Today (Tuesday 3 March) the UK Government reintroduced the Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament, while Welsh Women’s Aid welcomes the bills potential to deliver a step change in the national response to domestic abuse, almost 3 years since it was first promised we remain concerned that it could still fail to protect, support and advocate for survivors of all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
We are pleased to see in the tabling of this Bill the inclusion of a ban on cross examination in the court system to protect all survivors. However, more needs to be done to ensure the family court system is safe for survivors and their children. Including automatic provision of special protection measures in all courts and an end to the presumption of ‘child contact at all costs’, that does not prioritise the child’s or survivor’s safety.
We also have strongly called for the bill to ensure the equal protection and support of migrant women. It is significantly frustrating to see the lack of measures in the Bill to support migrant women. Specialist services in Wales who we have consulted with have shared how the no recourse to public funds rule forces women to remain in abusive relationships and puts them at further risk of exploitation.
We welcome the legal duty on local authorities in England to provide refuge services and other accommodation services. We need to see equivalent resources provided in Wales to ensure that there is a national network of refuges. Survivors often have to travel to other areas of the country, including across the borders of England and Wales to find the safety and support they need. The Welsh Government has the ambition to make Wales the safest place for women in Europe. To do this it must ensure that it delivers on its commitment to develop a sustainable and secure funding model for specialist support. We would expect the Welsh Government to take action in ensuring this new duty in England does not leave survivors in Wales with less protection and rights to support as they would have in England.
Overall we continue to campaign for the Bill to ensure:
- A safer family court and child contact system
- Equal protection and support for migrant women
- Use of effective protective measures in the criminal justice system
- An effective response to perpetrators
We know that violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence is everybody’s business. This has been a societal issue for many, many years and we will continue to work to see that this legislation has the most positive and wide ranging impact for survivors in Wales. Welsh Women’s Aid continues to campaign, on behalf of its members, survivors and specialist services, for the Bill to be ambitious in meeting the needs of all survivors in Wales.
Anyone affected by violence against women, domestic abuse or sexual violence in Wales can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800, via email, via live chat, or text – 07860077333 for 24/7 confidential information and support.
Notes to Editors:
- For more information, please contact Gwendolyn Sterk, Head of Public Affairs and Communications for Welsh Women’s aid on 073 7555 9518 and [email protected]
- The Joint Recommendations for the Domestic Abuse Bill can be accessed here: https://welshwomensaid.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Joint-Recommendations-for-the-Domestic-Abuse-Bill-Summary-July-2019.pdf
- The Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse Bill, Briefing for the Public Bill Committee can be accessed here: https://welshwomensaid.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/DA-Bill-briefing-for-committee.pdf