“(2) A domestic abuse protection order that imposes a requirement to do something on a person (“P”) must—
(a) specify the person who is to be responsible for supervising compliance with that requirement; and
(b) meet the standard published by the Home Secretary for domestic abuse behaviour interventions, if the requirement is to attend an intervention specifically designed to address the use of abusive behaviour.”
New clause 26—Publish statutory standards—
“It is the duty of the Home Secretary to consult on and publish statutory standards in furtherance of section 33(2)(b) within 12 months of royal assent to this act, and to review these standards at least once every 3 years.”
This new clause is contingent upon Amendment 51 and seeks to ensure that all interventions designed to address abusive behaviour, that are imposed by DAPOs, are of a quality assured standard, as made clear under published statutory standards.
New clause 27—A strategic plan for perpetrators of domestic abuse—
“Within one year of the passing of this Act, the Government must lay before Parliament a comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abuse to improve the identification and assessment of perpetrators, increase the number of rehabilitation programmes, and increase specialist work to tackle abusive attitudes and behaviour.”
This part of the Bill is specifically about further provisions, beyond those that the Minister has just outlined for us—about where people can and cannot go. This is about positive actions that can be taken in the court. Of course, that is not new to the Bill. This is a new Bill, and a new clause in it, but for many years the court has had the option to make positive requirements in such cases as those we are discussing and many others, so it is no surprise to see this in the Bill.
The new Bill establishes domestic abuse prevention orders that enable judges to require perpetrators to attend behaviour change interventions as part of their sentence. Again, they exist already. It is estimated that a need for 15,200 extra places on behaviour change and drug or alcohol programmes could spring out of the possible requirement to take positive action. I do not stand in criticism—I am looking forward to 15,200 extra people going through behaviour change courses—but there are currently no proposals to ensure that such interventions meet any sort of minimum standard.
I feel as though my hon. Friend the Member for Hove and I have been constantly asking the Minister about how we will review things and how we will know how they are going. Currently, there is no minimum standard for positive actions ordered by the court. At worst, poorly run programmes can increase the risk to victims. I know the Government would not want to put themselves in a position where a programme that they have funded would ever harm a victim. At best, a poor programme is a waste of money. We can all agree that there is no room for waste in the field of domestic abuse, with services up and down the country already strapped for cash. With the necessary quality assurance amendments, however, the Bill could mark a new era in which perpetrators are held to account and given genuine chances to change.
In a sort of change theory moment, the fact that I just stood in the House of Commons and said my last sentence proves that people can change, because I did not have any time and/or respect for behaviour change programmes when I worked in domestic abuse services, largely because of some of the experiences that I am referring to and the need for such programmes to be quality assured. I saw waste, and what I saw very rarely ended up being rooted in the safety of the victim. Provision is at best patchy; there have been years of problems with evidence-based programmes for perpetrators, and it seems patchy even in areas that one might think would be compelled to deliver them, such as probation.
I have seen instances of one local authority in the area where I worked putting out a tender for perpetrator programmes. It was quite a generous tender at the time—we are talking about seven years ago—because there was not much money going around. It was around £100,000 for a small local authority area—not Birmingham, because we would need millions—to offer services to around 100 perpetrators and to set up a programme to do that. During the tendering process, I saw the amount of the money that was to go to the specialist sector. The commissioners recognise—better than in most areas—that we should not be commissioning perpetrator services without the relative support being provided to victims. That has definitely happened, because, as we heard yesterday, good people and good local authorities working in the borough spoke up and said, “Hang on a minute. You can’t commission these services for perpetrators if you don’t also put in place support for the victims.”
