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Domestic Violence

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 23 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps his Department has taken on (a) domestic violence and (b) forced marriage since the coming into force of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2003. (198789)

Keeping children and young people safe is a top priority for this Government and the Department. We have introduced new legislation, new guidance and new structures to make children safer.

The Children Act 2004 put in place a much stronger framework for children’s services and for safeguarding children in particular. This Act gave a range of statutory agencies a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Statutory guidance, “Making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 11 of the Children Act 2004”, issued in July 2005 and updated in March 2007, is aimed at the police, hospitals, prisons and others covered by the requirement and sets out what they should do to make sure children are safe. The guidance makes clear for example that police need to identify vulnerable children in domestic violence cases, and that housing authorities need to consider the safety of children when they are offering help in domestic violence cases.

“Working Together to Safeguard Children”, published in April 2006, is the Government’s main interagency guide to safeguarding. This explains what is meant by forced marriage, makes clear that it comes under the definition of domestic violence, and stresses the need for professionals to be aware of the strong links between domestic violence and child protection concerns and to take appropriate action.

This Government have also created statutory local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) to co-ordinate what local bodies do to safeguard children and to ensure that they are working effectively together. We have also required local authorities to have lead members and directors who are clearly accountable for their children’s services.

The cross-Government “Staying Safe: Action Plan”, published in February 2008, sets out specific commitments to help tackle forced marriage and domestic violence. The Action Plan is underpinned by the new public service agreement to improve children and young people’s safety.

Working with the forced marriage unit, we will develop materials on the issue of forced marriage specifically for use by schools and tailored to young people and we will actively encourage schools to use them. DCSF Ministers will shortly be writing to all schools and local authorities reminding them of their responsibilities and of the existing guidance—both general safeguarding children guidance and the specific forced marriage guidance for education professionals, issued jointly with the forced marriage unit. We will also set out our plans to consult on revised forced marriage guidance which will then be placed on a statutory footing this autumn.