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New domestic abuse bill doesn’t go far enough to tackle problems, according to charity

Domestic violence charity, Women’s Aid, has welcomed the government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill, however, have warned that the new legislation fails to deliver enough money to address cuts that have seen support services wiped out over the past few years.

With the number of support groups falling by a fifth in just one year, the organisation said the little amount of money that is being given to survivors with additional needs does not offer a sustainable funding solution and will do very little to help those life-saving services dedicated to domestic violence that are struggling due to underfunding.

In the Women’s Aid Annual Domestic Violence Survey 2018, over half (57%) of responding organisations were running an area of their domestic abuse service without any financial assistance, while almost a third (31%) had to reduce the amount of support they could provide survivors as a result of budget squeezes.

Funding for women’s refuge cut more than £7 million in 7 years

It was reported in December 2018 that one in four domestic abuse refuges had lost all government money for therapeutic support due to state funding being at its lowest ever level. Chief executive of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid refuge, Charlotte Kneer, explained that:

“Therapeutic services are an essential part of providing a refuge service. It is at the core of what we are doing. It is not a luxury, it is not desirable – it is an essential.”

Recent spending figures have also shown women’s refuge funding had gone from £31.2 million in 2010 to £23.9 million in 2017, meaning victims in need of shelter are finding it more difficult than ever to get access to a free bed. 60 per cent of victims are currently unable to be housed, most commonly due to lack of space or capacity. This figure rises even further for BAME women to a staggering 80 per cent.

What are the new laws under the draft Domestic Abuse Bill?

The new bill has introduced legislation such as:

  • banning abusers from cross-examining victims in family courts,
  • provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order,
  • making high-risk domestic abuse offender subject to lie-detector tests after they are released from custody, and
  • establishing a Domestic Abuse Commissioner and their function and powers.

The government has also announced that special measures will be put in place to protect victims of domestic violence in criminal courts (such as separate waiting rooms and different entry and exit times). However, the charity pointed out that the government is missing an opportunity by failing to introduce the same measures into the family courts.

Katie Ghose, from Women’s Aid, responded to the draft bill:

“Although this new law is much welcomed, it alone will not protect survivors in the family courts and challenge the ‘contact at all costs’ approach by judges, which is putting children in danger. The government must deliver the resources needed as well as legislation to make a real difference to survivors’ lives.”

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