2019-03-28

Is Enough Being Done to Tackle Domestic Abuse?

Domestic Abuse In England and Wales; The Statistics

In the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year.

Not only does this have a significant emotional and physical impact on survivors, as well as families, and often perpetrators, but the social cost of this abuse is a staggering £66 billion. This equates to an unsustainable £34,000 per survivor.

While 6% of adults are affected, women are twice as likely as men to experience domestic abuse. Recorded crimes are increasing, but only 38% of those recorded between 2017 and 2018 led to arrests.

As such, this is an issue in need of more attention, so that better support can be offered for survivors, justice proceedings can be strengthened, and cross-sector efforts can be made to address the causes of domestic abuse and prevent future incidents.

What’s The Plan for Tackling Domestic Abuse?

Following years of campaigning by policymakers and practitioners, in January 2019 the Government published the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. The proposals have been welcomed by many.

The Bill broadens the definition of domestic abuse to include economic abuse and non-physical abuse. This will offer service providers a better understanding of the full nature of issues that survivors face, subsequently allowing them to offer more of the necessary support required if survivors are to find safety from these situations.

It can no longer be the case that families are choosing between abuse, or poverty and homelessness.

The appointment of Nicole Jacobs, Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner is another positive move towards encouraging a better cross-sector response to domestic abuse issues. Improving collaboration between health services and the police as well as victim services is vital if the provisions offered for survivors and families, as well as perpetrators, are to be improved.

Furthermore, on the 3rd March 2020 the government introduced an enhanced Domestic Abuse Bill to the House of Commons for its first reading. Changes included in this enhanced version:

  1. A requirement for county councils and unitary authorities in England to provide effective support for victims of Domestic Abuse and their children
  2. A requirement for county councils and unitary authorities in England to ensure that Domestic Abuse victims and their children are provided with safe accommodation
  3. Abusers banned from all family court proceedings
  4. The government will pay any court costs for police applying for the previously announced Domestic Abuse Protection Orders and Protection Notices

Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins said:

"Too many people have to live in fear of abuse – whether it be physical, emotional or economic - from those who should make them feel safe and loved.

This bill will provide support to the victims and survivors of this horrendous crime so that they can go some way to feeling safe again."

What’s Missing From the Domestic Abuse Bill?

While the 120 commitments being made by the government are a positive step in the right direction, many across the sector have suggested that the Bill doesn’t go far enough in delivering on the changes necessary to fully tackle the wide-ranging causes and consequences of domestic abuse.

Welsh Women’s Aid has called for legislation to encourage employers to provide paid leave for staff suffering domestic abuse.

Others, such as the Centre for Women’s Justice, have suggested that, while the Bill is working to introduce new police powers to deal with perpetrators of domestic abuse, actually the problem lies with there being a wide range of powers that aren’t being fully utilised currently.

The Home Affairs Select Committee have also called for national refuge funding, and Chair of the APPG on Domestic Violence and Abuse, Jess Phillips MP, has urged the government to be more robust in ensuring victims feel safer in courts, when faced with perpetrators.

This article was written by Lauren Powell