I see the Minister nodding. It is now long agreed that that is the right way to handle this issue. However, just as an aside on what I would call patriarchal commissioning, there was £100,000 to deal with the perpetrators on the programme, and £18,000 to deal with the victims and their children. There is a balance between how much we value each thing in the system. I saw more than an unfair commissioning round, which I have been part of millions of times. Many providers who never had expertise in work with victims or perpetrators of domestic abuse saw on the council website that there was £100,000 being offered to people who could work with perpetrators, and, say, the local housing association would suddenly say “We know loads about perpetrators. We will set up a perpetrator programme.” Seven years ago when everything was being cut we used to say “diversify or die”, so if there was £100,000 they would say “We will do that.” Smaller organisations would say “We can go on Google and write a perpetrator programme.” I kid you not. That is the kind of thing that would go on.
The commissioners in our local authorities, with the best will in the world, who were in this instance doing lots of things right, were not experts in what a good quality-assured perpetrator programme might be—not at all. In the commissioning round we were commissioned, as the only violence against women and girls organisation in the area, to do the victim support work. A host of different people suddenly wanted a chat with us, to get our expertise in the commissioning round. Commissioning can make someone very popular. Never has my organisation been more popular than when probation was privatised. Every company from all over the country wanted a chat about our expert services.
A wide variety of agencies said they could handle perpetrators. In that instance the right thing happened—and fair play to the commissioners. The contract went to probation in the end, and before it could be realised probation withdrew on the grounds that it could not deliver the programme safely on behalf of the victims, because of the contract arrangements. In the end the programme did not happen. I point that out only because in that local authority area there were organisations such as the one I worked for, which punched well above its weight in lobbying and working with local authorities in the area. Also there was a decent head of what was then the community interest company in probation services, who did the right thing. However, anyone else who had been given the contract would probably just have delivered it along lines. It would have been monitored by a local authority provider commissioner with no idea about change management with offenders. With the greatest respect to local authorities, what do their commissioners know about that?
I used to go and speak to all the judges about female offenders and say, “Send them on our programmes.” I foresee a situation in which a judge, rightly looking around, thinks, “I’ve got this leaflet; I can do a positive thing. I am going to send this person”—and we have no idea, and the court has no understanding, whether where the person is being sent is any good. There is nothing in the Bill to provide quality assurance of those positive requirements.
Quality assurance provisions would be written into law only to apply to the DAPOs, but the expectation is that they would set a benchmark for all behaviour interventions commissioned by public bodies, raising, for example, the standard of work in probation. The probation service that I mentioned withdrew from the work in question out of morality and good sense, but a report from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation on the provision of domestic abuse rehabilitation activities demonstrates how urgently that is needed:
“Some responsible officers were delivering the domestic abuse RAR”— the rehabilitation activity requirement—
“on a one-to-one basis, borrowing resources from colleagues, browsing the internet for resources or devising their own one-to-one interventions. There was no system in place to make sure that interventions were evidence-based and delivered safely and effectively”.
Perhaps my seven-years-ago story speaks to what was found in that probation report. The Minister spoke earlier about something else that had progressed over five years. I think that in the area I have been discussing, we have progressed vastly. The reason why I say that is that my opinion of perpetrator programmes has followed the evidence—I can change, proving that change is possible. I followed the science, as the Government like to say at the moment. The evidence base is now strong where previously it was not, so it presents an opportunity.
I will never forget watching a video of a perpetrator group about 10 years ago as part of a training exercise. In the video, there was a group of perpetrators, which, when a group activity is done, has a “rogues gallery” element. I remember one man saying that he had been violent toward his wife because she had not made his cup of tea the way that he liked it. Somebody else in the group said, “Maybe the best thing you can do is to tell her more explicitly or write down exactly how you like it.” I remember being in that training exercise and wanting to say, “Make it yourself!”—as the Minister pre-empted—“Tell him she is not his slave.”
Since that wild west, through the work of some incredibly brilliant people, we have the idea of rooting out those paternalistic norms that we no longer recognise in marriages or partnerships in our society, and challenging the patriarchal norms, such as the idea that somebody is there to serve another for their pleasure, or for them to control. We are addressing those norms from the point of view of the victim and we have come a long way. I would like to think that that would never again be said in such a group and that someone might say, “Make your own sodding tea!” Excuse my unparliamentary language—I apologise.
