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Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 729: debated on Wednesday 8 March 2023

8. What recent steps she has taken with Cabinet colleagues to help end violence against women and girls. (903992)

14. What recent steps she has taken with Cabinet colleagues to help end violence against women and girls. (903998)

Tackling violence against women and girls is a Government priority, and something I regularly discuss with my colleagues. We have added violence against women and girls to the strategic policing requirement, meaning it is set out as a national threat for police forces to respond to alongside issues such as terrorism. We have launched the £36 million domestic abuse perpetrator intervention fund to improve the safety and feeling of safety of victims and their children, and to reduce the risk posed by perpetrators.

It is a sad fact that walking home at night is for too many women and girls a time when they feel exposed to danger, and this is unacceptable. Sadly, for some when they get home, home is not a place of refuge; it a place of danger. During the periods of national lockdown in the pandemic, this became a reality for more women and girls, with the police and domestic abuse support services reporting an increase in cases of victims experiencing abuse in their own homes. Will my hon. Friend advise me what progress has been made in supporting the frontline services?

I am pleased to be able to say that the Northumbria police and crime commissioner has received £3.7 million from across the safer streets fund rounds to date, and the £750,000 through the current round 4 is for a range of interventions on transport and therapy. Also, we have training for the NHS to make sure we have an all-systems process to improve this; we have better training for those who work in healthcare and in education in a whole-system approach. This Government are committed to assisting.

As the father of three young women, like any parent I worry about their safety. Society seems to have become harder, and old-fashioned values of respect towards women seem to be vanishing in many parts of our society, even in the police. What practical efforts can the Government make to make young women feel safe in the streets, particularly in areas of our great cities?

I know that the Prime Minister has daughters and shares my right hon. Friend’s concerns. I can say that the Lincolnshire police and crime commissioner has received £1.3 million from across the safer streets fund rounds so far, and the almost £400,000 in the current round 4 is for extra CCTV and police training to respond to VAWG. This is part of a wider picture and we are advancing. I am very proud of what the Government are doing.

An Afghan woman is smuggled into the UK on a small boat because she cannot access the resettlement scheme. Once here, she is trafficked into prostitution and abused by a grooming gang. Under the Government’s new Bill, she would be unable to access modern slavery support, and she would be returned to an unsafe country. Does the Minister agree that we must make sure that all vulnerable women are safe from such crimes?

There is a lot of work going on. We have been engaging with stakeholder groups to see what we can do to make sure that every woman is safe. I have spoken to several groups about this issue, which is being considered. Let no one be mistaken: this Government are extremely strong on making sure that vulnerable women, wherever they come from, are safe.

Sadly, catcalling and other gender-based micro-aggressions are still commonplace in schools. The Chester Sexual Abuse Support Service, which works closely with schools across my constituency, tells me there is still a lack of awareness, education and prevention regarding these issues. What is being done to resource schools to raise awareness and help young people to challenge behaviours that lead to abuse?

A wide range of work and training is going on within schools to ensure that young people understand more clearly what is and what is not acceptable. On more national interventions, we have the Ask for ANI scheme in pharmacies and the Enough social media campaign, which has really cut through—the responses we have had to that campaign have been unprecedented. This Government are committed to, and making good progress in, assisting young people to understand what is and is not acceptable.