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Domestic Abuse: Children

Home Office written question – answered on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to strengthen support for children in the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the provision of support services available for children affected by domestic abuse.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Education on the definition of significant harm in the Children Act 1989.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The enhanced Domestic Abuse Bill, as re-introduced on 3 March, includes a new statutory duty on tier one local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse, and their children, within safe accommodation. This new measure augmented those already in the Bill addressing the impact of domestic abuse on children. As provided for in clause 66(2)(b), the statutory guidance which will accompany the Bill will recognise the effect of domestic abuse on children. The guidance will outline the range of impacts domestic abuse can have on children, as well as appropriate support and referral mechanisms. The Bill will also establish in law, the independent Domestic Abuse Commissioner who will be required to consider the impact of domestic abuse on children, and the services available to them.

In the Government’s further response to the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill (CP 214), also published on 3 March, we indicated that the Domestic Abuse Commissioner has agreed to undertake an in-depth exploration of the current community-based support landscape. The Government will then work with the Commissioner to understand the needs identified and develop options on how best to address them.

The Government’s further response to the Joint Committee also addressed the Committee’s recommendation that “the Government consider amending the relevant Children Act definition of harm to explicitly include the trauma caused to children by witnessing coercive control between adults in the household”. As set out in the Government’s further response, we consider that the existing definition of harm already allows for witnessing and experiencing coercive control as it includes “forms of ill treatment that are not physical” and “impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another”. We have concluded that the most effective means of giving effect to the Committee’s recommendation is to amend the statutory guidance, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-together-to-safeguard-children--2

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