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Domestic Abuse

Volume 805: debated on Wednesday 29 July 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that any data collected on domestic abuse includes the abuse of people over the age of 74.

My Lords, the Government recognise that the over-74s can be victims of domestic abuse, and we are committed to supporting all victims. The Crime Survey for England and Wales collects data on victims of domestic abuse, and the most recent assessment of data collection methods did not support raising the age limit for respondents above 74 due to a lower response rate. However, ONS will continue to review the upper age limit.

I am a bit disappointed with the Minister’s response. There is no cut-off date for domestic abuse, and without the data we cannot know the problem. Is the Minister prepared to address the issue of data collection for those over the age of 74 in the draft statutory guidance on domestic abuse, as this is a neglected area and it could be regarded as ageism?

I sympathise wholeheartedly with the noble Baroness’s point. I have looked into this, because I was slightly perplexed myself as to why the data was not forthcoming. I spoke to Minister Atkins, who said that the issue behind it was the low level of response, making the data not statistically significant. However, the noble Baroness can be hopeful; Professor Diamond has confirmed that the ONS’s Centre for Crime and Justice will test whether it is possible to include them at some future date.

My Lords, I used to think that ending up as a statistic was the worst possible fate. Now I realise that not being worth counting is even worse. I congratulate Age UK on its campaign to include the collection of data on those over 74 in the Crime Survey for England and Wales, and to end this discrimination. It cannot be put in the “too difficult” tray. If this is not within the Minister’s influence, will she please advise us where the obstacle is? A low response rate is rather self-defeating.

Well, it is not that the over-74s are not worth counting, nor that it is in the “too difficult” box. The noble Baroness will appreciate that for data to be robust you have to collect enough of it to make what comes out of it statistically significant. I understand that that is where the sticking point is—but Professor Diamond has committed to looking at it again, which is very encouraging.

I thank the Minister for her answers. I know that she is concerned about this issue. However, the question of statistics is less important than making sure that these people are protected. Can the Minister comment on the need for better links between social care, the NHS and police services to address domestic abuse, which is currently more likely to be handled by the police? This makes sense for domestic homicide but, for ongoing abuse, perhaps the other services could be brought more to the fore.

My noble friend makes a really good point, because some incidents in isolation do not look like anything but, combined with the work of other agencies, they build up a picture, particularly in the area of elder abuse. My noble friend knows that I am a great supporter of a multiagency approach, because you get more effective interventions and outcomes through it.

My Lords, my understanding is that the ONS does not recommend using data from the over-74s because it is collected from people who are required to use a tablet computer—hence the lack of good information the older people get. As an excuse for not using data on over-74s, this is not good enough. So will the Minister take this one back to the ONS and tell it to come up with a system that works for everyone, no matter what their age?

The noble Baroness makes a good point. I do not know whether the reluctance to come forward is a technology issue or because those over 74 come from an age when domestic abuse was not spoken about and discussed as much as it is now, but I will certainly take back her point about scrutinising whether technology is the impediment.

My Lords, charities report that there remain significant barriers to older women disclosing domestic abuse and accessing specialist support. As a Question last week about specialist support services went unanswered by the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, will the Minister tell us now what steps the Government are taking to ensure that such services are adequately resourced to meet all specialist needs?

This question very neatly segues from the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, about the reluctance of older people to come forward and admit they have a problem. On charities, I will give the noble Baroness information that I have from a charity that specifically supports older people who are suffering abuse. We have given £50,000 to Hourglass, which I am sure that the noble Baroness has heard of, for 2020-21, and a further £67,000 to support people through the Covid period, when they might be at a higher risk. The noble Baroness will know that we have also given £76 million to support vulnerable people over Covid, including victims of sexual abuse and domestic abuse, and £28 million to support victims of domestic abuse and their children. I appreciate that the latter point probably does not cover elder abuse.

My Lords, while measures such as collecting data and greater penalties for domestic abuse can help curb unacceptable behaviour, they cannot create a more compassionate society. Does the Minister agree that the only way to do this is to make ethical imperatives such as “honour thy father and mother” a part of our collective moral DNA?

My Lords, the noble Lord will have heard the Government talking many times about the common values of this country, and some of the expectations that we have in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and all those things. The values of this country are a sound basis for the way in which we behave, and domestic abuse has no place in it.

My Lords, I have sad personal experience of a family situation where the perpetrator of the abuse was an older person, and we are all fearful that lockdown may have led to an increase in such instances. In that context, I am pleased that my diocese of Rochester is the first in the Church of England to establish a strategic partnership with the White Ribbon Campaign. In a world where such abuse, especially when it involves older people, often remains hidden, will the Minister commit to meeting with Members of these Benches, and perhaps other faith leaders, to discuss how the Domestic Abuse Bill’s guidance might empower faith communities to be part of the solution?

My Lords, having been talked out of the last two or three questions that I have attempted to ask, I am glad to be still within the time. No one could have been better at putting this Question than the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, who has done a huge amount to help people in the past. I have always been very impressed by the work that she has done, originally with women and now more generally.

Carers are a very important part of this, and they certainly are aware of what is happening and whether someone is being maltreated. The Government giving £76 million is excellent, but we want to see that it really happens and that it is put to good use. Many suggestions have been put forward today. I am just up to the 10 minutes so I will not go on any longer.

I am not sure that there is a question to answer. I agree with my noble friend, and the reason that she got in is because the Minister was so quick at answering the questions.