Skip to main content

Domestic Abuse

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 6 July 2006

The national domestic violence delivery report outlines a series of initiatives, including the specialist domestic violence court programme, and training packages for independent domestic violence advisers and prosecutors and the police. We also part-fund the national 24-hour freephone helpline to provide information, support and advice.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Unfortunately, in Swansea in 2005-06 there were 3,266 reported incidents of domestic abuse. She may be aware that the city has been invited to express an interest in having a domestic violence court, and I and a number of local agencies support that proposal. Despite that, will she continue to ensure that women who suffer domestic abuse get the assistance, guidance and support that they need and deserve?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. She makes the very important point that victims of domestic violence are being properly supported, and she will no doubt be pleased to know that Swansea magistrates court was one of several in Wales visited this week by the national domestic violence group, which is considering its suitability for selection as a specialist court. I wish her well when the successful bids are announced later this year. I am also aware that Swansea police have been recognised for the great deal of innovative work that they do to support victims of domestic abuse. For example, they are targeting perpetrators through the “spotlight on suspects” campaign. That work, together with the Welsh Assembly’s efforts, is making a real difference to victims of domestic abuse, and it is important that it continues.

In my excellent local women’s refuge, which I happen to be visiting tomorrow, there are women who are fleeing domestic violence, often with young children. What can the Minister do, through discussions with her Cabinet colleagues, to ensure that the perpetrator of such violence is removed from the family home, rather than the mother and children?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight that issue, which we are dealing with through our legislative proposals. But it is also important, as I am sure that she will agree, that we invest in domestic refuges, so that those women who want to leave immediately are able to do so. That is why we have invested more than £30 million over three years in new refuge provision, and in the refurbishment of refuges created through existing schemes.

While I welcome the substantial efforts that have been made to protect the victims of domestic violence—advisers, specialist courts and so on—I am concerned that we are not doing enough to prevent such tragedies, which lead to the deaths of two women every week. Does the Minister have any ideas that she can discuss with colleagues, such as working with young people, potential perpetrators and women who might be victims to reduce the likely future incidence of domestic violence, rather than merely helping victims after such incidents have occurred?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and I know that the Minister for Women and Equality has been working with colleagues across Government Departments—including in the Department for Education and Skills, for example—to look specifically at the needs of young people and how we can improve education about, and understanding of, these very important issues. It is right that we not only focus on the victims of domestic abuse—important as that is—but that we try at the early stages to prevent domestic abuse from happening in the first place.