On 28 April, the Domestic Abuse Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill aims to improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for the victims of domestic abuse, bringing perpetrators to justice, and to strengthen the support for victims of abuse and their children.
According to the Office for National Statistics an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2019, two-thirds of whom were women. The current lockdown restrictions have only worsened the problem. Sadly, domestic abuse helplines have reported record numbers of people reaching out for their help since the lockdown began on 23 March.
I believe there must be a co-ordinated cross-government response to domestic abuse. The Labour Party has been clear that this legislation must deliver the changes survivors urgently need in housing, healthcare, welfare reform, the family courts and in support for children. I also feel strongly that the Bill must provide equal protection for all victims of domestic abuse, this includes migrant women.
Following 10 years of austerity the ability of local authorities to fund the specialist services that support survivors of domestic abuse has significantly decreased. Over a third of all local authority funding to domestic and sexual violence services was cut between 2010 and 2012. If the government is serious about tackling domestic abuse, then there must be adequate, long-term funding, that reaches diverse specialist services. The Bill passed its Second Reading with the support of the Labour Party, including myself.
The Bill will now move on to the Committee Stage where it will be scrutinised line-by-line. I would like to see the Bill become law as soon as possible.