Westminster Legal Policy Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
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Next steps for tackling domestic abuse - the Domestic Abuse Bill, supporting victims, and next steps for family courts

Morning, Wednesday, 10th February 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on the next steps for tackling domestic abuse in England and Wales and the provisions and potential impact of the Domestic Abuse Bill.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the MoJ; DWP; HMCTS; the DfE; DCMS and Cafcass Cymru.

The agenda:

  • Implementing the Domestic Abuse Bill
  • Priorities for supporting victims of domestic abuse, the impact of COVID-19, and bringing perpetrators to justice
  • Improving the response to domestic abuse - identifying victims, providing refuge, and coordinating a multi-agency response
  • Workplace support for victims of domestic abuse
  • Issues for male, LGBT and trans victims of domestic abuse
  • Family Courts - safeguarding children, judicial powers, and protection in court for victims
  • Next steps for policy on domestic abuse

A scan of relevant developments:

  • the Domestic Abuse Bill - with measures aimed at:
    • promoting awareness of domestic abuse and legislating a statutory definition for the first time
    • protecting and supporting victims more effectively
    • improving the justice response through supporting victims in giving evidence
    • the response to domestic abuse, driving consistency and improving performance, and developing effective multi agency working across all agencies
  • Extra support for councils to expand services for domestic abuse victims and their children:
    • provision of £6m in funding to help councils prepare for their new duties of support and providing refuge
    • calls for an increase in the funding offered to with concerns surrounding implementation in light of shortfalls experienced by some LAs
  • COVID-19 - with a rise in domestic abuse incidents and victims looking for safe shelter, and the provision by government of £2m for helplines and £76m for supporting survivors
  • Major overhaul of family courts to protect domestic abuse victims:
    • announced by the MoJ, with separate entrances to courts and waiting rooms, and protective screens to shield victims from their alleged abusers
  • Support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse - as Government considers its response to feedback in its consultation
  • Housing pathways for perpetrators of domestic abuse to facilitate their rapid removal from family home:
    • letter to the Housing Minister Police and Crime Commissioners, domestic abuse charities, housing organisations, academics, and local government representatives organised through Drive
    • calling for risk-managed housing solutions for perpetrators of domestic abuse that enable victims to stay safe in their own homes, while removing those causing harm
  • male, LGBT and trans victims:
    • some charities seeing a 60% increase in calls for support from men during lockdown, with increased reports of men suffering from violence, psychological abuse and becoming homeless
    • a report by the Scottish Transgender Alliance suggesting that 80% of trans people had experienced emotional, sexual, or physical abuse from a partner or ex-partner

Areas for discussion:

  • the Domestic Abuse Bill - assessing its measures, which include:
    • a new definition for domestic abuse
    • recognition of children as victims for the first time
    • acknowledgement of economic abuse as a statutory definition
    • new legal duties for local authorities to provide support for victims in refuges and other safe accommodation
  • funding - the impact of the new obligations on local authorities and whether wider funding and support is needed to enable them to provide housing and refuge for victims
  • collaboration and implementation - how to improve multi agency working and partnerships when tackling domestic abuse, early intervention and the role of the community in prevention
  • family courts - assessing measures announced by government and further options for improving how family courts deal with domestic abuse cases and protect victims:
    • shielding during court proceedings, and other measures such as use of video evidence and banning cross-examination by a victim’s abuser
    • stronger powers that have been granted for judges, including the use of barring orders making it more difficult for perpetrators to bring their victims back to court
    • improvements in protection for victims and the trial of a new investigative approach
    • key issues for legal aid
  • COVID-19 and support for victims in their homes:
    • tackling challenges posed by the pandemic:
      • further support that can be provided to charities and agencies to address the pressure on refuges in coping with the volume of victims looking for safe shelter
      • how refuges have adapted to the challenges faced with the potential spread of the virus through communal accommodation
    • how to increase housing provision and provide victims with more options, including to stay in their own home
  • workplace support for victims of domestic abuse - in the context of the government consultation, assessing:
    • the nature of the issues experienced by victims in relation to their work and the practicalities for employers
    • current initiatives and best practice
    • what more employers can do to recognise victims and provide practical support in the workplace
  • migrant women - with concerns over protection offered to this group, including:
    • the omission of guarantees from the Bill
    • lack of safe reporting mechanisms, potentially resulting in migrant women who report abuse to police being questioned about their immigration status without recourse to public funds
  • male, LGBT and trans victims of domestic abuse - discussion of the issues in suffered by male victims and in the context of same sex relationships, and those involving people who are transgender

Policy officials attending

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stake holders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Ministry of Justice; DWP; HMCTS; the Department for Education; DCMS and Cafcass Cymru.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy including senior officials from the MOJ, DHSC and other Government departments and agencies, lawyers, police, representatives of trade unions and local government, social workers, health representatives, childrens services, specialist academics and charities, victims groups, representatives from the family courts together with reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Razvi Arooj

Crime, Policing and Fire Group, Home Office

Nicki Norman

Acting Chief Executive, Women’s Aid

Jan Pickles

Board Member, The National Independent Safeguarding Board for Wales


Lynne Townley

Barrister and Lecturer, The City Law School, University of London

Pragna Patel

Director, Southall Black Sisters

Cllr Promise Knight

Cabinet Lead Member for Community Safety and Engagement, Brent Council

Professor Shazia Choudhry

Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London

Claire Waxman

London Victims’ Commissioner

Jovana Ugrinic

Support Through Courts, London Family Courts

Kate Johal

Senior Policy Advisor, Action for Children