Examination of Witnesses

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:24 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Eleanor Briggs:

I have touched on that already. Although we really welcome the duty and see it as a step forward, we think that, as it stands, it is not adequate and will not provide the support that children and young people, and adult victims and perpetrators, need. We welcome the focus in the duty as drafted on children’s support, and we welcome the fact that children’s social care will sit on the board, although we would like to see DFE on the national steering group as well.

We need to face up to the reality that most victims will not be in a refuge. That is a positive thing—people should not need to leave their home to get support. It seems logical to us that if you are getting all the local partners together, including children, to look at an issue and how they are going to respond to domestic abuse, you should not limit that to accommodation-based support. It should be a holistic, expanded duty where they can look at what support we need in the community as well.

There is a particular concern about refuges and the amount of support, because of the fact that people are being turned away and that children are being turned away. From what Sally has said, and from what we see in our own research with Stirling University, we know that those issues are also there with community-based services. Currently, there is a real postcode lottery for access. Research that we did with Stirling University and local authorities showed that in two thirds of areas there were barriers to children and young people accessing community services. Also in two thirds of areas the funding issues that we have already spoken about were present, with projects being funded by unstable funding streams and not knowing what their future was. In 10% of local authorities, there were actually no services for children and young people, and only two had services for children in the early years. There is a real problem around adequate services for children and young people in the community, which the Domestic Abuse Commissioner picked up this morning.

The duty is a real opportunity, which we welcome, but to do its job properly, it needs to be widened. In that research with Stirling University, local authorities said that there is an absence of guidance, that they are not sure what they are supposed to be providing, and, unusually, that they would welcome a duty to give them that clarity about what is wanted. Of course, they will need it to be properly funded, but having that clarity would be a real step forward for everyone.

I have already addressed our fear that unintentionally the duty as it stands might have a negative impact on some of those vital community services for children and young people, particularly given the funding pressure that we know local authorities are under. MHCLG has said that the duty will not have an impact on community-based services, but no detail was provided about how or why that is the case. We therefore echo the Joint Committee’s recommendation that the duty needs to look at how community-based support can be provided. We know from the services that Sally provides how important that support is in helping children to recover and preventing further abuse in the next generation.