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Domestic Abuse Victims

Volume 822: debated on Wednesday 8 June 2022


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are providing specialist support for domestic abuse victims facing multiple disadvantages.

My Lords, the Government are committed to supporting all victims of domestic abuse, including those facing multiple disadvantage. We understand the importance of “by and for” services, designed and delivered by and for those they serve, providing tailored support that victims need. That is why our VAWG strategy commits £1.5 million for specialist support services and our tackling domestic abuse plan invests more than £230 million of new funding, including £141 million for supporting victims.

I thank the Minister for that. Of course, everybody would welcome the Government’s plan to tackle domestic violence. This Question addresses the particular needs of the most vulnerable, facing multiple disadvantage, who are often at the sharpest end of inequality. What steps are the Government taking of direct action, set out in their domestic abuse plan, specifically to meet those needs? For example, will funding clearly set out how any training will work for these girls and women to provide care that is trauma-informed, age-sensitive and takes account of things such as the needs of care leavers and black and ethnic minority women?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right that whatever interventions are taken forward on domestic abuse need to take into account the specific circumstances of the victim. Although disadvantage does not cause domestic abuse, it can certainly be exacerbated by the many causes of disadvantage. On specific interventions, the College of Policing has developed specialist training, including the Domestic Abuse Matters programme, which will help first responders dealing with an incident or a report and considers the needs of different victims, including those from diverse communities. The training has been delivered to the majority of forces already. The Home Office will provide £3.3 million to that end to support further delivery. The tampon tax obviously funded 100 directed grants and £75 million to disadvantaged women since 2015. DCMS has also given some direct grant funding to that end.

My Lords, a few weeks ago, the Government published a detailed report on child protection in England. In it are recommendations on how we can improve the safety of children caught up in domestic abuse situations. Can the Minister assure the House that these recommendations will be taken seriously and, I hope, properly implemented?

It is almost too horrific to read the detail of the cases to which the noble Lord refers, in which people do such things to such young, innocent children. We are very grateful for the work that the panel has undertaken and want to ensure that we improve our response to children in domestic abuse incidents. The noble Lord will of course recall the work we did through the Domestic Abuse Act.

I know the Minister appreciates the importance of specialist support for victims and survivors of domestic abuse who face multiple disadvantages. I hope she agrees that they could be better served through tailored support and specialist partnerships to meet their needs. In response to the victims Bill consultation, the domestic abuse commissioner recommends a ministerial lead for multiple-disadvantaged women to work across departments to help pull services together. Will we be seeing this measure in the victims Bill?

I know we will have many discussions on the victims Bill and we will certainly take the recommendations of the DA commissioner very seriously. I think we have already accepted some and are working on them.

My Lords, I very much welcome the support the Government are putting into this vital area. Will the Minister give an update on the Forced Marriage Unit and on what additional support is being given to those referred to it, particularly young girls and boys?

My noble friend asks a very pertinent question. The Forced Marriage Unit’s work is going very well and referrals to it are increasing. Some victims of forced marriage are probably some of the most vulnerable because they are so scared to leave their situation. I am pleased about the work we have done on it. I have lost my place, so I will write to my noble friend with further information on it.

My Lords, 10 years ago today the Government signed the Istanbul convention and they recently issued a Written Statement saying that they will ratify it with reservations on Articles 44 and 59. Why are there such reservations, particularly on Article 59, which deals with migrant women and requires a Government to grant residence to victims whose immigration status depends on their partners or spouses? This can mean that where perpetrators have control over victims’ immigration status, they can further trap them by threatening them with being deported or separated from their children. Will the Minister agree today to do all she can to ensure that there are no reservations on Articles 44 and 59 when the Government ratify the Istanbul convention?

On the latter part of the noble Baroness’s question, we certainly want to get that right. On the interface between immigration enforcement and victims of domestic violence, it is very important to get the balance right so that we can protect those victims.

While I am on my feet, I say to my noble friend Lady Manzoor that, on honour-based abuse, including FGM and force-based marriage, Ministry of Justice data shows that to date more than 3,000 forced marriage protection orders and more than 700 FGM protection orders have been issued.

My Lords, we know that domestic abuse can be experienced across the gender divide and in every part of society, and that includes clergy households. Can the Minister say what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to address the needs of those who suffer domestic abuse and who, like clergy, live in accommodation tied to their post, thus making their future material well-being more perilous if and when they leave the family home?

I am very pleased to address the right reverend Prelate for the first time, and I welcome his first question to me. He is absolutely right that people who are tied to their accommodation, such as the clergy—there are other examples—may be terribly scared to leave that accommodation because of the homelessness implications. In the Domestic Abuse Act last year, we ensured that priority for accommodation, as secured by the local authority, will be given to those who are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse.

My Lords, further to the question on migrant workers, the domestic abuse commissioner recently called for support for all victims and survivors of domestic abuse, regardless of immigration status, following the current migrant victims’ pilot for those with no recourse to public funds. Will the Minister commit to such support in future, given that she has repeatedly said that migrant abuse victims must be treated as victims first and foremost, regardless of immigration status? All too often that is not the case.

The noble Baroness is absolutely right; I have said that before and I will say it again. People should be treated first and foremost as victims. She will know that no recourse to public funds is linked to someone’s link to this country. We will not change that policy, but I absolutely agree with her that if you are a victim of domestic violence, you should be treated as a victim of domestic violence first and foremost.

Does the Minister agree that a contributing cause of domestic abuse is the teaching of some religions and cultures that women are inferior, and that it is time for us to focus on the perpetrators of abuse and how they are educated? If so, what can we do about it?

The causes of domestic abuse are multifactorial. There is no simple answer to why someone decides to beat someone else, deprive them of finances or coercively control them. The noble Baroness has a point in some ways, and it is incumbent on schools, through PSHE, to teach the values of respectful relationships so that our young boys will grow up into men who do not think it is acceptable to beat a woman.