There are two million victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales, more than two thirds of which are women. For many years, services for victims and their children have been unable to cope with the scale of this crime, leaving far too many unable to access the support that they so desperately need. According to recent figures from Women’s Aid , an estimated 21,084 referrals to refuges in England were declined, averaging over 400 women victims being turned away from refuge every week.
Signalling a renewed determination to confront this complex and often hidden crime, the Government introduced the Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament on 16th July 2019 after an extensive consultation process. This landmark piece of legislation sets out a series of wide-ranging reforms to radically shake-up the legal and policy response to domestic abuse. Crucially, the new framework adds financial control, coercive control and threatening behaviour to the definition in law. Furthermore, there are new measures to enhance awareness and protection for victims through the new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Order as part of a wider systemic overhaul to improve service provision and transform the criminal justice response to meet the needs of victims and prosecute perpetrators.
Fundamental to the implementation of the reforms is the creation of a new watchdog, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. As part of its remit, the Commissioner will advocate for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, oversee the remapping of services, monitor the response of national and local government, the justice system and other statutory agencies and hold them to account in tackling domestic abuse.
Legislative action, however, cannot tackle this issue alone – Wider societal change, greater public awareness and more proactive early intervention strategies are needed to successfully confront and prevent this horrific crime. This special Policy Foresight symposium offers a timely opportunity for local authorities, third sector, health, police and other statutory agencies to come together to examine the likely impact of the proposed reforms and explore how to enhance joined-up working, improve information sharing and bolster support for victims of domestic abuse and their children.
Resource - 21st January 2019: Domestic Abuse Bill Published
Latest News - 16th July 2019: "Landmark moment” as Domestic Abuse Bill introduced to Parliament
Latest News - 18th September 2019: UK's first Domestic Abuse Commissioner announced as government pledges to tackle crime
Latest News - 21st October 2019: New legal duty for local authorities to deliver life-saving support to survivors of domestic abuse
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