Yesterday (04.06.20) the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee heard evidence from a range of experts from the Violence Against Women & Girls sector, amongst them our Head of Public Affairs Andrea Simon. The evidence also included powerful accounts from three survivors as they described their experiences of abuse and access of support. The list of attendees included SouthallBlack Sisters, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Refuge, Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and is available here and here.
A clear message throughout the entire day’s evidence was the need for the bill to abolish No Recourse to Public Funds for survivors of abuse, a designation that leads to survivors being unable to access accommodation, refuge space, welfare support and more due to their immigration status. One survivor described how this absence of support left her destitute, desperate and sleeping rough on the streets of London before she found support.
Another point emphasised was the need for specialist support services to be properly funded, and how crucial such community based services led ‘by and for’BME women are to victims and survivors of Domestic Abuse.
EVAW are campaigning for an amendment to the bill to include a ‘Non Discrimination Clause’ that would apply to any statutory duty on local authorities, or a wider statutory duty on public authorities. This would mean victims could not be discriminated against when accessing protection and support on the basis of their immigration status, a move that would ensure compliance with the Istanbul Convention (which the Government is hoping to ratify through this bill)
Disappointingly Phillip Davies MP has tabled an amendment to remove economic abuse from the Bill, which would be a significant weakening of the definition and we support our member Surviving Economic Abuse and the work they have done to highlight the need for its inclusion.
Earlier in the week the Prime Minister committed to end the use of so called ‘rough sex’ defence during PMQs, another of the amendments tabled for the Bill.
The Public Bill Committee will now scrutinise the Bill line by line and is scheduled to report by Thursday 25 June 2020. There will then be a third reading in the House of Commons before it enters the House of Lords. Information on the stages of the bill, and the membership of the Domestic Abuse Public Bill Committee can be found here.