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Sanctuary Schemes

Volume 569: debated on Monday 28 October 2013

The Government have put stable funding in place, ring-fencing nearly £40 million for specialist local domestic and sexual violence support services, rape crisis centres, and national helplines. Decisions on whether to fund the provision of sanctuary schemes for victims of violence are for local authorities, based on their assessment of local need.

I thank the Home Secretary for that response, but I understand that funding for sanctuary schemes has fallen by over a third under this Government. Freedom of information requests have shown that about 21% of victims of domestic violence who make use of such schemes are now falling foul of the bedroom tax. Does the Home Secretary think that such people, who are in a place where they are safe from their abuser, should be evicted because of the bedroom tax?

The sanctuary schemes obviously have value for a number of people. They are not right for everybody, but for those for whom they work, such schemes are important when put in place. Latest statistics show that last year, 2012-13, 7,100 households had homelessness prevented or relieved thanks to the installation of a sanctuary scheme—a 17% rise on the previous year. On the spare room subsidy, the Government are providing baseline funding of £20 million annually to the discretionary housing payment scheme, which is available to local authorities to help people in such circumstances. The Government have also provided an additional £25 million per annum on top of the baseline funding until the end of the spending review period.

In addition to sanctuaries, which are terribly important, does the Home Secretary agree that it is time to re-examine sentencing guidelines on domestic abuse? In one case in my constituency, the ex-husband, who has been convicted twice of domestic abuse, is now living in the same estate as his terrified ex-wife, and no custodial sentence was handed down. Surely such a person should be in prison.

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, and the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims is sitting on the Front Bench and will have heard that question in relation to responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice. Importantly, I have asked Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to look at the policing of domestic violence, and we must examine how the police respond to such incidents. I am pleased that the Government have introduced a number of pilot schemes and are considering various ways that victims of domestic violence can be further protected. Domestic violence protection orders, for example, enable the victim to remain in their home, rather than the perpetrator remaining and the victim being forced out.

Last week I wore pink, in common with 100 others in Lichfield—pink trousers, pink shirt, pink feather boa—to walk for the Pathway project in my constituency. It looks after those—not only women, but men too—who suffer from domestic violence. Will the Home Secretary or one of her team please come to Lichfield to see the good work the Pathway project is doing?

I know that my hon. Friend has a fondness for taking photographs, and I wonder whether he has taken a photograph of himself that could perhaps be circulated to Members of the House for their edification. He makes an important point, however, and I commend the Pathway project in Lichfield. I have noted the hon. Gentleman’s invitation, as has the Minister for Crime Prevention, for one of us to come and visit. May I say what excellent work people in the Pathway project and similar schemes are doing on this important issue?