Government plans action on domestic abuse

25 Jan 19

The government has drafted what it is calling a landmark bill to support victims of domestic abuse, which is costing £66bn every year in England and Wales.

The draft legislation, which was published on 21 January, would introduce measures to transform the response in the justice system and provide additional support to public services and victims.

It would also establish a dedicated commissioner to lead the response to domestic abuse issues. 

The draft bill was published as a Home Office report revealed that the crime cost England and Wales £66bn in 2016-17.

The vast majority of this – £47bn – was a result of the physical and emotional harm, while an estimated £14bn was from lost output to time off work and reduced productivity. It also included a cost of £2.3bn to the health services and £1.3bn to the police.

Minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “The draft Domestic Abuse Bill recognises the complex nature of these horrific crimes and puts the needs of victims and their families at the forefront.

“This government is absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows.”

It is estimated that around two million or 6% of adults experience domestic abuse each year, with women twice as likely to be victims than men.

The draft bill includes the first-ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and non-physical abuse, such as controlling and manipulative behaviour.

It will also ban the practice of domestic abuse victims being cross-examined by perpetrators in family courts.

Justice secretary David Gauke said this practice “can cause immense distress and amount to a continuation of abuse”.

In November the government announced that more than 60 councils in England will receive a share of a £22m fund to tackle the domestic abuse. The draft bill comes after the government launched a consultation into domestic abuse last year.

Additionally, the government is making 120 commitments to tackle domestic abuse, it announced with the draft bill earlier this week.

It included £8m of Home Office funding to support children affected by domestic abuse, a crisis support system for victims with the no recourse to public funds, and additional funding and support for services for disabled, elderly and LGBT victims.

The government will also provide more guidance on economic abuse, support job centres, social workers, police and probation staff to help them recognise and tackle the abuse, and will release an additional £500,000 funding for provisions for male victims.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid said: “[Domestic abuse] is happening at epidemic levels yet it has been largely hidden behind closed doors.”

She said the bill has the “potential to create a step change in the national response” and “must be backed up with sustainable funding”.

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