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Domestic Violence

Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what action his Department is taking to help victims of domestic violence. [129449]

Tackling domestic violence, and supporting those who are victims of domestic violence, is taken very seriously across Government.The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced at the end of last year 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 for 2003–04 were agreed in conjunction with the Housing Corporation in March this year and it is hoped that further schemes will be supported in the next 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.In July 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 has allocated £70 million in 2003–04 to local authorities and other agencies 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 in partnership with Comic Relief, plans to support the introduction of a national freephone helpline, linked to a 'refuges online' database to assist victims of domestic violence which it is hoped will be operational before the end of the year.