Domestic Violence

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 12th January 2012.

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Photo of Iain McKenzie Iain McKenzie Labour, Inverclyde 10:30 am, 12th January 2012

What assessment she has made of the effect of Government policies on efforts to tackle domestic violence against women.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

A progress review of the Government’s approach to tackling violence against women and girls was published on 25 November. It highlighted many of our achievements to date in relation to domestic violence, including, among many other measures: providing £3.3 million funding for multi-agency risk assessment conference co-ordinator and independent domestic violence adviser posts locally until 2015; introducing a requirement for multi-agency reviews after every domestic homicide; and piloting domestic violence protection orders in three police force areas.

Photo of Iain McKenzie Iain McKenzie Labour, Inverclyde

I recently visited a Women’s Aid project in my constituency. Is the Minister aware of the crisis in accommodation for women fleeing violence? Such projects have been left with little choice but to advise vulnerable women on how to minimise harm if they are forced to sleep on the streets.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I understand, with all that is going on in this age of austerity—there is not enough money to fund everything—that there are issues around some of the funding for women, but the Home Secretary and I could not have been clearer about the priority that the Government place on tackling violence against women, by ring-fencing £28 million of funding and by sending a loud and clear message to local authorities that they should not look for soft targets.

Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth

Does the Minister agree that it is important to give priority for council housing to women who have suffered domestic violence? Will she work with the Housing and Local Government Minister to encourage councils to give them top priority?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend, who raises an important point. If there is nowhere for a victim of domestic violence to go post coming out of a refuge, we are not solving any of the problems. I am happy to do as she suggests.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Equalities)

Safe, secure accommodation is essential, as the Minister knows, for women fleeing domestic violence, and she must be aware of the concerns of providers of refuge accommodation such as Women’s Aid, which has talked of chaos in commissioning and its anxiety about the removal of the ring fence on the Supporting People grant, which means that refuges face cuts in funding of as much as 50%. Does she share my concern that the Government’s proposal to remove the support element from housing benefit payments and transfer the money to local authorities without protecting it for housing support is another nail in the coffin of a nationally funded network of refuges for women?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I would point out to the hon. Lady that the ring fence around the Supporting People budget was removed under the Labour Government, and that that £6.5 million budget has been cut by only 1%. If local authorities are not using it appropriately, I suggests she takes the matter up with them.

Photo of Lorely Burt Lorely Burt Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party

What action are the coalition Government taking to help victims of domestic violence who come here on spousal visas? They desperately need help but have no money and no recourse to public funds.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. People who come on spousal visas—they are generally but not exclusively women—are left in a very vulnerable situation when they find themselves victims of domestic violence. The previous Government began the Sojourner project, which provided some breathing space for those women. We have continued and extended that project pending a long-term solution, which we are working on with the Department for Work and Pensions[ Interruption. ] Mr Speaker, are you coughing at me? [ Laughter. ] I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.