, we highlighted the importance of aligning this work with current and upcoming legislation and guidance.
There must be a coordinated, holistic approach to tackling violence against women and girls that is embedded across all government departments and relevant agencies. Local authorities stand ready and would welcome the opportunity to work with government to ensure that all future guidance and strategies seeking to address violence against women and girls are developed consistently.
This approach must be underpinned by a commitment to provide the appropriate long-term funding and support required to give us the best possible chance of making real progress in our efforts to keep women and girls safe in our communities.