Respect, a brilliant organisation working in the field, currently has a gold standard for quality perpetrator programmes. That standard has already been endorsed by the Government, whose new published standards could and should draw heavily from it. Those new standards will need to be developed in consultation with specialist domestic abuse sector organisations and the devolved Government in Wales. At their core, those standards will require a focus on the safety and wellbeing of the victim, so that every step taken with the perpetrator is taken with thought given to its impact on the victim. Assuring quality will be an important step forward. However, it will have to be combined with both a significant investment so that a range of interventions are available and skilled assessments, on a case-by-case basis, regarding the suitability of any given intervention for a specific perpetrator.
When we have pushed back against something and asked the Minister, “What about in this case?” or “What about in that locality?”, the Minister has pushed back with the reality that cases must be heard on their own merit and that situations always rise and fall on their own merit. The same would apply in this instance. I could easily be accused of wanting the moon on a stick, so how would it work in practice? Well, most importantly, the Government would consult the domestic abuse sector—including leading organisations such as Respect, as well as survivors—and publish standards. There are various options for accrediting programmes and ensuring that the standard is met in practice as well as on paper.
I propose that the consultation process for quality standards also seeks views on the accreditation mechanism. My preference would be for external accreditation, which would be much more robust, as opposed to self- accreditation, because then we would all mark ourselves up. [Interruption.] I get so confused by the campanology-like level of bell-ringing in this place at the moment.
It has also been proposed by Respect that sites be accredited, not programmes or curricula, as that will help to ensure that delivery meets standards.
We have seen that in lots of instances. In fact, funded by the Home Office, I have written such programmes on many occasions, including teenage relationship abuse programmes, that have gone on to be accredited by the Home Office. When I used to hand them over to a school to deliver, I knew I could not guarantee the quality of the delivery, even though the programme was accredited and might be a step forward—I would say that if I had written it. This did once lead to my husband saying that I was a perpetrator of domestic abuse, as I had left the papers of the accredited programme I was leading on the table, and one of the questions was, “Does he open your post?” My husband said, “You always open my post,” but the bills would not get paid if I didn’t.
An accredited programme goes some way, but if you hand it over to somebody who is not an expert, it could be degraded, so accreditation of delivery is important. External accreditation could work as follows: a standard is included in the body of what the Home Secretary publishes; a list of accredited agencies approved against the standard is given, with a mechanism for review—I have more to say about that later—such as ways that agencies could apply to accredit or ways that checks could be made to ensure that existing accreditation agencies were performing correctly; commissioners commission programmes only from accredited sites, which would certainly have helped in the example I talked about; reaccreditation could be required every three years, or earlier in the case of significant changes to the structure or operation of the programme; and, accreditation-failed services would have six months to meet the standard before commissioners are expected to decommission, which is not dissimilar to an Ofsted—“Get a bit better, and we’ll come back and have a look.”
As for the guidance from Respect, any quality assurance guidance will have to be combined with significant investments, so that a range of interventions are available and there are skilled assessments, on a case-by-case basis, regarding the suitability of any given intervention for a specific perpetrator.
The Committee has made reference after reference to this being a landmark Bill, and perpetrators have been long overlooked—I include myself in that category. The development of a properly funded national strategy for perpetrators, together with correct quality assurance accreditation for perpetrator programmes, would allow the Bill to effect lasting change, in way that has not been seen before.
In reference to new clause 27 and the national perpetrator strategy, we all know the statistics about how many women are murdered each and every week. The cost of the abuse of victims identified in a single year, according to the Home Office, is £66 billion. I understand that I am speaking to the idea of a level of investment, but we are talking about £66 billion in cost. Research conducted by the University of Bristol shows that a perpetrator who has been assessed as high risk, and whose case is heard at a multi-agency risk assessment conference for victims, generates a cost of £63,000 as a result of his or her domestic abuse behaviour.
