Skip to main content

LGBT Community: Domestic Abuse

Volume 808: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people from domestic abuse.

My Lords, the Government are committed to supporting all victims of domestic abuse, including through the provisions in the Domestic Abuse Bill. In 2020-21, the Home Office has provided £120,000 of funding for Galop’s LGBT helpline, as well as £71,000 for Covid-related pressures. We continue to work closely with domestic abuse organisations, including those representing LGBT victims, to assess their ongoing needs and ensure that commissioning of services is fully inclusive.

My Lords, it is White Ribbon Day this week, and LGBT people experience disproportionately high rates of domestic abuse in Britain today. Despite this higher prevalence of abuse, LGBT survivors experience multiple barriers to accessing support services. In the new year the Domestic Abuse Bill will come before this House, presenting a prime opportunity to increase awareness of LGBT experiences of domestic abuse, and to increase provision of support, including specialist LGBT domestic abuse services, so that every LGBT person can access support when they need it. Does the Minister agree that this opportunity should be fully utilised, with the introduction of appropriate legislation?

I most certainly agree with the noble Baroness that the opportunity should be utilised, not only through the DA Bill, but also, I hope, through the international conference that we were due to hold. Whether it is virtual or real, it will be a great opportunity for leaders from around the world to engage on what is so important in this area of equality.

My Lords, there is great variance of provision around the country. I am told that in places such as Brighton there is very good provision, ranging from specialist training of front-line responders to refuges, but in other areas, particularly non-metropolitan areas, there can even be no provision. Can the Minister ensure that she is working with the domestic abuse commissioner on these issues, and that the commissioner has a duty to support and hold all statutory agencies to account throughout the country in appropriately meeting the needs of LGBT survivors?

I do not disagree that the provision of domestic abuse support across the country is patchy. It has been that way for quite some time, hence the duty of care on first-tier local authorities in their provision of services. The domestic abuse commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, is undertaking an assessment of where the gaps might lie and where we can improve them, particularly for community-based services.

My Lords, domestic violence of all kinds often remains unreported because of the fear of retribution at the hands of the perpetrator. As the Minister knows, this is particularly acute during periods of lockdown. She will also be aware that a speedy police response can be life-saving in such a case. Is she satisfied that the dangerous, old-fashioned mantra that it is “only a domestic” is being expunged, and that the training of first responders emphasises the requirement for particular vigilance in this regard during the Covid-19 pandemic?

It is interesting that the noble Lord says that, because that is precisely the debate that we had yesterday. What some years ago might have been described as just a domestic is now being dealt with far more sensitively and properly by the police, including with the use of domestic abuse prevention orders, so that the moment that the victim—he or she, though it is usually a she—reports something to the police, it is immediately dealt with.

My Lords, what are the Government doing to protect older LGBT people from domestic abuse? Will they consider collecting data on domestic abuse for all ages, not just those aged 74 and under?

My noble friend raises an important point, and raises the challenge of collecting that data, which is not present because older people are often less likely to engage with surveys done online. Additionally—it is a sad fact—some older people might be too frightened to admit abuse, particularly if it is from a younger person, and they may not even realise, because it has been going on for so long, that they are a victim of domestic abuse.

Less than 1% of refuges nationally provide LGBT+ domestic abuse survivors with specialist support. I heartily endorse what the Minister said earlier, and hope that she agrees that the role of the domestic abuse commissioner should include monitoring and evaluation of all statutory agencies, to ensure that LGBT+ victims and perpetrators get the help that they need.

As I said earlier, gaps in community provision are precisely what the domestic abuse commissioner is looking into as we speak, to ensure that there are none. It is important that everyone, regardless of who they are and their sexual orientation, has these services available to them.

My Lords, domestic abuse is one of the most alarming causes of homelessness, particularly among young people. In turn, LGBT young people, when made homeless, are especially vulnerable to further abuse. What are the Government doing about this issue, bearing in mind the commitment to tackle it in the LGBT action plan?

I wish I had spotted my noble friend when I answered the previous question. He will know that, during the Covid period, the issue of homelessness was paramount, in terms of protecting people. Of course, that will not stop after we have got through the pandemic. I am very aware of the various factors that might lead LGBT people to become homeless and subsequently be unable to get back on their feet, so I totally take his points on board.

Can the Minister assure the House that not only the rights, but also the interests of trans victims of domestic abuse will now be recognised, as they are potentially the most vulnerable, and worthy of a speedy and strong response from the police, including the 999 service, which is sometimes less than helpful to them?

I am glad that the noble Lord has brought this up. I recognise the particular problems that trans victims face in terms of credibility, for want of a better word, from our services. The fact that we now train front-line police officers to be not only sensitive but cognisant of the different types of domestic set-ups and to respond appropriately and sensitively is incredibly important. The noble Lord talked about trans victims. I am also minded of some lesbian victims of domestic abuse whom I have met who feel that, perhaps because some of them look more masculine, they will not be treated as victims and are more likely to be assumed to be perpetrators.

Does the Minister agree that there is a lack of support for elderly LGBT people who are victims of domestic abuse and face distinctive barriers in accessing domestic abuse services, including the criminal justice system? Can she confirm that the UK will comply with Article 4.3 of the Istanbul convention regarding non-discrimination on gender identity and sexual orientation, and in doing so ensure that government support and funding is in place?

I absolutely recognise the noble Baroness’s point about the barriers to accessing services, which are many and varied. I also acknowledge that in passing the Domestic Abuse Bill we will be complying with the Istanbul convention.