Labour proposes legislation to support domestic abuse services

Sienna Rodgers

Labour has proposed legislation that would force the government to deliver urgent support to domestic abuse services amid a surge in cases during the coronavirus lockdown.

The party hopes to amend the domestic abuse bill going through parliament so that 10% of the funding for charities recently announced by the Chancellor is ring-fenced for domestic abuse charities.

This would dedicate £75m to these particular charities, at a time when organisations such as Refuge say calls to their helplines are significantly increasing as people are told to stay at home.

As well as ring-fencing funding, Labour wants to put in place a system to “fast track investment to the frontline” in a bid to rescue charities that are overwhelmed or struggling to pay staff.

Some of the support backed by Labour would be “earmarked for specialist services, such as men who are at risk of domestic abuse and specialist LGBTQ services”, the party has specified.

Announcing the proposals, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “It is clear that domestic abuse is increasing rapidly during the lockdown and we need the government to act urgently to support front line services.

“Our society must not turn its back on some of the most at risk people in this crisis, too much time has already been lost and action is needed now. Labour’s plan would deliver £75m to the frontline rapidly, to help keep women and children safe from abuse.”

“Labour will act as a responsible opposition, but the government have to move faster to get funding and support to the frontline, before vital services are forced to turn people away.

“That is why we are proposing that if no action is forthcoming, we will try to change the law, to guarantee fast-tracked funding to frontline, to support domestic abuse charities.”

Research by Counting Dead Women has estimated that at least 14 women and two children were killed by men in the first three weeks of coronavirus lockdown in the UK.

According to Karen Ingala Smith, using the average over the last decade, one would usually expect to see seven women killed by men within a 21-day period – half of the recent rate.

Following these findings and police forces responding to more domestic abuse incidents than usual, the government launched a public awareness campaign and pledged an extra £2m for helplines.

But Labour has called for further action, with Thomas-Symonds and shadow minister Jess Phillips highlighting the need to protect those at risk by making accommodation available.

The original domestic abuse bill fell when Boris Johnson prorogued parliament, before then calling a snap general election last year. An ‘enhanced version’ was introduced earlier this month.

MPs will consider the bill in its second reading in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon. Some will participate in the debate virtually via Zoom, and others will be in the chamber.

 

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