Labour call for emergency funding for domestic abuse charities impacted by coronavirus

27 April 2020, 22:31

File photo: Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds is proposing amendments as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill
File photo: Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds is proposing amendments as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The Labour Party is calling on the Government to provide emergency funding to domestic abuse charities impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds is proposing amendments as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill to deliver a dedicated fast-tracked fund for services amid the pandemic.

It comes as the Domestic Abuse Bill returns to Parliament for its second reading on Tuesday amid a reported spike in levels of abuse during lockdown.

Labour has outlined a set of proposals that would ensure a dedicated proportion of 10 per cent of the £750 million charity support announced by the Chancellor would be ring-fenced for domestic abuse charities.

The proposals would ensure a system is put in place to fast-track investment to the front line, before charities have to close their doors due to being oversubscribed or unable to pay their staff.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said: "It is clear that domestic abuse is increasing rapidly during the lockdown and we need the Government to act urgently to support frontline services.

"Our society must not turn its back on some of the most at risk people in this crisis, too much time has already been lost and action is needed now.

"Labour's plan would deliver £75 million to the front line rapidly, to help keep women and children safe from abuse."

The Domestic Abuse Bill is among several proposed laws which stalled after Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to prorogue Parliament and the general election was called.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ) is calling for a new offence of "non-fatal strangulation" to be included in the Bill.

Nogah Ofer, solicitor at the CWJ said: "Non-fatal strangulation is a gendered crime. It is a well-known risk factor for serious domestic violence and homicide.

"It is also frequently used as a tool to exert power and control, and to instil fear. It sends the message that 'if you do not comply, this is how easily I can kill you'."

Elsewhere, Age UK said 80,000 more people aged 60 to 74 have suffered from domestic abuse since November 2019 when the Government's legislation was delayed.

The charity reiterated its call on the Government to include data collection of domestic abuse on over-74s.

Currently data on older victims and survivors is only collected by the Crime Survey for England and Wales up to the age of 74, Age UK said.

The charity said without this data, older domestic abuse victims are even more hidden from view and less likely to be factored into specialist support services.

Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "The Domestic Abuse Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle the horrific crime of domestic abuse, so we absolutely must get this right.

"Few of us can imagine what it feels like for victims and children trapped in an unsafe home, isolated from support systems, school and friends, and unable to get any respite from their abuser.

"The Bill introduces a new duty on local authorities to provide support for victims in refuges.

"But with the majority of victims remaining in the family home, especially in BAME communities, it's vital that Parliament extends this duty to cover all victims and children - no matter where they live.

"Sadly, without the right support, children who experience domestic abuse either in the family home or in their own intimate relationships are at risk of becoming trapped in a life-long cycle of violence.

"By strengthening the Bill we can make sure these children have the best possible chance of a positive future."