30/04/20 – Some Key Aspects of the Domestic Abuse Bill that affect children – helen clark writes

The Domestic Abuse Bill cleared its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday 28th April.

Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, wrote to Home Secretary, Priti Patel, requesting cross-departmental money for organisations providing support to the victims of domestic violence who were more vulnerable than ever because of COVID-19-imposed home isolation.

He said that the organisations were doing ‘Vital frontline work to ensure that they can provide a crucial safety net to some of the most at risk women, children  and  communities,’ arguing that a government plan to boost emergency aid by about £3 million was inadequate. Labour advocated a costed £75 million package to protect those at risk.

In a report published on 27th April 2020, the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended directed funding as part of an overall strategy to protect vulnerable people; in particular, women and children.

Chair Yvette Cooper said:

‘Staying at home is an important part of the strategy to prevent coronavirus from spreading and save lives, but for some people, home isn’t safe. Urgent action is needed to protect victims and prevent perpetrators from exploiting the lockdown to increase abuse.

Things are particularly  hard for vulnerable children . . . local authorities, schools, the police and other professionals involved in children’s welfare need to ensure they are working together to contact and visit homes where children are at risk.’

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/27/domestic-abuse-surge-coronavirus-lockdown-lasting-impact-mps

A Children’s Commissioner briefing (‘Children, domestic abuse and coronavirus, April 2020)  proposes a public campaign explaining precisely what domestic violence is as defined in the Domestic Abuse Bill {96} 58/1.

 Anne Longfield said that quite apart from the health risks of the virus, vulnerable children face a ‘cocktail’ of secondary risks:

‘We are already seeing a rise in domestic abuse and the Government must stretch every sinew to ensure children are safeguarded in this time of crisis.’

In addition, Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird warned of:

‘A newer kind of abuse’ occasioned by the enforced domestic lockdown conditions involving ‘some suggestion of abuse by older children of parents . . . we are talking teenagers.’

She said that calls to help lines had soared since the lockdown although complaints to police had not risen in accordance, possibly because people were frightened to take action because of their close and unavoidable physical proximity to the perpetrator.

The Second Reading Debate was characterised by some memorable speeches, perhaps none more so than that of the new Conservative MP for Bolsover, Mark Fletcher, who described his own harrowing experiences of domestic abuse as a child. He prefaced an unsparing  account with a statement deserving of lasting resonance beyond the confines of a debating chamber:

‘It is incredibly important that we hear male voices adding their support for the Bill, because this is not  a women’s  issue, but a societal issue, and it is vital that male voices make themselves heard, saying ‘This must not go on.’

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-commons-speech-that-deserves-to-be-heard

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