The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,
Notes that the 2019/20 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 3.6% of adults aged 16-74 experienced stalking in the last year, equivalent to an estimated 1.5 million victims, 977,000 women and 526,000 men; declares that stalking advocates for victims of stalking are invaluable due to the specialist independent support, advice and advocacy that they provide; further that stalking advocates provide victims with a main point of contact and support throughout their journey; further that additional funding for stalking advocates to work with victims of stalking would help support victims; further that increased support would prevent unnecessary distress and suffering of victims and their families; and further that additional support should also be given to police to allow cases to be investigated more thoroughly, possibly preventing threats to life.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to consider the concerns of the petitioners and take immediate action to reallocate funds to provide additional funding for stalking advocates in order to support victims of stalking.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Toby Perkins, Official Report, 31 January 2022; Vol. 708, c. 114 .]
Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Rachel Maclean):
The Government are deeply saddened by the tragic and senseless death of Gracie Spinks, and pay tribute to the organisers of and signatories to this petition and to the hon. Member for Chesterfield for his campaigning on this issue. The Government take the issue of stalking extremely seriously and tackling stalking is a key part of the Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy (VAWG), which was published in July last year.
As was set out during the Westminster Hall Debate on this issue, on 31 January 2022, the Government have provided additional funding to stalking charities to help support victims, including funding specifically for advocacy over the past two years. The Government awarded £97,000 of funding to Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service to help provide additional Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers—who provide support, advice and advocacy to victims—between April 2020 and March 2021. Furthermore, the Government have tripled funding to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, who run the National Stalking Helpline, to £155,000 this financial year. This funding has enabled them, amongst other things, to expand their advocacy support, and between July and December 2021 they used it to provide advocacy to 29 people who are particularly vulnerable or whose cases were particularly complex.
In 2021-22, the Ministry of Justice will have provided just under £150.5 million for victim and witness support services. This includes an extra £51 million to increase support for sexual violence and domestic abuse victims; the latter can include stalking that takes place in a domestic abuse context, for example, where the stalker is a former partner or a family member of the victim. Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are also free to fund Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers from their core un-ringfenced budgets.
The Government have published a total police funding settlement of up to £16.9 billion in 2022-23, an increase of £1.1 billion when compared with 2021-22. Furthermore, the Tackling VAWG Strategy confirmed that the Government had launched a £11.1 million fund for PCCs to bid to run programmes to address the behaviour of perpetrators of stalking and domestic abuse. Since the publication of the Strategy, eight police and crime commissioners have been awarded funding to provide programmes for stalking perpetrators, in order to reduce the risk of perpetrators committing further offences. The project run by Merseyside PCC which the Government are funding includes the provision of support by Paladin-trained independent stalking advocacy caseworkers to the participants’ victims.
The Government also made a commitment in the Tackling VAWG Strategy to work with the police in order to make sure they are making proper use of stalking protection orders. These orders enable early police intervention, pre-conviction, to address stalking behaviours before they become deep-rooted or escalate and have the flexibility to impose both restrictions and positive requirements on the perpetrator. The Minister for Safeguarding wrote last year to all chief constables whose forces had applied for fewer stalking protection orders than might have been expected, to encourage them to always consider applying for a stalking protection order in stalking cases. The Government are working closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s stalking lead to ensure that these orders are being used appropriately and to establish best practice.
The Government recently ran a consultation about a new Victims’ Bill, including questions about advocacy services, which can include advocacy for victims of stalking. This consultation closed on 3 February and we are looking closely at the responses received.
The Government understand that it is vital that the police are provided with the correct materials and training to deal with stalking cases appropriately. To ensure the police are confident in identifying stalking cases, in 2019 the College of Policing released a set of new advice products on stalking for police first responders, call handlers and investigators. These make clear, for example, the key differences between stalking and harassment. Additionally, each of the 43 police forces has a single point of contact (SPOC) for stalking and harassment, who can advise and support officers on stalking cases. Regular training opportunities delivered by Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service and Suzy Lamplugh Trust are offered to the stalking SPOCs in order to ensure that these officers have the latest information on stalking.