Centra welcomes the Government’s commitment to tackle domestic abuse and to develop a sustainable funding model for refuge provision across the country. By putting survivors at the heart of its efforts, the new Domestic Abuse Bill represents a step-change in the way we address and prevent domestic abuse.
In March 2018, the Government launched a consultation on proposals to transform the response to domestic abuse. The consultation seeks to address abuse at every stage from prevention through to rehabilitation and reinforces the Government’s aim to make domestic abuse everyone’s business. It is wide-ranging and covers legislative proposals for a landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill and a package of practical action. The proposals fall under four key themes:
- promoting awareness;
- protecting and supporting victims;
- pursuing and deterring perpetrators;
- Improve performance in the response to domestic abuse
We have prepared a formal response to the consultation which we will submit directly ahead of the 31st May deadline. The Executive Summary below highlights our views on what we consider to be the more important issues raised by this consultation.
- A wider definition for domestic abuse which is enshrined in law and supported by national policy directives is a step in a right direction. However, the Bill must recognise all forms of violence, including those that are difficult to talk about; sexual violence, forced marriage, honour-based violence and modern-day slavery.
- Whilst we welcome the proposed funding incentives to encourage effective multi-agency working, nothing will fundamentally change unless the Government commits to spear-heading a strategy and action plan to be rolled out nation-wide that sets out the overall framework for collaborative working. This should be accompanied by a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and a reporting structure both at the national and local levels.
- In order to support children and young people to learn about positive relationships, funding should be made available for the provision of counselling, play therapies and mentoring programmes within refuges and out in the community. Service providers working with victims of domestic abuse are best able to deliver specific advice and knowledge and can support schools in delivering these programmes.
- The issue of victims of domestic abuse having ‘no recourse to public funds’ is a significant one for support services, refuges and housing providers alike. As a housing and support provider, Centra (Clarion Housing Group) is not in the business of making people homeless. We would not advocate a policy where we evict people with no recourse to public funding; however, this puts providers in an unenviable position. The three months' leave permitted under current Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) rules, does not allow for enough time for a service to deliver rehabilitative support to enable the person to forge a path to recovery, let alone getting their immigration status settled. We urge the Government to consider extending the period of eligibility for the DDVC to twelve months.
- Domestic Abuse is a multi-faceted and complex problem which both contributes to and is triggered by a range of interacting factors. It is important to recognise that some groups may be disproportionately affected both in terms of experiencing abuse and ability to acknowledge this and accessing support. The Government should take proactive steps to ensure that those living with mental health problems, learning disabilities, those recovering from alcohol and substance addiction, older people and, large families are properly supported.
- The new Domestic Abuse Commissioner role will not be effective unless it is backed up with appropriate regulatory powers and is effectively resourced to carry out Statutory Duties relating to oversight and monitoring effectively. National KPIs will need to be set and monitored and the Commissioner should oversee accountability at a local level.Additionally the Commissioner should have the power to hold any organisations to account and require them to provide evidence should there be any investigations in a similar way to which APPGs and Local Authorities, through their Scrutiny Function can require witnesses to attend sessions and give evidence.
Centra (part of Clarion Housing Group) runs a range of specialist services to help women and children affected by domestic abuse access safety and rebuild their lives. We manage nine refuges in Kent, and have supported over 250 people to successfully move on from refuge in the last three years by working at the heart of the community with expert partners.
Research & Innovation Manager - Centra