Announcing the policy on Monday, Theresa May said it was aimed at ending variations in provision across the country and bolstering protection in the domestic abuse bill being considered by MPs.
“I’ve always vowed to leave no stone unturned in tackling domestic abuse – this abhorrent crime has no place in our country,” she said.
"Today we are ending the postcode lottery by placing on local authorities a legal duty to deliver support, including secure housing, to survivors of domestic abuse and their children". "Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe". The domestic abuse bill will introduce the first statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
The legislation will establish a domestic abuse commissioner and prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts. The policy is to be backed by funding and ministers have launched a consultation to determine how much funding is needed and where it should go. They will talk to victims and survivors, as well as support organisations.
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Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, the community’s secretary, James Brokenshire, said: "This is a new requirement that we’re putting on councils, and in the normal way we assess what the costs will be, so there is additional funding that is provided to councils to meet that obligation. That’s right and proper – that is what we’ll do. That is why I’ve said this will be settled through the spending review process".
Sandra Horley, the chief executive of Refuge, said the decision could secure "life-saving services". "Refuge is delighted by the government’s decision to place a legal duty on local authorities to provide funding for accommodation-based support for survivors of domestic abuse", she said. “This has the potential to end the postcode lottery for refuge places and could put these life-saving services on a secure financial footing for the first time.”
Nicki Norman, the acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said many of her member organisations were delivering services on a shoestring budget, and a move to consistent, dedicated funding was desperately needed. "Safeguards to ensure that experienced women’s services – including smaller specialist organisations led by and for black and minority ethnic women – are sustainably funded through a new statutory system will be vital", she said. "We look forward to working with the government to ensure that this important move to fund refuges is safe, sustainable and delivers the resources that services urgently require to support all women and children fleeing domestic abuse."
Suzanne Jacob, the chief executive of SafeLives, said she wanted the "fullest range of support" to be considered, including sanctuary schemes and specialist community support alongside refuges. "No one harmed by domestic abuse should have to leave their home", she said. "We have long called for victims and their families to have the broadest range of housing options so they can choose to stay where they are and for it to be safe to do so. "A new duty, properly funded, would be a welcome step and could help make the case for change at a local level."
Councillor Simon Blackburn, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, welcomed the extra support to put services on a "long-term sustainable footing". "Councils cannot tackle this crime on their own,” he said. "It requires a range of public services, including the police, to work together. Our ambition must be to reduce the number of victims, with greater investment in early intervention and prevention schemes that help stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place".