Related Sector: Health & Social Care

Domestic abuse has never been higher on the political or public agenda. In fact, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that in the twelve-month period ending in March 2020, ‘an estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse’. In addition, the ONS stated that due to the national lockdowns imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation has become much worse, with victims facing difficulties in safely seeking support.

Whilst it is public knowledge that domestic abuse claims the lives of two women a week in England and Wales and affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of children every year, this finding has indicated that the pandemic has brought domestic abuse into even sharper focus, as abusers who often use isolation as a form of control on their victims were able to do so with greater intensity over the this period, leading to devastating consequences for both women and children.

Behind the curve

The United Nations describes violence against women and girls as “one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today”.

The UK has a positive duty in law to protect, or in other words to intervene in a proactive way to alter attitudes and behaviours that result in harm, violence and abuse to women and girls. In 2012, it signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, commonly known as “The Istanbul Convention”, which is focused on preventing violence, protecting victims and prosecuting offenders. 

A decade later, however, the UK is still yet to ratify the Convention into UK law. The main outstanding issue relates to the provision of support to “all women”. Despite significant efforts in the House of Lords to ensure that the provision in the Domestic Abuse Act to protect migrant victims remained, it was resisted by the Government. This means in essence that because the Act does not protect “all women”, the UK has been unable to ratify the Convention.

A more positive note?

Politically, despite this shameful position, the momentum for change progressed when in 2017 the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, launched a government consultation, which she said “provided a one-in-a-generation opportunity” to help victims. This resulted in a landmark piece of legislation in the form of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Subsequently, we have seen the Government launch two separate documents.  Firstly, their Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy (VAWG Strategy) in July 2021, which sets out what the Government intends to do to respond to and prevent violence against women and girls, and secondly, at the end of March 2022, their Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan (Domestic Abuse Plan). 

It is curious that two separate documents have been produced, as domestic abuse is by its’ nature, gendered, and is a form of violence against women and girls.  Producing a separate strategy and plan may negatively impact a cohesive, joined up response from agencies involved and possibly dilute the funding of services, as well as cloud the message that the root cause of these issues is gender inequality.    

In summary

Whilst The Domestic Abuse Act 2021, the Online Safety Bill, the VAWG Strategy and Domestic Abuse Plan are all signs of progress they will serve as a test of intention for the Government to demonstrate their commitment to the cause by investing substantial funding in order to implement the change and actions required in the long term.

Professional trainer and subject matter expert, Sue Inker will explore these issues and many more in our Domestic Abuse Act 2021 course, which looks at the issues through a human rights lens, and explores the duties of public authorities in relation to safeguarding and the new duties and offences created by the Act. If you would like to discuss how Bond Solon can assist you and your organisation with Domestic Abuse Act training, please visit our course page or get in touch with one of the team on +44 (0)20 7549 2549.

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