Domestic abuse survivors and their children will be supported further as the government has revealed plans which place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide secure accommodation for those fleeing abuse.
Charity Refuge welcomed the plans which, it said, had the potential to “end the postcode lottery for refuge places and could put these life-saving services on a secure financial footing for the first time”.
Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: “It could provide vital protection to tens of thousands of women and children who experience violence and intimidation in the home. Women and children deserve and need to live in safety.”
Over two million people and their families are affected by domestic abuse every year.
Not only will councils have a legal requirement to provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse, they will also be required to work together with neighbouring councils to ensure domestic abuse services reflects the needs of local people – including targeted, specialist support for BAME, LGBT and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller survivors.
For the first time, local authorities will also be required to develop and publish strategies which set out in detail the range of support services available for survivors and their children – including refuge accommodation and specialist support from safety through to independence.
The government will provide funding to place these services on a long-term, sustainable footing. The exact level of funding will be determined with stakeholders as part of a 12 week consultation process where ministers want to hear from victims and survivors, service and housing providers, local authorities, police and prime commissioners and other public agencies, as well as other professionals who support victims and their children every day.
Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said: “Domestic abuse destroys lives and I am determined to drive the change necessary to ensure families never have to endure the pain of domestic abuse in silence.
“For the first time ever, local authorities will have to legally assess level of support needed in their local area and match that need with vital, life-saving services – helping untold numbers of families to safely rebuild their lives, free from the threat of pernicious abuse.
“These important measures will help us shape the future of the invaluable support survivors of domestic abuse and their children receive,” he added.
The measures follow on from the publication of the draft Domestic Abuse Bill earlier this year which contains plans to prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts, includes a new government definition of domestic abuse and establishes a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Tackling domestic abuse is an issue which councils take very seriously and they already offer a range of support to protect victims and their families from this horrendous crime. These additional measures will assist councils in this vital work.
“Councils cannot tackle this crime on their own. It requires a range of public services, including the police to work together. It will be important that the final package ensures local authorities are supported in their work going forward, and provide flexibility to ensure services can be tailored to the needs of different areas.
“However our ambition must be to reduce the number of victims, with greater investment in early intervention and prevention schemes that helps stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.
“Therefore the government’s announcement that funding will be provided to place these vital services on a long-term, sustainable footing is a positive step. We look forward to working with government and our member councils during the consultation to ensure there is adequate resources and funding in place in the areas which need it,” he conclude