New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 8:00 pm, 6th July 2020

It has been a privilege to sit in this debate and hear so many very personal stories not just about constituents, but about family members. It was interesting and moving to listen to Peter Gibson talk about his family, to remind us that it is not just women who are victims of abuse.

I thank all Members of the House who have pushed the Bill to this point—through Prorogation, covid and lots of other challenges—for all their hard work. I have spoken twice on the Bill, and was honoured to put my name to the new clauses in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman. Although Labour will not press move those new clauses, we will strongly support Government new clause 20.

I am grateful that the Government have listened to the demands here and in the wider community for major new inclusions, because 60 women in the UK have died, with more being injured, in what men claim is violence that “she asked for”. No one can fail to be moved by the courage of the parents of those who have been brutally murdered by so-called lovers, only for the abuser to use the rough sex excuse to lessen their sentence. Like so many others in the House, I thank the campaign group We Can’t Consent to This for the work that it has done to ensure that justice is served, and support its request that the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions collect and evaluate data on this issue and report back on any use of rough sex claims. The Government say that they will continue to keep the criminal law under review. We must see a clear statement of how that will be done.

I thank my council—Kirklees Council—which has committed an extra £400,000 in this year’s budget to improve local domestic violence support services. Many Members know that we rely on local support to help women and girls at risk of violence, and that that support has faced desperate cuts, including to policing and preventive services, for almost a decade. Hopefully this legislation will go some way to supporting those authorities, because we need support in the community, not just in refuges.

I pay tribute to the personal commitment of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Victoria Atkins, for explicitly recognising children as victims of domestic abuse. New clause 15 puts children in the proposed legal definition. This helps to put children at the heart of how our society deals with domestic abuse and is supported by my hon. Friend Jess Phillips. This measure is vital, as there is compelling evidence that shows that children exploited in gangs are more likely to see domestic violence call-outs, which is another reason that we have to eradicate domestic violence when there are children in the family. The impact is felt throughout children’s lives and we must protect them with every tool at our disposal.

Domestic abuse affects children and young people in different ways. A range of interventions must be available so that children can get the right form of specialist help. But it is obvious that we need the money. Between 2010-11 and 2018-19, central Government funding for children and young people’s services fell by £2.2 billion. Women’s Aid Federation of England’s survey on the impact of covid found that 60% of the service providers that responded had needed to reduce or cancel their service provision for children. Crucially, we need local authorities, but they have reported that policy and best practice guidance on domestic abuse are insufficient, and most feel that a statutory duty that is adequately funded to provide services would support them.

Let me finally say to all those young women who have contacted me: we are listening to you. Just because you are not in a domestic situation does not mean to say that you are not being abused. Hopefully, this Bill will be there to help you.