There are proven ways of reducing abuse, which are not currently being used. Less than 1% of the 400,000 or so perpetrators who are assessed as posing a high or life-threatening risk to their partners get specialist intervention. The figure of 831,000 victims each year was given for children yesterday, and I am talking about 400,000 high-risk perpetrators. I have had a domestic abuse, stalking and honour-based violence risk assessment in front of me about a woman who had been beaten in the face with a brick that morning, and she was considered to be at medium risk. So I am sure that the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster knows and others can imagine what the cases would be like in a MARAC meeting about high-risk victims of domestic harm. Only 1% or so of those perpetrators have had an intervention in this regard.
There are proven interventions, as I have already said. For example, Drive combines behaviour change work with police-led disruption. Its work with high-harm perpetrators has been shown to reduce the number of perpetrators using physical abuse by 82% and jealous and controlling behaviour by 73%. I do not know how we measure the reduction of somebody’s jealous and controlling behaviour, but obviously somebody came up with a metric. The operational costs of Drive are between £1,800 and £2,000 per perpetrator.
A report from the University of Bristol shows a 30% reduction in the number of criminal domestic violence and abuse incidents among a cohort of perpetrators receiving an intervention, compared with a control group. In another study, by the University of Northumbria, an intervention was found to lead to a 65% reduction in domestic violence and abuse-related offending and a social return on investment of £14 for every £1 spent. About five years ago in the voluntary sector, we had to work out exactly what the amount of money saved was for every £1, and I have noticed that it is always between £10 and £15.
Survivors also support perpetrator programmes. Some 80% of survivors advised the call to action for a perpetrator strategy co-ordinated by the Drive partnership. They think that the perpetrator programmes’ interventions for perpetrators are a good idea. That is a really important point. I take a dim view of domestic abuse perpetrators, but Committee members would be surprised, if they spent time with them, that victims of domestic abuse often do not take a dim view of the people doing the abuse. After all, they loved them and/or married them. We hear it again and again. The thing that always got to me was hearing, “He’s not a bad dad; he’s just bad to me.” I heard a lot of, “He’s quite a good dad and good with the babbies.” But you also hear, “I want him to be able to get help.” I am not of the opinion that drugs and alcohol make somebody a domestic abuser. Power, control and patriarchal norms make somebody a domestic abuser, but if a pattern is exacerbated by drug and alcohol use, there is definitely a sense that victims want support and help for their perpetrators.
When I worked as an independent domestic violence adviser, I often thought there should be an IDVA for perpetrators. The reason why women end up taking their violent perpetrators back again in incident after incident is that their perpetrators end up homeless, and they are the father of their children, or their perpetrators have nowhere to go and no one to support them to find a job, or, when they come out of prison, no one to resettle them. So they lean on the victim, as their previous partner, and the victims want to believe that they can help. It is a terrible human condition that makes people not just say, “Sling yer hook; you’re a wrong ’un.” We all think we would say that, but, if there was somebody there for the perpetrator, like there is somebody for the victim, it would take the burden off the victim, so victims really do want interventions for perpetrators.
Unfortunately, programmes are patchy, and their availability is limited. There is a limited range of perpetrators that they can reach safely, and the programmes vary in quality. The desire for a strategy, which the new clause asks for, reflects that understanding. Lots of areas—any public body with any commissioning role, whether that is health services, local authorities and so on—have thrown a little extra money at the end of the financial year and said, “Okay. Let’s have a perpetrator thing.” I have been in those meetings many times, and I have found that the cohort of perpetrators we are going to work with becomes complicated. Who will we work with? If we say we will go for high risk of harm, a small organisation in a local area will not be able to handle high-risk violent offenders. Then we come down to the next level and say people on child protection. Immediately, when those services are being commissioned, the number of people who can go on them is limited. In victims services, we just say, “Yes, there will be a service,” no matter who they are or whether they are on child protection. With perpetrators, however, because there is no proper strategy or system for commissioning and understanding services, those services, even where they exist, are for a narrow cohort that has been identified as possible to manage—it might be that someone is on a child protection plan or the DASH risk assessment of the victim is low to medium—which immediately limits the ability of certain people to be safe.
