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Domestic Violence

Volume 401: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on support for victims of domestic violence. [102541]

Tackling domestic violence, and supporting those who are victims of domestic violence, is a priority for the Government.The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, in partnership with Comic Relief, have each allocated £1 million funding to set up a national freephone helpline for victims of domestic violence, underpinned b a 'refuges on line' database. This will bring together the advice services currently provided b Refuge and the Women's Aid Federation of England and will offer instant access to information on refuge accommodation and specialist services. It is anticipated that the full system will be full operational towards the end of 2003.In Jul 2002, the main homelessness provisions of the Homelessness Act 2002 and the Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 were brought into force. These required local housing authorities to take a more strategic approach to preventing and tackling homelessness, placed stronger duties on authorities to help homeless people, and extended the groups of homeless applicants who have a priority need for accommodation, including, among others, people vulnerable as a result of fleeing their home because of violence. The Homelessness Directorate will be allocating £70 million in 2003–04 to local authorities to help them address homelessness. This will include some support for domestic violence schemes where local authorities have identified this as a priority.The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has also announced at the end of last ear a £7 million capital investment programme through the Housing Corporation to extend and renovate the national network of women's refuges in England. Initial allocations are being agreed with the Housing Corporation for 2003-04 and it is hoped that further schemes will be supported in the following two years.The Supporting People programme, which begins on 1 April, will put in place a new integrated policy and funding framework for housing-related support services, including those for people experiencing domestic violence. Current annual expenditure is £34 million for a total of 5,000 places. Local authorities have now submitted their shadow Supporting People strategies. These are currently being analysed and will provide valuable data on the supply of refuge and support services for people experiencing domestic violence, so helping to inform and direct future action.Supporting People guides have also been issued on addressing the accommodation and support needs of households experiencing domestic violence; and two dedicated co-ordinators are working with providers and local authorities to ensure that the sector is prepared for the new programme.