Briefing: The Domestic Abuse Bill 1/3/21

In light of the Domestic Abuse Bill, we will be publishing fortnightly briefings to provide survivors of domestic abuse, partner agencies and individuals supporting Juno’s mission, with parliamentary and sector-wide updates.

The Bill has just completed the committee stage. The report stage of the Bill commences on the 8th of March, 2021.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding these briefings, please contact [email protected]

See our previous summary of the Bill here.

Recent headlines of the Domestic Abuse Bill

Recent developments

On Monday 22nd February, a roundtable discussion on post-separation abuse and the Domestic Abuse Bill was chaired by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, and attended by representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.

The new chair, Apsana Begum MP, and new vice-chair, Baroness Bertin, of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on domestic violence is calling on the government, experts on domestic abuse and the House of Lords “to work together to ensure we utilise this once in a generation opportunity to transform the response to domestic abuse.”

Agency responsibilities

The office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner will publish reports and lay them before Parliament; the reports will ensure statutory agencies and national government are held to account and will make recommendations on how they can improve their response to domestic abuse. Public bodies will have the responsibility of cooperating with the commissioner.

The new statutory definition contributes to the culture change around domestic abuse. All training, public awareness-raising, communications and procedures in all partner agencies will need to reflect the nature of the definition and address the multi-dimensional nature of abuse.

In order to comply with the Bill, local authorities will have to abide by the statutory duty to support survivors of domestic abuse and their children by commissioning refuges and other safe accommodation and prioritising homeless survivors when providing homelessness assistance.

Under the Disclosure Scheme guidance in the Bill, statutory duties are placed on law enforcement agencies such as the police. In order to comply with the Bill, the police should now disclose information to an individual if records show they may be at risk of domestic abuse or if the police receive information about a violent and abusive person who may impact the well-being of a partner or ex-partner.

View a summary of the impact of the Bill on different agencies here.

Suggested amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill

Existing amendments in motion

Defining abuse: The statutory definition of domestic abuse will recognise its gendered nature.

Community-based support: An amendment to the Bill, which will place a statutory duty on public authorities to provide specialist community-based services, has been put forward in a letter to the Prime Minister by Nicole Jacobs.

Protection and support for all survivors: Campaigners are lobbying the government to abolish No Recourse to Public Funds for women with insecure immigration status in abusive relationships. This would enable them to access life-saving finances, support and housing. The Bill must also ensure disabled survivors have equal access to support and protection.

Sustainable funding: “A commitment to invest £393 million annually for domestic abuse services, including 173.8 million to ensure the national network of refuge services is sustainable, safe and can meet the needs of all survivors and their children.” There must also be requirements for local authorities to fund specialist refuge services as opposed to more generic forms of accommodation, which may be ill-suited for women and their families.

Children and the family courts: Campaigners want to extend the Bill’s ban on cross-examination in court to ensure it applies to all family cases involving domestic abuse. They also want to implement a national and accredited training programme and checks for judges and magistrates, officers and child contact centre staff. Additionally, through the Bill, campaigners want to change the legal presumption of parental involvement in the Children Act 1989. See the full report from the Ministry of Justice panel here.

Suggested future amendments

A commitment to funding programmes that will help to prevent perpetrators from reoffending. This would be in addition to a DAPO’s power which can require a perpetrator to be assessed for a substance misuse programme.

The role of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner should include the evaluation of local authorities and agencies to ensure they are providing inclusive and appropriate responses to all domestic abuse survivors including those with insecure immigration status, LGBT+ people and disabled survivors.

Key resources and commentaries

 See the full list of recommendations for the Bill from Women’s Aid here.

“I think we need to stop seeing [domestic abuse] as an argument between people and start seeing it as a dangerous situation in which somebody has become a threat to somebody else.”

 A need to look at Domestic Homicide Reviews, see clip of the Home Secretary here.

Baroness Newlove: Post-separation abuse should be part of domestic violence bill

Domestic Abuse Bill- as amended in committee

Domestic Abuse Bill- policy equality statement