In April 2021, it is hoped that the domestic abuse bill shall come into force following the second reading in the House of Lords having completed its passage through the House of Commons in July 2020. When in force, the local authorities in England will have a duty to assess and provide support and safe accommodation to victims of domestic abuse and their children.
During the current pandemic, there have been reports from the police, local authorities and that the domestic abuse agencies such as women’s aid and Amnesty international that there was a significant increase in domestic abuse cases. NSPCC helpline have recently reported that since the lockdown measures were introduced they received an increase of 49% of calls concerning children living in homes with domestic abuse.
Local authorities (councils) are already providing where possible much needed support, but the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill will mean for the first time councils will have a duty to provide support in safe accommodation for anyone fleeing domestic abuse. One of the main issues faced by those fleeing domestic abuse is their access to support and identifying services and agencies that will help them through the difficult process. Particularly where children are concerned, it can be extremely difficult to know the next steps to take.
The domestic abuse bill will raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families. Furthermore it will improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice.
Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding said:-
“Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime perpetrated on victims and their families by those who should love and care for them. This landmark Bill will help transform the response to domestic abuse, helping to prevent offending, protect victims and ensure they have the support they need.”
It has been three years in consultation but the end is in sight. The hope is that following this last consultation, the government will provide new funding to Tier 1 and Tier 2 local authorities to assist in offering the support.
In summary, The domestic abuse bill will:
- Create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse. (replacing the term domestic violence).
- Establish in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and set out the Commissioner’s functions and powers.
- Provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order.
- Placing a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation.
- Prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the civil and family courts in England and Wales.
- Enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody.
- Place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing.
- Provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance.
- Create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts.
Through its Domestic Abuse Recovering Together (DART) service, NSPCC has supported more than 2,000 women and children across the UK over the past ten years. The charity stresses the importance of community-based support. Currently, however, there is no legal requirement to provide specialist support services. Until such time that hopefully the domestic abuse bill is passed. DART is a service offered for mothers and primary school agreed children from 7-14 years of age. You can contact NSPCC to find out if they are able to offer support to you via their website at:
If you have read this article and believe you may be in need of legal advice regarding your relationship or family, contact one of our specialist at Greens solicitors who will do their best to assist you. Our family team are in contact with a range of charities and agencies who can offer support with domestic abuse. We can assist you in securing the legal protection you need whilst also signposting you to agencies who can start to help you recover.
Blog by Aimee Baker, Solicitor