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Petition Require local authorities to fund specific domestic abuse services for women

The Government should recognise that domestic abuse is a gendered crime and women are the majority of victims and the vast majority of severe injury and domestic homicide victims, and require local authorities to fund specific domestic abuse services for women.

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We're very concerned that a number of local authorities are commissioning services with a ‘gender neutral’ approach, which in practice is defunding women’s refuges and lifesaving violence against women services. Evidence shows that women experiencing domestic abuse need access to women-only support. We need action now, as government plans to separate domestic abuse from the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy could only serve to encourage more ‘gender neutral’ responses to domestic abuse.

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Government responded

This response was given on 28 May 2021

Domestic Abuse is a form of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and the Government recognises that there is need for specific services for women. Its scale and impact warrant a dedicated strategy.

The Government recognises that domestic abuse is a crime that disproportionately impacts women. Over two million adults suffer domestic abuse each year with women twice as likely to be victims. We recognise too that the majority of severe injury and domestic homicide victims are women (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/domestic-abuse-in-england-and-wales-november-2020).

No one should have to suffer the pain of this abhorrent crime. That is why this Government has made tackling domestic abuse and supporting victims a priority.

Since 2014 we have invested £205 million in support for domestic abuse safe accommodation services – including £125 million for the new local authority duty (included in the Domestic Abuse Act) in 2021/22.

In addition, we have provided £1.5 million for migrant victims, £6.4 million for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline since 2016, over £20 million in frontline and support services for victims of domestic abuse, and £17 million over three years (2017/18 – 2019/20) for support through Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and local authorities.

For 2021/22, in addition to their core funding, PCCs were provided a further £9 million specifically for domestic abuse victim support services and £27 million to recruit more Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors.

We know how important high-quality support is to helping victims to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse and to move on with their lives. We agree that tailored support is vital to ensuring women receive the right and appropriate types of support and we expect all services commissioned to be gender-informed. Services must adhere to the law under the Equality Act for single sex provisions (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents).

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/nia/2021/2/contents) requires local authorities to assess, and commission appropriate support for domestic abuse victims and their children in safe accommodation to meet their needs. This includes funding specific domestic abuse services to meet the needs of women.
To accompany the new duties on local authorities within the Domestic Abuse Act the Government will set out its clear expectations in Statutory Guidance with the aim of ensuring all victims of domestic abuse have access to the right support within safe accommodation when they need it.

The Guidance will be clear that in assessing local needs, local authorities should use the expertise and knowledge of local and national specialist domestic abuse services to support in identifying and understanding the level and types of needs. The Guidance will also be clear that support should be provided by experienced and knowledgeable specialist providers, charities and other voluntary organisations whose purpose is to provide support to victims of domestic abuse.

Services commissioned under the new duty should meet Government and the domestic abuse sector quality standards – which include a commitment that support in safe accommodation should be provided in single-gender settings. This means providing specific services for women.

The Government will continue to work closely with local authorities, the domestic abuse sector and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner as the duty is implemented, to ensure that support, including specific services for women, is delivered in the right way.

The Government also recognises that a significant number of men and boys experience domestic abuse, and local authorities will also need to ensure they assess and meet those needs.

Domestic abuse is a high-prevalence, high-harm form of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Its scale and impact warrant a dedicated strategy. This does not mean we consider domestic abuse to be in any way separate from VAWG, nor intend to stop classifying it as VAWG. Indeed, many forms of VAWG take place within the context of domestic abuse.
By developing two complementary VAWG and domestic abuse strategies, this ensures sufficient focus is placed on existing and lesser understood forms of VAWG, as well as new and emerging forms, whilst providing scope to tackle the wide range of ways in which domestic abuse manifests.
The dual strategy approach will serve to redouble the Government’s efforts to tackle violence against women and girls.

We are currently considering all of the evidence submitted during the recent Call for Evidence and we will use this to inform our approach.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/577718

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Original Government response

Domestic Abuse is a form of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and the Government recognises that there is need for specific services for women. Its scale and impact warrant a dedicated strategy.

The Government recognises that domestic abuse is a gendered crime. Over two million adults suffer domestic abuse each year with women twice as likely to be victims. We recognise too that the vast majority of severe injury and domestic homicide victims are women (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/domestic-abuse-in-england-and-wales-november-2020).

No one should have to suffer the pain of this abhorrent crime. That is why this Government has made tackling domestic abuse and supporting victims a priority.

Since 2014 we have invested £205 million in support for domestic abuse safe accommodation services – including £125 million for the new local authority duty (included in the Domestic Abuse Act) in 2021/22.

In addition, we have provided £1.5 million for migrant victims, £6.4 million for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline since 2016, over £20 million in frontline and support services for victims of domestic abuse, and £17 million over three years (2017/18 – 2019/20) for support through Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and local authorities.

For 2021/22, in addition to their core funding, PCCs were provided a further £9 million specifically for domestic abuse victim support services and £27 million to recruit more Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors.

We know how important high-quality support is to helping victims to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse and to move on with their lives. We agree that tailored support is vital to ensuring women receive the right and appropriate types of support and we expect all services commissioned to be gender-informed. Services must adhere to the law under the Equality Act for single sex provisions (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents).

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/nia/2021/2/contents) includes a new duty on local authorities to assess the accommodation-based support needs of all victims and commission appropriate support services to meet those needs.

To accompany the new duties on local authorities within the Domestic Abuse Act the Government will set out its clear expectations in Statutory Guidance with the aim of ensuring all victims of domestic abuse have access to the right support within safe accommodation when they need it.

The Guidance will be clear that in assessing local needs, local authorities should use the expertise and knowledge of local and national specialist domestic abuse services to support in identifying and understanding the level and types of needs. The Guidance will also be clear that support should be provided by experienced and knowledgeable specialist providers, charities and other voluntary organisations whose purpose is to provide support to victims of domestic abuse.

Services commissioned under the new duty should be meet Government and the domestic abuse sector quality standards – which include a commitment that support in safe accommodation should be provided in single-gender settings.

The Government will continue to work closely with local authorities, the domestic abuse sector and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner as the duty is implemented, to ensure that support is delivered in the right way.

Domestic abuse is a high-prevalence, high-harm form of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Its scale and impact warrant a dedicated strategy. This does not mean we consider domestic abuse to be in any way separate from VAWG, nor intend to stop classifying it as VAWG. Indeed, many forms of VAWG take place within the context of domestic abuse.

By developing two complementary VAWG and domestic abuse strategies, this ensures sufficient focus is placed on existing and lesser understood forms of VAWG, as well as new and emerging forms, whilst providing scope to tackle the wide range of ways in which domestic abuse manifests.

The dual strategy approach will serve to redouble the Government’s efforts to tackle violence against women and girls.

We are currently considering all of the evidence submitted during the recent Call for Evidence and we will use this to inform our approach.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

This response was given on 13 May 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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