Examination of Witness

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:29 am on 29th October 2019.

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Nicole Jacobs:

In terms of the first 100 days, to give a little more colour, I would expect to be hiring a chief of staff next week and some element of communications specialism within the office, but primarily having analysts, policy leads and officers. For me, having a stakeholder engagement post is very important in order to feel like I am doing as much as I can to reach out to frontline services and individual people, and to have built up an advisory board, which would include people who have been subject to domestic abuse.

I agree that there is a lot to do and a lot of breadth of work in that. One thing that would help me is for you to consider the statutory duty for services. If my job is to help shine a light on what practice ought to be out there and end the postcode lottery, I cannot do that on my own. One of the things you will be thinking about in this Committee is the statutory duty for accommodation-based services, which I wholly endorse, and I congratulate the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on all the work and leadership on that. I believe that duty should be expanded to the breadth of frontline services for domestic abuse.

You will understand that housing-related services will excellently cover refuge and those types of associated services, but there is a whole breadth of other services such as community-based independent domestic abuse advisers. A significant majority of domestic abuse services that we call specialist services do not fall within the duty as it is set out. That would be a great help to me as the commissioner, because that would strengthen the services that must be provided. In some ways, the underpinning of that would be a huge boost to not only my role but the provision of services in England and Wales.

I would love to give you a precise budget increase that I would like, but I have been in role for a month and I do not have my full strategic plan and the costings set out. I would feel a bit embarrassed to come to you and say, “Could you provide more resource, but I can’t really tell you the strategic plan and exactly how it will fall out?”. I feel I have the resource now to get started, certainly, and to make headway. My understanding of the framework document, which I would love for you to take a really good look at and consider, is that as that strategy is set by my office, there is a process of negotiation related to what resource I need. I would really appreciate anything you could do that would strengthen my hand in terms of what I can do at that point.