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Domestic Abuse

Volume 684: debated on Monday 16 November 2020

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on funding for local authorities to ensure that they can provide the support to people experiencing domestic abuse that would be required under the provisions of the Domestic Abuse Bill. (908776)

My Department has engaged extensively across government in taking forward the new duty on local authorities to provide support in safe accommodation, as set out in the Domestic Abuse Bill. As a new burden, it will be appropriately funded—the amount is a matter for the spending review—to ensure that local authorities are ready to provide the right support to victims. Last month, I announced a £6 million fund to support councils to prepare for that duty.

As it stands, the Domestic Abuse Bill places a duty on local authorities, as the Minister said, to support survivors who are in refuges, and of course they must, but with the rise we are seeing in domestic abuse, the majority of survivors do not move into refuges, and they also need support. Will the Minister therefore agree that local authorities must also have that duty and the funding to provide the community-based services and support that survivors need?

I thank the hon. Lady for her point. She is right that any victim of domestic abuse needs that support in place, and the new duty in part 4 of the Bill will ensure that support is available to victims in a wide range of accommodation services and not just refuges. We recognise that more needs to be done to ensure adequate provision in the community is available, and that is why the Domestic Abuse Commissioner is undertaking a review of that provision. That review will enable us as the Government to better understand the needs and develop outcomes for how best to address them.

Only this morning, it was reported that women suffering from domestic abuse were being turned away by up to five separate refuges, even where spaces were available, due to them not speaking English and a lack of specialist services. The provisions in the Domestic Abuse Bill and the statutory duty on councils is one thing, but does the Minister understand that, if the funding for refuges from local authorities is as severely under-resourced as charities such as Refuge and Women’s Aid estimate, the legislative change will be meaningless for those women who are desperately fleeing abuse only to be turned away?

The hon. Lady raises an important point. A home should be a place of safety, and for those in abusive relationships, the situation she outlines is not acceptable. Domestic abuse is a heinous crime, and we are committed as a Government to ensuring that survivors get the support they need. I am monitoring the situation as we move through covid in regard to the demand for places, and that is exactly why the Government announced the £10 million emergency support fund, which has gone to more than 160 charities. That has helped reopen 350 beds and created more than 1,500, but there is absolutely no complacency. I will continue to monitor this, as will Ministers in the Home Office as well. We will take action where required.