The Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan represents a welcome change of course from government, which had previously proposed to separate the Domestic Abuse Strategy from the Tackling VAWG Strategy, without any consultation of stakeholders or impact assessment.
We are pleased that the Plan reflects some long-standing calls for multi-year funding for support services and a welcome shift in focus to prevention, however it does not deliver for Black and minoritised victims and survivors. The onus is now on government to consider how its broader economic and political decisions serve to undermine many of today’s welcome commitments.
The proposal to create two separate strategies
In 2020, the End Violence Against Women Coalition was one of a number of VAWG organisations and experts wrote directly to the Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins MP, outlining serious concerns about the government’s intention to de-link domestic abuse from other forms of VAWG by creating two separate strategies.
We warned that ‘dual strategies’ would fragment hard-won coordinated action to tackle VAWG in a systematic way within a single, integrated, human rights framework, and that it would negatively impact women and girls, whose needs are multiple and intersecting.
We highlighted the need for a single VAWG strategy that effectively ends and prevents domestic abuse, sexual violence, and other forms of VAWG. Specialist ‘led by and for’ organisations had also warned that two separate strategies would be both ‘ill-informed’ and ‘regressive’. We welcome the government’s reversal on this.
The Domestic Abuse Plan
The Domestic Abuse Plan contains a welcome focus on the prevention of abuse and some additional funding to support victims and survivors. The former reflects long-standing calls from women’s groups for a shift in emphasis towards prioritising the prevention of domestic abuse rather than focusing largely on criminal justice responses after the abuse has occurred.
EVAW welcomes this shift, including the emphasis on Relationships and Sex Education, though we are clear that this requires substantially more investment to ensure it is rolled out effectively, and to be part of a wider ‘Whole Schools Approach’ to ending and preventing VAWG.
We are however concerned that there is a lack of consistency in the government’s approach to prevention, given, for example, its economic policy, including the Chancellor’s latest Spring Statement, are likely to put more women and girls at risk of abuse.
The Plan’s commitment to ring-fenced funding for community-based services is sorely needed after years of cuts, and perhaps anticipates calls for the forthcoming Victim’s Bill to extend the statutory duty on local authorities to commission support to include community-based services.
We also welcome the multi-year funding which allows support services to forward plan, without a yearly cliff-edge. We are clear, however, that all such funding must include appropriate ring-fenced resourcing for ‘by and for’ specialist organisations supporting Black and minoritised, migrant and disabled survivors, which have been disproportionately impacted by funding cuts and excluded from significant funding streams.
The Plan acknowledges the gendered nature of abuse, but falls short in any analysis of how women and girls with overlapping protected characteristics are at heightened risk of abuse and face additional barriers to accessing justice and support, including Black and minoritised, migrant, Deaf and disabled or LGBT+ women and girls.
For migrant survivors, the Plan confirms that £1.4m funding for the Support for Migrant Victim’s scheme will continue for another year, however we know that this is not enough to support all those who need it and many women will remain excluded from safety on the basis of their immigration status, without any long-term solution.
While the Plan acknowledges that some migrant survivors are fearful of reporting abuse due to the threat of immigration action, it only points to the Home Office’s proposed Immigration Enforcement Migrant Victims Protocol which expert organisations have warned is ‘not a viable alternative’ to a firewall between police, public services and the Home Office.
Overall, the Plan represents some steps in the right direction for tackling domestic abuse. The emphasis on prevention and the commitment to multi-year funding in particular will help to counter some of the effects of austerity and the ongoing under-funding of support services.
However, it remains unclear how effective these commitments will be in the face of broader government decisions, which are leading to widening economic inequalities for example, as well as long-term precarity for survivors with insecure immigration status.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“The Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan now recognises that domestic abuse is a form of VAWG that is gendered and must be addressed as part of an integrated VAWG framework.
We welcome the focus on tackling perpetrators with investment in behaviour change programmes, these should have RESPECT accreditation to ensure they are safe and survivor focused, as well as ring-fenced funding for vital community-based services in the Plan. Preventing violence and abuse is fundamental and we are pleased to see support for a refreshed Relationships and Sex Education curriculum in schools, but delivery of this must finally be properly resourced and rolled out as part of a ‘Whole School Approach’.
We will continue working to ensure that the government’s approach to tackling all forms of violence against women is grounded in principles of non-discrimination, gender equality and human rights; particularly in a context in which many marginalised women are at heightened risk of violence. This includes the specific and disproportionate forms of abuse targeted at Black and minoritised, migrant and disabled women, which the new plan does not address. We will be reviewing the plan in further detail in the coming days.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07960 744 502