Homes for domestic abuse victims?

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What is the government's plan to tackle domestic abuse?

By Joe Harker

The government intend to introduce the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will give councils a legal duty to provide support to victims of domestic abuse.

Safe refuge and counseling will be made available to victims and their families who have fled their homes to get away from perpetrators of domestic abuse. It will also prevent victims from being cross examined by their suspected abusers in a court case.

The Domestic Abuse Bill will also provide the first statutory definition of domestic abuse, which will include economic abuse and non-violent controlling behaviour.

The Claim:

Prime minister Theresa May promised to end the "postcode lottery" of domestic abuse support and provide adequate help to victims no matter what part of the country they are in.

A Domestic Abuse Commissioner will be appointed to oversee implementation of the bill, which has been welcomed by Sandra Horley, chief executive of charity Refuge.

She said the bill could secure "life saving services" and was "delighted" that local authorities would bear responsibility for providing support.

The government is conducting a consultation to determine how much funding will need to be made available, with Nick Norman of Women's Aid saying many current services were being provided on a "shoestring budget" and domestic abuse victims were in dire need of regular funding.

The Counter Claim:

Councillor Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association's safer and stronger communities board, warned that councils would not be able to tackle the problem by themselves, requiring more help from the police and other services to deliver a good level of support.

Many who leave their homes to escape domestic violence face "squalid" housing conditions as there is a lack of properties available for victims to move into. A lack of social housing and poor decisions from councils have led to many being placed in temporary accommodation that is unsuitable for living.

Placing the duty onto councils is also problematic at a time when council budgets are increasingly stretched and unable to provide anything beyond basic services. While the Domestic Abuse Bill would provide funding councils may soon struggle to keep up.

Amnesty International has criticised the bill for not doing enough to protect migrant women suffering from domestic abuse. They warn that many victims are not receiving support because of their immigration status.

Services for BAME victims have also decreased and Amnesty International accuses the government of not responding to "serious concerns", criticising the £300,000 of funding set out as nowhere near enough to help.

The Facts:

Councils are facing a funding black hole of £8 billion by 2025, reports the Local Government Association. They are having to close services, with some councils unable to provide anything but the basic requirements.

If councils are haemorrhaging money they may soon struggle to provide adequate support to victims of domestic abuse, thus failing in their legal duty.

Providing support to victims of domestic abuse is crucial, so the government must ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill won't simply pass the buck onto councils and leave them underfunded when tackling such a crucial task.

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