It is very difficult to follow the speech of Angela Smith, who talked of the terrible tragedy that happened to Paul and Jack, and to Claire Throssell, who is here in the Chamber today. I commend her bravery and courage in coming forward, and that is actually quite relevant to what I am going to speak about.
I am particularly pleased to speak in such a collaborative debate about such an important subject, and I commend the Government for introducing this landmark Bill. We have heard about harrowing cases today, and all of us will be supporting survivors of domestic abuse in all its forms in our communities. I welcome the focus on supporting survivors, because I have seen in my own constituency the enormous, positive difference that effective support can make.
The Ministry of Justice recently funded the brilliant Women Out West centre in Whitehaven, which was founded by the equally brilliant Rachel Holliday, and it is in that centre that I have met domestic abuse survivors. The recurring theme that I find so awful is the family courts system, and, specifically, the most dreadful cases in which mothers have been victims and, as survivors, have bravely and courageously sought help, only for a secretive family court to decide on the cruellest act, which is to remove their children. There can be no stronger bond than the bond between mother and child, and to have that bond torn apart is unthinkable, but it is far too often the outcome for mothers who seek help, or flee an abusive home and an abusive relationship. In some cases, the children are placed—by the state, by the family courts—directly in the hands of the perpetrator, with devastating consequences, as we have just heard.
I have been working with Safelives. I support its calls for cultural change in children’s social care, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and the judiciary, and for the prohibition of unsupervised contact for any parent who is on bail for domestic abuse-related offences or undergoing the hearing process. The fear of social services is too often cited as the single main source of stress, and the cases of perpetrators of domestic abuse going on to abuse and even murder the children we are supposed to protect are a tragedy of our times.
At my local women’s centre, I learned of a survivor of domestic abuse. She is a qualified nanny who can continue to look after other people’s children, but her own children were taken away from her by the family courts and placed in the care of the perpetrator, who has no biological connection with them,. I commend the work of everyone who is campaigning to #getmhome. In support of the Bill, I commend all those—the organisations, the survivors and everyone else—who have worked hard to shape it and steer it to be as effective as possible. I reiterate the requirement for specialist domestic abuse training before cases reach the family courts which, I add, need to be looked at seriously.