In addition, for some groups, such as LGBT+ perpetrators, there are almost no suitable interventions available. The vast majority of perpetrator programmes commissioned in areas have heteronormative ideals. If a judge is faced with a case where he has to dispense this duty, through the DAPO, for a same-sex male couple, for example, there would not necessarily be anywhere for them to go, even if they wanted to. Actually, I would bet my bottom dollar that what we will find with the positive duty is that, even if a judge says, “You have to have this positive duty,” in the vast majority of places in the country, there will be nothing, so people will just say, “Oh well.” In making that decision, the judge was doing the right thing and trying to change something, but actually there is nothing, and probation will just say, “I’ll Google it. Let’s do it one to one.”
The Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill noted the need for investment in perpetrator programmes and for “co-operation with expert providers”. In addition, the Government’s impact assessment for the Bill estimates that DAPOs will generate a need for 15,200 extra places on behaviour change and drug and alcohol problem programmes.
Despite the above statistics—they were actually over the page, but perhaps in Hansard they will be above—and evidence regarding effectiveness and projected need, the Bill does not make any provision for a strategic approach to perpetrator programmes. It is crucial for the Government to respond to victims and survivors, but they need to publish and fund a perpetrator strategy to prevent abuse. Public and voluntary services would work effectively to hold domestic abuse perpetrators to account, but they will need funding and guidance from the Government to make a real difference.
Instead of asking, “Why doesn’t she leave?” the Government and every public funded agency should be asking, “Why doesn’t he stop?” Too often, in a violent household, it is the victim who needs to leave and who is sent on programmes, largely by children’s services. What if she could stay safely in her home, with her networks of support around her, near her work and her children? Would it not be better if it was the perpetrator who had to leave, and if that could be arranged safely? That is at the heart of the DAPO process. That is not an area that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has explored, but under this strategy that is the kind of thing it would need to do. There is already emerging good practice in that area, and it would have many willing and experienced partners.
I am aware that, in some places, police have not been able to use domestic violence protection orders to protect women, for fear that, in removing the perpetrator from the home, they would make him homeless, which effectively leaves the woman at risk. Other police areas have found routes round that. During the coronavirus crisis, I looked over the accounts of the Manchester courts, and they were handing out those orders. It is a real opportunity for us to learn in this area because, for the first time, with the “Everyone In” scheme run by the MHCLG, accommodation has been offered for perpetrators. That is not the standard that we are used to, but during the coronavirus crisis, that has certainly been the case.
On coronavirus, we have been in constant contact with charities and the police locally to understand how DVPOs are working. Where there have been problems, as in the hon. Lady’s point about homelessness, we have sent out guidance repeatedly to local authorities to say that they must include perpetrators in their rehousing programmes, precisely so that DVPOs can be enforced.
It will be a very thin silver lining to what has been an enormous cloud over our country. The Minister is absolutely right: we have been learning some things in this period. Because of the availability of resource in our police forces as a result of the reduction in other areas of crime, this will in some regards be a high point—a gold standard—in terms of how we act in domestic violence cases. If there was certainty in a police force area, built in partnership with a local authority, that there would absolutely be a place for a perpetrator to stay, I can almost guarantee that the police would be much more active in the DVPO area, because that is what we have seen during the coronavirus crisis.
