In response to the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, Rachel Millar, Senior Policy Officer for Safer Places said:

“Safer Places are pleased to see the Bill progress through parliament, especially during this worrying time when urgent action is needed to protect survivors.

We were particularly pleased to hear just how many MP’s spoke with passion and championed the voices of survivors’ and children whist highlighting matters of concern not currently addressed within the Bill.

One of the most pressing matters raised is the stark lack of funding for specialist domestic abuse services. Covid-19 and current restriction measures have made it clear that specialist services are essential yet struggle to keep pace with demand due to lack of funding. The pervasive nature of domestic abuse means that to truly transform our response, we need much greater investment in resources across a number of sectors. It is not simply a matter of removing survivors and their children from danger. Survivors and their children deserve ongoing support and perpetrators must be held to account with a range of interventions available to reduce the risk of re-offending.

Safer Places are hopeful that the government will honour its commitment to implement a legal duty to fully fund refuge provision to ensure it is there for those who need it. Refuges are lifesaving services and should be available for when there is no other safe choice, but we believe that survivors should have a choice in whether they leave their home. We welcome the new legislative and non-legislative packages that hold perpetrators to account for their actions and give survivors the choice to avoid the double injustice of having to flee their homes and leave their family, friends, jobs and schools behind.

We call for a range of fully funded and properly resourced services that can respond to all survivors and their families, especially for those currently underrepresented in services such as women facing multiple disadvantages, older people and members of the LGBTQ+ and BAME communities. It is encouraging to hear so many MP’s call for greater protection for survivors with insecure immigration status but urgent action is needed. It is crucial that every survivor can access vital support services, lives depend on this and there should be no delay in making funding available.

Many MP’s raised concerns of a lack of protection and funding for children. It is fundamentally important to recognise that children do not just ‘witness’ abuse, they live with one parent abusing the other and are often direct victims, both of which have an ongoing, devastating impact on children and young people. The Bill must go further to protect children’s’ safety and well-being by ensuring services are fully funded and resourced to respond when, how and where they are needed.

Over the past few weeks Safer Places has seen a significant increase in demand and an increase in risk for survivors. Overall the demand for services is rising, public awareness is heightened and Safer Places are hopeful the government will build on this momentum as the Bill progresses to truly transform the response to domestic abuse".