Councils in England will have a legal duty to provide secure homes for victims of domestic abuse under new plans announced by Theresa May.
People seeking refuge from abuse & violence can receive varying levels of support depending on their location. But the Prime Minister has vowed to end the “postcode lottery” for victims and their children, creating a legal duty for councils to provide refuge.
One victim described the move as “absolutely momentous” news.
Charlotte Kneer, who stayed in a refuge herself and now runs one in Surrey, told the BBC she cried when she heard the news. Having a refuge space can be “life-saving” – but some women cannot get one, because local authorities’ budgets have been “squeezed”, she said.
“This is something Women’s Aid and lots of other campaigners have been asking for, for years and years,” she added.
The prime minister said the “abhorrent crime” had “no place” in the UK.
“Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe.”
Prime Minister, Theresa May
The new plans are backed by funding.
The Domestic Abuse Bill will also introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
The legislation will establish a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner and prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts.
Early intervention schemes
Ministers have launched a consultation to determine how much funding is needed and where it should go by talking to victims and survivors, as well as organisations supporting victims and their children every day.
Funding totalling £22 million has already been made available to local authorities to buy more than 2,000 beds in refuges and other safe accommodation – and to provide access to education and employment.
Local government secretary James Brokenshire said it was estimated an extra £90 million a year would be needed for local authorities to provide accommodation for victims.
The details on funding would be settled through the Spending Review process, he added.
Councillor Simon Blackburn of the Local Government Association welcomed extra support but said councils could not tackle the issue alone.
“Our ambition must be to reduce the number of victims, with greater investment in early intervention and prevention schemes that helps stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place,” he said.
The plans only apply to England and not councils in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, which do not currently have directly comparable systems in place.
If you live in Warwickshire, are over 18, and would like support please call 0800 408 1552 or visit the Refuge Warwickshire website.