There should be five elements of a perpetrator strategy. We need criminal justice systems and other public and voluntary services, such as housing, health and education. We need training, and clever and tough working, to hold perpetrators to account. We need proven interventions and behaviour change programmes for all perpetrators available everywhere, and we need education to prevent and raise awareness of abusive behaviours. We need regulation to end poorly run programmes, some of which are actually dangerous. And we need ongoing research to ensure that we know what stops abuse, particularly within groups that are currently under-served by these kinds of preventive interventions, such as LGBT groups.
Essentially, money is needed. A sustainable and predictable source of funding would save millions in policing, justice and health costs—perhaps even billions, given the Home Office costings on the cost of domestic abuse. Leadership is ultimately needed to make it happen. It is pleasing to see that the domestic abuse commissioner is taking a proactive stance on this. She will need backing from Ministers in all Departments to look beyond their important response to victims to the other side of the coin: the people causing the harm.
I just want to provide my experience of being a council leader with responsibility for commissioning perpetrator courses and services, which does not mirror what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley outlined. I have always found commissioners to be excellent, to really understand the process and to appreciate that this is public money.
For our commissioning services, we worked with the former Mayor of London, who really understood how important perpetrator programmes are, as did the then deputy Mayor for policing, who is now Lord Greenhalgh and is a Minister. I supported their view that it was about payment on results. That is one of the main issues in perpetrator services, children’s services and public protection services: they should be about results.
I am extremely proud of this Bill and this clause, because it takes to heart the fact that, although we have to support victims, if we are ever going to bring domestic abuse to an end, particularly in families, it has to be about the perpetrator too.
There are many brilliant services today, such as SafeLives—which I think is based in the south-west—that take a family view on this. I welcome the clause and I do not support the amendment. I think the Bill is outstanding, and that it will bring perpetrators to book while also supporting victims.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend’s contribution, and I entirely agree with its content. I think there is agreement across the House that we want credibility and consistency for perpetrator programmes to ensure that individuals who have been led into error by their behaviour do not continue to do so, at dramatic cost to both individuals and society more widely. We are absolutely clear that if we do not hold perpetrators to account for their actions, we will not be able to tackle the root cause of domestic abuse. We agree that it is essential for any perpetrator programme imposed as part of a DAPO to provide a high-quality, safe and effective intervention.
Although we support the aim of the amendments, we respectfully think that there is a better way of achieving the end result that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley seeks. At the heart of our response is the idea that quality assurance needs to be looked at in the round, in relation to all domestic abuse perpetrator programmes, not just those imposed by a DAPO, as is provided for in the amendments. Before I develop that point, I will say that consistency and credibility are important not just for the perpetrator or the victim, but for the courts themselves, so that they have confidence that when they impose orders, they will get results. Also, courts may not feel the need to lock someone up if they can reach for an order—whether a DAPO or a community order—in which they have confidence.
It is really important to note that not all domestic abuse perpetrator programmes come via a DAPO. First, a family court could make a referral into a perpetrator programme by, for example, imposing an activity, direction or condition in connection with a child arrangement order. Secondly, the police, probation service and local authorities could work together to impose a programme as part of an integrated offender management programme. Thirdly, there could even be self-referral: there may be individuals who have had a long, hard look at their behaviour and thought, “I need to address this. I am, off my own bat, going to seek a referral into such a programme.” Respect runs a helpline offering information and advice to people who have perpetrated abuse and want to stop.
I am at pains to emphasise that while we want to make sure any programmes delivered via the gateway of a DAPO achieve high standards and are consistent and credible, we should not forget that other programmes are being delivered outwith DAPOs, via different gateways, and we want to ensure that those programmes meet the same standard. Otherwise, we would end up in the perverse and unsatisfactory situation of having a DAPO gateway programme that is great, but other ones that are not.
We propose to take this work forward by using some of the £10 million announced by the Chancellor in this year’s Budget for the development of new interventions for domestic abuse perpetrators. We will work with the domestic abuse commissioner and specialist domestic abuse organisations—along the lines that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley indicated—to undertake mapping and evaluation of the range of perpetrator interventions currently available, and explore what works for different models of quality assurance for domestic abuse perpetrator behaviour change programmes.
