In a report published today (14th June), the committee showed it had listened to the evidence provided by EVAW and many of our members on the shortcomings of the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. Recommendations include:
- Increased protections for migrant women.
- Expansion of the role of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and for the role to be removed from Home Office oversight as this clearly risks a conflict between its work in immigration control and domestic abuse.
- Creation of a presumption of bail rather than release ‘under investigation’ when a suspect is being investigated for domestic abuse, sexual offending or other ‘safeguarding’ offence.
- Splitting universal credit payments to protect women living in abusive relationships.
- A thorough review of the protective measures currently available before going ahead with its proposals for Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (DAPOs) which, as drafted, fail to centre victims.
- That the provisions of the draft Bill be extended to Northern Ireland unless and until Northern Ireland enacts its own legislation in this area.
In particular, we are pleased to see a recommendation that the definition of domestic abuse is gendered, something which EVAW and our members have been insisting is pivotal to the success of the Bill and key if it is to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
As members of the Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) campaign we welcome recommendations by the Committee which echo the campaigns call for migrant women reporting domestic abuse to be protected and supported as victims, before any consideration of immigration status.
Calling the draft Domestic Abuse Bill a ‘missed opportunity’ to address the needs of migrant women, we welcome the committee’s recommendation that the new statutory definition should recognise a broader range of abusive behaviour, including perpetrators using insecure immigration status as a form of coercive control.
EVAW gave evidence about the importance of a non-discrimination clause to ensure that all women are adequately protected and that public bodies have a duty to protect the rights of. It is great to see this recommendation supported by the committee.
It is disappointing to see a weaker recommendation that Government ‘explores ways’ to extend the Domestic Violence Rule (DRV) and Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) and consults on ensuring the measures reach the victims who need them. The committee does recommend the time limit for the DDVC is extended from three to six months.
It is also a shame that the committee does not make more specific and robust recommendations around specialist BME services, particularly as their recommendation around the definition recognises the very specific ways certain types of abuse disproportionately affect BME women.