Home Secretary’s first major speech on domestic abuse outlines transformative ambitions of Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill  – Women’s Aid 

Home secretary Amber Rudd gave her first major speech on domestic abuse at Women’s Aid 2017 National Conference at the University of Warwick today, outlining the transformative ambitions of the Government’s Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.

She also announced £17m of funding for local projects, including the roll-out of Women’s Aid’s multi-agency response to domestic abuse, Change that Lasts, in Wales – a partnership bid with Welsh Women’s Aid and Respect.

Women’s Aid welcomes the news that the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill will not only focus on changing the attitudes within and response from the Criminal Justice System (CJS) but also from all other public sector agencies.

The Home Secretary announced the decision to introduce a legal definition of domestic abuse, to “provide clarity and certainty” that domestic abuse is not just physical and sexual violence but is a pattern of behaviour including financial and emotional abuse.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid says: “Women’s Aid is very pleased at the new funding announced for several local specialist services, and particularly at the government’s commitment to our Change that Lasts model, which we believe is a critical part of plans to transform the domestic abuse response.

“It is excellent news that the Home Secretary is committed to holding all public agencies to account for their response to domestic abuse survivors through the new commissioner role. Women’s Aid will be pushing for this to include the commissioning of specialist support services for women, and giving the National Statement of Expectations some teeth.

“The focus on the devastating impact of domestic abuse on children is also welcome. We want to see the new, clearer definition of domestic abuse ensure that the perpetrator is correctly identified and held to account for this and an end to victim-blaming of mothers.

“Finally, the new consolidated Domestic Abuse Order needs to have severe repercussions for perpetrators, including affecting their likelihood of obtaining child contact, and breaching the order must be a criminal offence.”

The Home Secretary also announced that following the latest report on stalking and harassment by H M Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and HM Crown Prosecution Services Inspectorate (HMCPSI), the government will introduce a new, comprehensive Domestic Abuse Order. Women’s Aid welcomes the promise of a tougher, more effective court order and is calling for breach of the order to be a criminal offence and for the order to impact on perpetrators’ ability to obtain child contact through the family courts.

The Home Secretary reiterated the government’s commitment to appointing a national commissioner to ensure the police and CPS response improves. She also stated that the commissioner will monitor the response of other public sector agencies, something Women’s Aid has called for.

The Home Secretary committed to ensuring tougher punishment for perpetrators when abuse involves a child. Women’s Aid welcomes this commitment, and urges that guidance should ensure that this, together with the new definition of domestic abuse, enables the perpetrator to be correctly identified, in order to end the blaming of victims for the damage caused to their children by the perpetrator of abuse.

Echoing the recent government commitment to ratify the Istanbul Convention, the Home Secretary outlined the government’s commitment not only to changing legislation and police response, but also to working towards a cultural shift in both statutory agencies and communities. Women’s Aid believes that the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill offers a once in a generation opportunity to make landmark changes for the women and children who desperately need support.

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