New legal duty for local authorities to deliver life-saving support to survivors of domestic abuse
Survivors of domestic abuse will be provided with essential, life-saving support in safe accommodation thanks to new legal requirement upon every council in England from next year, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed.
As outlined in the Queen’s Speech, the government intends to amend the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to include for the first time a statutory duty on councils to provide support.
The Bill will transform the response to domestic abuse to better protect victims and their children, ensure they have the support they need, as well as pursuing their abusers.
Many councils are already providing tailored support to those in need, but this move will bring an end to the postcode lottery of support for those fleeing abusive relationships.
This step forms part of a wider government drive to bolster protection for survivors of domestic abuse including the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill which is currently before the House.
Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, said:
Domestic abuse destroys lives and leaves victims living in fear in the place where they should feel most safe – their homes.
This duty upon councils will now be brought forward – ensuring survivors get the help they need wherever they are, so they can rebuild their lives away from the threat of abuse. This government is determined to pursue abusers, better protect victims and their children, and ensure they have the support they need – so we can end this abhorrent practice for good.
Ahead of this new duty coming into force in 2021, the government has also announced a further £15 million in funding to run these essential services in 2020 to 2021 – a 20% increase on 2019 to 2020.
The duty will then be funded from April 2021, subject to future spending review discussions.
In addition, the Domestic Abuse Bill will bring about the first-ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
The Bill will also establish a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner and prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts.
Local authorities will also be required to develop and publish strategies which set out in detail the range of support services available for those fleeing violent relationships – including refuge accommodation and specialist support from safety through to independence.
Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge, said:
This much needed change in the law could mean an end to the postcode lottery of finding emergency accommodation, and would ensure critical specialist services are on a much more sustainable financial footing.
We look forward to working with the government to make sure every woman and child can access the support they need, and that means sustainable funding that meets need and addresses current shortfalls.”
In November last year, ministers awarded a further £22 million for domestic abuse projects across England – ensuring thousands more survivors have access to the help they need as they move towards a safe and healthy future, free from domestic abuse.
Funding is helping to provide over 2,200 new beds in refuges and other safe accommodation, as well as access to education and tailored employment and life skills guidance.
All of this action will help more people understand domestic abuse better and ensure those that need it can access the support they need while staying safe and protected from future abuse.