Responding to the Conservatives announcement today (29 May) that if elected on 8 June they will introduce new legislation reforming the law around domestic violence and creating a new ‘Domestic Violence Commissioner’, Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“The pledge of new legislation and a new independent Commissioner who will scrutinise policy, practice and spending in this area, is very welcome. It indicates that the Conservatives recognise the harm caused to women and their families by this extremely widespread crime, and that action to tackle it will remain a priority.
“The announcement also says there will be a review of funding for refuges. This is absolutely critical because local support services for women facing violence have suffered severely due to local authority cuts in recent years (1). These services save lives and are subject to a terrible ‘postcode lottery’.
“New law and a commissioner will not alone guarantee that women who need it get support and intervention. The police and prosecution response varies massively by region and is often not good enough for women to pursue to the end. What we need to do is promote a “culture of belief” across all the public services who encounter victims – police, GPs, A&E workers, social workers, teachers and others – and a commitment to the best possible standard of investigation and support in every area. The independent, local support services, who best understand the dynamics of abuse and women’s needs, should be put at the heart of this response so that their expertise can cascade out. Sustainable funding is vital for this.
“We also need a commitment to ensuring that ALL women experiencing abuse will be supported when they need it. Currently, BME women’s support services have faced some of the worst cuts, leaving BME women and their children among least able to access good support. And women with insecure immigration status who are being or who have survived abuse are commonly unable to access refuges and other support.”
On other related commitments in the Conservatives manifesto, Sarah Green continued:
“The Conservatives manifesto also pledges to ensure that compulsory Relationships and Sex Education becomes a reality in every school – a critical abuse prevention measure with cross-party support – and to tackle abuse online. These measures are welcome commitments towards tackling violence against women and girls in all its forms – rape and sexual assault, stalking, forced marriage and FGM, as well as domestic violence.
“It is disappointing however that, unlike the other manifestos, there is no pledge to get rid of the child tax credits “rape clause” (which requires survivors of rape to “prove” they have been raped before accessing tax credit payments), and that there is also no long-term commitment to the Human Rights Act (which has proved a critical tool for holding to account the police and others when they fail in domestic violence, rape and trafficking cases).”
The EVAW Coalition has published a full review of all the party manifesto pledges on ending violence against women and girls, and has set out its own ‘Priorities for Government’ addressed to the next Prime Minister.