Department for Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 29th January 2015.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what recent estimate he has made of the number of places in refuges for women fleeing domestic violence in each year since 2010.

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

This Department does not make estimates of the number of refuge places for those fleeing domestic abuse. Decisions on the provision of accommodation for victims of domestic abuse are for local authorities. We expect local authorities to commission services based on the needs of their communities, taking account of locally available data sources.

Government does not directly fund domestic abuse refuges, however, this Government has invested £6.5 billion to help vulnerable people through housing related support. A proportion of this money will be used by local authorities to commission refuge services. In addition we have made over £500 million available since 2010 to local authorities and the voluntary sector to prevent and tackle homelessness and rough sleeping including support for victims of domestic abuse.

In November 2014 we made available £10 million (2014-16) for local authorities, working with specialist domestic abuse service providers, to stop the closure of refuges and improve and grow existing provision. We also issued new statutory guidance that makes clear the practice of providing refuge to support only to local victims is unacceptable and which set out clear standards that refuges services should meet.

The dynamics of domestic abuse mean that accommodation can play an important role in the resolution of interpersonal abuse and conflict. This is why the homelessness legislation in England provides one of the strongest safety nets in the world for families with children and for vulnerable people who become homeless through no fault of their own.

We also fund UKRefugesOnline a UK wide database of domestic violence services which supports the national 24 hour free phone domestic violence helpline. This service enables those working with victims of domestic violence to identify appropriate services and potential refuge vacancies around the country so that victims can get the help they need as quickly as possible.

In addition, this Government has ring-fenced nearly £40 million of funding for specialist local domestic and sexual violence support services until 2015. This funding is used to part-fund 54 multi-agency risk assessment conference co-ordinators and 144 independent domestic violence advisers. We have piloted and rolled out Clare's Law and domestic violence protection orders; extended the definition of domestic abuse to cover controlling behaviour and teenage relationships; run two successful campaigns to challenge perceptions of abuse; and placed Domestic Homicide Reviews on a statutory footing to make sure lessons are learned from individual tragedies. More recently we have added an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill at Commons Committee stage to create a new offence of domestic abuse. The amendment closes the gap in the current legal framework to capture repeated or continuous coercive and controlling behaviour, specifically where that behaviour takes place in an ongoing intimate partner or inter-familial relationship.

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