By the way, there is already a wealth of promising evidence that we can draw on as part of this work. For example, the Government have already invested through the police transformation fund in a number of innovative approaches to managing perpetrators, including the Drive project led by Respect and SafeLives, to which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley alluded, as well as the whole-system approach to domestic abuse in Northumbria and the Women’s Aid “Make a Change” programme. There is a lot out there, and we need to draw the threads together.
We continue to support the important work of Respect, which is helping to ensure through its service standards that programmes targeted at a range of perpetrators are delivered safely and effectively. We will also draw on the ongoing work of the Ministry of Justice’s correctional services accreditation and advice panel, which accredits programmes for perpetrators who have been convicted of an offence.
Hon. Members will be aware that we have committed to pilot DAPOs in a small number of areas, prior to the national roll-out. Although the timing is not set in stone, the pilot may be in the order of two years or so—that is an important point that I will come back to. The pilot will allow us to carefully evaluate the operation and effectiveness of DAPOs, including the effectiveness of any programme requirements imposed as part of an order. We will use the pilot to consider carefully the quality assurance of any programmes referred into as part of a DAPO, to ensure that perpetrators subject to this requirement are accessing the programme that is right for them.
It is our aim to ensure the availability of a wide range of high-quality programmes from early interventions of a preventive nature to programmes able to address high-risk offenders. That is an important point; one size does not fit all. There might be some people who are at the beginning of their criminal journey, if you like, and others who are hardened, entrenched offenders. It will need to be flexible to take account of the circumstances of the individual. Ensuring that such interventions are effective should therefore not be confined solely to those programmes imposed by a DAPO.
I said I would return to the pilots. We think that placing a requirement to publish a strategy before the DAPO pilots have been completed would reduce the impact and effectiveness of the strategy. Clauses 47 and 66 already enable us to issue the appropriate statutory guidance in relation to perpetrator programmes. I do not want to spend too much time on this, because we need to move on, but clause 66 contains a power for the Secretary of State to issue guidance about domestic abuse. It is worth dwelling on for a moment because it could inform other parts of the Bill.
Clause 66(1) notes:
“The Secretary of State may issue guidance about the effect of any provision made by or under…Parts 1 to 5”.
We are in part 3. Clause 66(2) notes:
“The Secretary of State must, in particular, issue guidance under this section about…the effect of domestic abuse on children.”
We referred to that point earlier and it is worth picking it up. The clause also says, which bears emphasis:
That is an interesting point, but the bit I really wanted to get to was subsection (5):
“The Secretary of State may from time to time revise any guidance issued under this section.”
That is important, because we need to make sure that the Act does not ossify. It is not set in stone. Why? Because our understanding changes, attitudes change, views change and expertise changes. We get a better idea of what works and what does not work. Clause 66 builds in the flexibility to ensure that we have best practice at all times.
My final point is about clause 66(6), which states:
“Before issuing or revising guidance under this section, the Secretary of State must consult”— it is mandatory—
“the Domestic Abuse Commissioner,”— there is another reason why the commissioner is so important—
“the Welsh Ministers, so far as the guidance relates to a devolved Welsh authority, and…such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”
It is important to note that clause 66 contains important provisions that allow for exactly what we want to achieve.
Turning to new clause 27 on the perpetrator strategy, I reassure the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley that we have heard the call to action for a perpetrator strategy. We commend the work of the Drive partnership of Respect, SafeLifes and Social Finance, who have done so much to change the narrative and to shift the focus from, “Why doesn’t she leave?”, to, “Why doesn’t he stop?”.
