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Domestic Abuse

Volume 677: debated on Monday 8 June 2020

Domestic abuse is a horrific crime that shatters the lives of those affected. We are working closely with domestic abuse organisations, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the police to ensure that help and support continues to be available, and more so while the covid-19 restrictions apply.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her commitment to work in this area. One in four perpetrators are repeat offenders, and some have as many as six different victims. In that light, does she agree that greater uptake of Drive, an intensive intervention programme aimed at perpetrators, could save lives, change the narrative and break the generational cycle, which sees children raised in homes where they have witnessed abuse go on in later life to be at greater risk of becoming either abuser or victim?

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. She has highlighted many of the challenges but also the opportunities, in terms of how we can work with partner organisations to provide the right kind of support needed to tackle the root causes of domestic abuse, to protect children and to educate them in terms of their own safeguarding. There are many opportunities through which the Government are doing that, so that we can tackle this heinous crime. The landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, which began its Committee stage on 4 June, is a significant opportunity to transform our response to domestic abuse, provide critical support to victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.

I know that there will be a statement on the events of the weekend following this session, so I will address those matters then. On domestic abuse, I welcome the fact that the Government responded to the calls of Opposition Members and campaigning charities on the need for a funding package for the sector. Labour called for £75 million for domestic abuse services, with specialist services such as those for migrant women protected. Can the Home Secretary confirm how much of that investment has reached the frontline?

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the funding packages that the Home Office, along with the MHCLG and the Ministry of Justice, put towards the Treasury recently. To date, £1.2 million has been allocated to 13 frontline support organisations running key and vital services, including helplines, chat functions and improving technological capabilities, specifically for the covid-19 response. The funding will help to expand helplines and online capability to provide additional support and guidance so that victims can continue to access the support that they need.

Well, £1.2 million of support for helplines is obviously welcome, but it is a tiny proportion of the overall £75 million, which needs to reach where it is needed as soon as possible. As of 2019, one in six refuges has closed since 2010. In 2017, local authority spending as a consequence of austerity had fallen from £31.2 million to £23.9 million, resulting in 60% of women being turned away from refuges for lack of spaces. That simply is not good enough. Even if the Home Secretary does not know the specific figures today, will she confirm that she will do all that she can to ensure that the money that has been announced actually reaches the frontline? Yes, the Domestic Abuse Bill is coming through Parliament, but we cannot just legislate our way out of this—that money is needed now.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the money that is required to go to frontline services. As I indicated, the £76 million of funding that has been allocated to domestic abuse is split across three Departments. The Ministry of Justice has received £15 million for work with local domestic abuse charities through the criminal justice system.

On the hon. Gentleman’s specific question about the need for refuge provision, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will be allocating £10 million to domestic abuse safe accommodation services. It is important that we all recognise that that is where the demand is. Throughout this very difficult period where refuges have found it difficult to operate, there has been a wide spread of measures where we as the Government, in our engagement with the refuges directly, as well as with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the Victims Commissioner, have deliberately sought practical means of support for the frontline throughout this emergency.

Building on my right hon. Friend’s answer to the question on refuges, covid-19 has also highlighted the fact that despite the best efforts of the staff in our refuges across the country, including in the north-west, many of those who have sought refuge there, including their children in some circumstances, have not always had access to a good internet connection, which is often a lifeline for them, especially for children who need education. As we start to roll out broadband across the country to fulfil our manifesto commitment, will she commit herself to looking at refuges as one of the organisations that should be at the front of the queue so that people know that access will be there should they seek such sanctuary?

My hon. Friend makes a vital point. I have seen for myself, working with refuge and other third-party organisations in the domestic abuse space, the amazing work that they do in terms of internet safety within refuges. We must always put first and foremost the safety of the victims in the environments within which they are living. He is right to highlight the fact that without the internet, too many people, including children, are cut off, and that is a hindrance to their development and wellbeing. I will absolutely take his suggestion away with me and ensure that as we build greater internet safety provisions in refuges for domestic victims, we also think about what more we can do to give them the right kind of safeguards with the right provisions.