Domestic Abuse Bill needs greater focus on supporting child victims

Local authorities have urged more emphasis on supporting child victims of domestic abuse in the Domestic Abuse Bill.

As the Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons earlier this month, the Local Government Association said they would like to see more emphasis on how children can be supported when they have experienced domestic abuse with domestic abuse being a factor in the majority of child protection cases.

“There must be greater investment in child and adolescent mental health services and early intervention work to mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences based around domestic abuse,” said the Association which represents more than 330 councils in England.

In a statement, the LGA said that domestic abuse is a horrendous crime, and councils want to do all they can to tackle and prevent it. As part of its #CouncilsCan campaign, the Association has been calling for greater action to reduce and eventually eliminate domestic abuse, so they believe it is positive to see the Domestic Abuse Bill being taken forward.

The Association supports the creation of a statutory definition of domestic abuse, and the inclusion of economic abuse within this. It is also pleased to see the establishment of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner role in the Bill.

Key learning and best practice from Domestic Homicide Reviews should be shared on a national level and this learning should contribute towards the Commissioner’s Annual Report.

The LGA also states that tackling domestic abuse requires a cross-government approach including health, housing and education, alongside the Bill’s focus on crisis interventions and criminal justice, tackling domestic abuse requires a cross-government response incorporating health, housing and education. There should also be an equal focus on, and funding, for prevention and early intervention measures that aims to prevent domestic abuse happening in the first place.

Again, while it is right to prioritise and support victims, breaking the cycle of domestic abuse will also mean stopping perpetrators from re-offending. However, this requires funding and investment to be put towards evidence-based perpetrator programmes.

“This legislation comes at a time when local government, and particularly children’s services, are facing unprecedented demand. Councils have worked hard to protect budgets for essential child protection services, but funding pressures have led to difficult decisions in other parts of the service, reducing vital early intervention work and leaving children and young people unable to access support until they reach breaking point,” said the statement.

“In order for the Bill to have real success in tackling domestic abuse and creating consistency of services, it must be underpinned by adequate, long term funding in key services including children’s services and housing,” the statement from the LGA concluded.

Read the full briefing.

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