I want to be absolutely clear that we fully recognise the need for increased focus on perpetrators and are ambitious in our aim to transform the response to those who have caused this appalling harm, but to have an increased focus on tackling perpetrators, we do not need to make inflexible provision in the Bill for a one-off strategy. We have made clear our commitment to this work through our allocation of £10 million in this year’s Budget for preventive work with perpetrators. Over the past three years, we have funded a range of innovative approaches to working with perpetrators and we are beginning to build a solid evidence base on what works through some of the programmes I have mentioned: Drive, a whole-system approach to tackling domestic abuse, and “Make a Change”.
We have undertaken work to improve the response to the perpetrators through the criminal justice system. As was set out in the consultation response published alongside the draft Bill, we are taking action to improve the identification and risk assessment of perpetrators. The College of Policing has published key principles for police on the management of serial and dangerous domestic abuse perpetrators, and we are expanding the range of interventions available to offenders serving community sentences.
We recognise the concerns; that is why we want to ensure that we develop and properly test a whole-system approach, in particular through the piloting of DAPOs. It might well prove counterproductive to develop a new strategy without awaiting the learning from those pilots. I hope that, in the light of our intention to work towards that fully comprehensive package of perpetrator programmes and our wider programme of work to confront and change perpetrator behaviours, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley will see her way to withdrawing the amendment.
I recognise what the Minister says about the fact that perpetrator programmes are used elsewhere. Very often in children’s services, I have seen people sent on perpetrator programmes that, I am afraid to say, are useless. If only everything was as perfect as it is in Westminster.
I apologise if I did not cover all the boroughs in London. I did not come up with the amendments all by myself; the specialist sector is working with us to ask for these things, and the reality is that, as sometimes happens in this place, we will say how something is on the ground and we will be told that that is not the case. We will be told, “Actually, no; it’s going to be fine because we are going to have a whole-system approach.”
What the Minister says about a whole-system approach is needed wherever perpetrator programmes are issued, rather than just in DAPOs. I could not agree with him more on that point. I shall allow him as many interventions as he likes, and I will speak for as long as it takes for him to get the answer. If he is saying to me that, at the other end of this very notable approach and funding that the Home Office and the Government are putting in place, we will end up with an accredited system that stops the bad practice and the poor commissioning of services, of course I will withdraw the amendment.
Is the Minister saying that we will work towards a standard that will have to be met and that will be compelled—not dissimilar to the standard that we will hopefully come on to tomorrow, where we compel local authorities with a duty? There, I believe, we will be writing a set of standards that the local authority in its commissioning process has to live by, so that it cannot just say, “We’re doing any old domestic abuse services.” There has long been talk at MHCLG about having standards to go with any duty. Is the Minister telling me that we will end up with an accreditation system, which is essentially what I seek?
The whole point of the approach we are taking is to seek standardisation across the piece. Words like “accreditation” can mean all sorts of things, but certainly it is the case that our absolute aim is to draw on the best practice that we have referred to and combine it with the experience we glean from the pilots to work out what we think is best practice, to clarify what that best practice is and to do everything we can to promulgate that best practice. One can use words like “accreditation” or “standardisation”, but we want to use the mechanisms within the Bill—pilot and guidance—to do precisely what the hon. Lady is aiming for. We recognise that clarity, consistency and credibility are the hallmarks of an effective order, and that is precisely what we want to achieve.
I welcome what the Minister says. I suppose the reality is that if that does not happen, I have no recourse beyond changing this Bill. Actually, I can just stand in this building and say, “Things aren’t working and we don’t have good perpetrator systems,” but it will largely fall on deaf ears. It might not—we cannot know which ears it will fall on—but, largely, when people come and say that things are not working in whatever we are talking about, it is very hard.
I have a Bill in front of me, and I can attempt to compel this to happen. However, on this occasion—because I would never describe the Minister as having deaf ears, and I am quite confident in my own ability to keep on raising the issue until the right thing happens—I accept and welcome what the Minister has outlined, and I look forward to working on it with him, the commissioner and the sector. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.