Skip to main content

Domestic and Family Violence

Volume 540: debated on Thursday 23 February 2012

The Government’s approach to tackling domestic and family violence is set out in our strategy to end violence against women and girls and the supporting action plan. This action plan includes 88 different actions for a wide range of Government Departments and our external partners, many of which have already been delivered. A refreshed action plan will be published on 8 March 2012.

A recent report by Professor Sylvia Walby shows that Women’s Aid is daily having to turn away almost one in 10 women seeking refuge because of the substantial cuts in national budgets. Warm words achieve nothing. What is the Minister going to do about this?

The hon. Gentleman raises an issue that has been raised before. The Supporting People budget is £6.5 billion. It is the largest budget and it has been cut by only 1%, so if Women’s Aid is facing a bigger cut, local authorities need to hear loud and clear what the Home Secretary and I have said. We have ring-fenced £28 million of central funding to send out a loud and clear message to local authorities not to cut funding. Furthermore, the national helplines are still being funded by central Government.

Honour-based violence is linked to domestic violence, and I am sure the Minister is aware of a recent report stating that there were more than 2,800 incidents of honour-based violence in our country last year. What steps are we taking to deal with this horrendous practice?

The Government condemn this awful practice. We are committed to tackling honour-based violence and the action plan to end violence against women and girls sets out our approach. It includes working with partners to identify what more can be done. Next week I will be in New York to attend the commission on the status of women, where I will speak on forced marriage for Plan UK.

Aylesbury women’s centre is closing its domestic violence service; two out of six of the Imkaan refuges that provide specialist help for black and minority ethnic women are closing; Trafford Women’s Aid is losing half its council funding for the refuge; Devon domestic violence and abuse services are losing half their staff; in Northumbria, the counselling service, paid for by the police, at the sexual assault referral centre has been stopped; and our women’s safety commission has found countless examples across the country of services that protect women being disproportionately hit, putting women’s safety at risk. The Government cannot palm the blame on to local authorities. Will the Minister take her responsibility for women’s safety seriously and urgently conduct a national audit of the support available for women and girls at risk of violence, to make sure their protection is not being removed?

If we were not dealing with the greatest deficit in peacetime Britain, we may not have had to do anything. As I said to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello), the Supporting People budget of £6.5 billion has been cut by only 1%. The matters the hon. Lady raises are local matters and we have made the situation perfectly clear and sent out a message to local government not to make the voluntary sector a soft target. When the hon. Lady publishes her report, I trust she will send it to all local authorities.