Westminster Legal Policy Forum

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Next steps for tackling domestic abuse - the Domestic Abuse Bill, supporting victims, and next steps for family courts

February 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on the next steps for tackling domestic abuse in England and Wales - and the potential impact of measures in the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the scale of domestic abuse in England and Wales - latest findings
  • the Domestic Abuse Bill - assessing its measures as it moves to scrutiny in the committee stage
  • local authority obligations - funding issues and options for supporting them to meet their new duties
  • improving multi-agency working and partnerships - and the role of community support
  • family courts - and priorities for protecting victims and witnesses
  • the impact of COVID-19 - and support for victims in their homes
  • workplace support for victims of domestic abuse
  • protection for migrant women and male, LGBT and trans victims

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

The agenda

  • The prevalence of domestic abuse in England and Wales - an overview
  • 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

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 options for funding and wider support that might be 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 by the potential spread of the virus through communal accommodation
    • how to increase housing provision and provide victims with more options, including support for staying 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 suffered by male victims and in the context of same sex relationships, and those involving people who are transgender

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Domestic abuse in England and Wales - latest ONS figures showing an increase in demand for domestic abuse victim services during the pandemic, particularly affecting helplines
  • 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 councils with concerns surrounding implementation in light of shortfalls
  • 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
  • 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
  • Funding boost for rape and domestic abuse support - government’s announcement of:
    • £11m in extra funding which aims to support victims and provide practical and emotional support during the winter
    • £7m towards programmes aimed at perpetrators and the prevention of abuse in the first place
    • Extra £40m to help victims during pandemic and beyond - from the MoJ, including for recruitment of independent domestic abuse and sexual violence advisors,  with a 200% increase in calls accessing charity services
  • Support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse - as Government considers its response to feedback in its consultation
  • removal of domestic abuse perpetrators from the family home - Police and Crime Commissioners, domestic abuse charities, housing organisations, academics, and local government representatives, organised through the Drive campaign, writing to the Housing Minister to call for measures that enable victims to stay safely in their own home
  • 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
  • Domestic abuse: open letter to employers on how to help workers find the right support - from Business Minister Paul Scully MP, and described as a rallying call for increased action by companies
  • Home Secretary to introduce 'Kay's Law' reform to better protect victims - aimed at better protecting victims of abuse and similar crimes when considering decisions on bail
  • non-fatal strangulation - widely reported as due to become a criminal offence in England and Wales

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons Library, and officials from the Ministry of Justice; DWP; HMCTS; Crown Prosecution Service; the Department for Education; DCMS; HM Prison and Probation Service; the Home Office; and Cafcass Cymru. Also due to attend are representatives from Action for Children; Bar Council; Brent Council; Cardiff University; Catholic Children's Society; Citizens Advice Woking; Crown Prosecution Service; Family Matters Mediate; Gwent VAWDASV Team; Harrow Safeguarding Partnership; Lloyds Banking Group; London Borough of Hillingdon; Newport City Council; NINA; Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; PSS (UK); Reactive8 The Nation CIC; Royal Central School of Speech & Drama; Shropshire Council; South Norfolk and Broadland Council; St Johns Chambers; The Learning Institute; The Wellcome Trust; University of Essex; West Mercia Police and Wolverhampton Domestic Violence Forum.

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

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript 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

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles