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Specialist Domestic Violence Refuges

Volume 611: debated on Monday 6 June 2016

1. What assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of local commissioning criteria on the availability of specialist domestic violence refuges. (905263)

Domestic abuse is a devastating crime, and we are determined to ensure that support is available to every victim. We have secured £40 million in the spending review for this purpose, and we will shortly publish a national statement of expectations, drawn up with local government and domestic violence charities, which will set out what every area should offer to ensure victim safety.

The Secretary of State knows how devastating domestic violence is and how the services provide a literal lifeline. However, specialist services, particularly LGBT and black and minority ethnic services, face a huge funding crisis and many are going to the wall. In the national statement of expectations, will he commit to supporting and ring-fencing money for those specialist services?

Yes, it is important that we have specialist services. That is part of the discussions we are having with the charities through the drawing up of the national statement. We have secured more funding than has been available—three times as much funding—and that will be important. I think there is a wider point here, too, because there are connections between the public space and the domestic space. It is incumbent on all of us to maintain a public sphere in which women are safe from abuse, bullying and harassment, and that example should start from public life.

I welcome what the Secretary of State has just said about the statement and about the additional money, but a recent Women’s Aid report stated:

“One major challenge facing specialist refuge provision is the awarding of tenders to large generic providers”.

The report also includes the shocking fact that one in six specialist refuges has closed since 2010, and it states that on one particular day, 103 children and 155 women across the country were turned away because a place was not available. What part does the Secretary of State feel the Government’s cuts may have played in this loss of services, and will he agree immediately to review the present procurement practices to ensure that the best possible quality of specialist refuges is available in every single community?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that there needs to be total confidence. Any person who suffers from domestic violence should be confident that they can have a place of safety. That is behind the statement of expectations that is being drawn up, and he will be pleased that that is continuing. He should know that the number of bed spaces in refuges has increased in the last two years, according to UK Refuges Online, but we need to make sure that that confidence is there. I am sure he will agree that true success is when women do not have to move from their homes because they have been the victims of violence by their partners. True success is when women can be confident in staying there, and when the perpetrators of such abuse have to leave.