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Covid-19: Domestic Violence

Volume 678: debated on Monday 13 July 2020

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that community services working with victims of domestic violence have adequate resources to deal with an increase in demand as a result of the covid-19 outbreak. (904574)

Domestic abuse devastates lives. During this time of covid that we have all experienced, victims are particularly vulnerable, and as we know, home has not been a safe place for everyone to access the usual support that they could receive. That is why, through our landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, we are committed to protecting victims in a stronger way.

As things stand, the Government are discriminating against people who have “no recourse to public funds” restrictions imposed on them and their British-born children, who are denied access to support. Will the Home Secretary end that discrimination by amending the Domestic Abuse Bill to ensure that help is provided to everyone affected by domestic violence and scrap this fundamentally racist policy?

The Domestic Abuse Bill has, I think it is fair to say, been discussed extensively in the House, and I want to thank everybody who has made outstanding contributions to it, including the many organisations that participated in advance of the Bill coming to the House. We are offering support to migrants who suffer domestic abuse through our destitution domestic violence concession scheme. I would like to emphasise—and the hon. Gentleman will know this from his work as a Member of Parliament and with local authorities—that support is provided by local authorities, and individuals can access safe accommodation and get support through various means, which is incredibly important.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that children, who are often the hidden victims of domestic violence—either as victims themselves or through witnessing it among parents and other members of the household—will gain additional protection from our landmark Domestic Abuse Bill?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The protection of children is an important issue—children are victims when it comes to domestic abuse, and it is a sad fact that children often witness some of the most abhorrent abuse of their parent or others—and the Bill does exactly that. I am really pleased and proud that we have made sure that children are at the heart of the Bill. It is right that we safeguard and protect them.

Between 2015 and 2019, despite domestic violence cases rising by 77%, charging fell by 18% and conviction by 20%. In 2018-19, there were almost 60,000 reports of rape to the police, but less than 1,800 were charged and less than 1,000 convicted. The number of cases of rape referred by the police for charging decisions fell by 32% in 2019. How does the Secretary of State account for her Government’s performance in the falling rates of charge and conviction in sexual and domestic violence?

The hon. Lady will know that extensive work has been undertaken across Government, not just recently but in previous years as well. I am absolutely committed, as is my right hon. and learned Friend the Justice Secretary, to ensuring that we take an end-to-end approach to this through the royal commission that we are establishing on the criminal justice system, and that much more work is undertaken within policing to ensure that charges are undertaken and that the right kind of effective training is put in place for police forces and police officers. I have been very clear about that through all my work in policing, as has the Policing Minister. Ultimately, charging and getting those cases to court has to be the priority, which is why the Home Office is taking the right approach and working in the right way with the criminal justice system and the Lord Chancellor.