Full text below:
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is an honour to follow the Member for Wyre Forest, who puts so passionately why we need to have this bill.
There is a huge amount I could say on this subject, but in the brief time I have available I would like to link the bill to two key areas of interest.
Firstly, the importance of early intervention and a cross-departmental approach. This bill very much focuses on crisis intervention and criminal justice and of course it is right that immediate help for victims is a top priority.
However, my work as Chair of the Youth Violence Commission has highlighted time and time again that we need to intervene as early as possible if we are to break the cycle of violence.
Domestic abuse charity SafeLives has found anecdotal evidence of a strong crossover between domestic abuse and violence affected young people.
Practitioners state that when we speak to teenagers about healthy relationships, although important, it is already too late. We need to go back to not just primary schools, but nurseries, childhood centres and support for pregnant women.
Colleagues may be familiar with the Adverse Childhood Experiences framework, which treats traumatic childhood events as indicators of an increased likelihood of risky behaviour and certain illnesses in adulthood. Experiencing domestic violence is right at the top of the list.
As we have already heard, It is therefore vital that children are properly recognised as experiencing abuse – not just witnessing it – and given priority access to support.
Related to this is the need for a trauma informed, public health approach to tackling domestic violence.
Domestic abuse cuts across multiple policy areas and our response must incorporate not only health, housing and education, but also youth services, communities and local government. A full understanding of trauma and the impact it has on every part of a young person’s life is vital if we are to provide effective intervention.
My second point relates to my brief as Shadow Minister for Disabled People. Office of National Statistics data demonstrates that disabled, deaf and blind women are at greater risk of gender-based violence.
Domestic abuse among these groups is often perpetrated by those they rely on for care, and the barriers to escaping are often even greater.
As Women’s Aid highlight in their briefing for this debate, “it can often take numerous attempts to leave because of the lack of understanding of disability within statutory and non-statutory organisations, a lack of information available in suitable formats and poor provision of accessible refuge space.”
I don’t mind admitting I was shocked when I read that during 2018-19 only 0.9% of refuge vacancies were in wheelchair accessible rooms and a further 1% were suitable for someone with limited mobility.
I know that many organisations will be submitting amendments to this bill, but I would like to briefly touch on two tabled by Stay Safe East.
The first seeks to repeal the existing provisions of the Serious Crime Act (2015) which provide for a so-called ‘carer’s defence’ if the perpetrator can demonstrate that in controlling the victim they were acting in his or her ‘best interests’.
This defence is open to misinterpretation and particularly impacts upon those who have – or are perceived to have – capacity issues.
The second states that the bill should provide further protection for disabled people by broadening its definition of the relationships covered by domestic abuse to include both paid carers and non-family members working as unpaid carers.
I am sure there are many other important amendments to be discussed in committee and very much hope to see this bill strengthened as it passes through its remaining stages.