The Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and I are today launching a consultation which seeks to address domestic abuse at every stage from prevention through to rehabilitation.
Domestic abuse is an inexcusable and devastating form of abuse that can have a lifelong impact on its victims and their families. There are approximately two million reported victims every year, and domestic abuse accounts for over 10% of all police recorded crime and nearly 20% of all police charges.
This Government has taken strong action to tackle domestic abuse. We are the first country to criminalise coercive and controlling behaviour, and we have introduced Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. We have made legislative changes to legal aid to make it more accessible. Last year we also amended electoral law to make it easier for survivors of domestic abuse to register to vote, while keeping their name and address private.
In addition this year we have introduced a Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill that will maintain the status of survivors living in social housing with an existing lifetime tenancy when they move to a new social property. We have provided £20 million for accommodation based services such as refuges, which is already providing 2,200 additional beds in refuges and safe accommodation benefiting 19,000 victims. The best available data shows bed spaces have increased by 10% since 2010 and we are committed to supporting refuges and providing stable funding in the future.
We are reviewing the way in which refuges and supported housing are delivered and have heard the concerns about how our proposals will work in practice. We are working with all the charities and organisations working on the frontline, asking them to come forward with their ideas on how best to deliver this. That process is ongoing – and we’ve been clear no options are off the table as we work with them to ensure women requiring support in their time of need are not let down.
However we know there is more to do and that is why this Government is committed to transforming how we think about and tackle domestic abuse. We want victims to feel supported so that they can seek help and to rebuild their lives, safe in the knowledge that their perpetrator will be pursued and prosecuted.
The consultation seeks views under the four main themes set out below with the central aim of prevention running through each.
• Promote awareness – Proposals to help put domestic abuse at the top of everyone’s agenda, and raise public and professionals’ awareness
• Protect and support – Proposals to enhance the safety of victims and the support that they receive.
• Pursue and deter – Proposals to ensure an effective response to perpetrators from initial police response through to conviction and management of offenders (including rehabilitation).
• Improve Performance – Proposals to drive consistency and better performance in the response to domestic abuse across all local areas and agencies/sectors.
The Government welcomes responses from victims and survivors, charities, specialist organisations, experts and professionals across policing, criminal justice, health, welfare, education, social services, employment and local authorities who deal with these issues on a daily basis.
We are seeking a combination of legislative and non-legislative solutions for delivering the proposals set out in the consultation. Where primary legislation is required, the responses to the consultation will inform the content of the draft Domestic Abuse Bill announced in the Queen’s speech.
The consultation will run for 12 weeks to 31 May.
A copy of the consultation paper will be placed in the Library of the House and will be available online at www.gov.uk.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords