Ending domestic abuse

Last week in Parliament I joined the debate on a new Bill that aims to make significant changes in the law and access to services so that preventable suffering and harm caused by domestic abuse and violence ends.

I don’t doubt the collective determination in the House of Commons to stop women and men being killed by their intimate partners or family members.

This Bill starts in the right place. To prevent these deaths and suffering we have to change our culture about relationships. Too many children are growing up in homes (about 1 in 5) where they are witnessing coercive controlling behaviour, abuse and even violence.

This is what love looks like to these children and it’s little wonder that many will go on to be either victims or perpetrators themselves. So ensuring healthy relationships education is given to all children and that many more professionals that come into contact with children are properly trained in domestic abuse and violence, is essential.

So too is access to services to support these children so the cycle can be broken. This will require cross government working and the spending review provides the opportunity for each department to secure the necessary funding to enable this.

In the debate, I highlighted people that I feel are too often ignored when this issue is debated, that is older people and those with disabilities. Age U.K. produced a good report for this debate and it backs up what I have seen in Cornwall. At a recent meeting with the excellent Women’s Centre, we discussed “The 2018 Safer Cornwall Domestic Violence needs assessment update”. It highlighted the underreporting and lack of services for older people and disabled people, living in our remote rural communities.

The report concludes that for people over 81, over half of domestic abuse reported and a fifth of all “violence with injury” offences were committed by the victim’s grown up children. Two of the four homicides committed in the last five years were committed by family members. Clearly more work needs to be done to identify vulnerable adults and support struggling families.

For many years, starting when I was a Director of Age Concern England, I have worked hard to raise the issue of financial and economic abuse of older people by family members and intimate partners. I am delighted that for the first time this type of abuse is included within the legal definition of domestic violence and abuse.

But it’s not just family members committing abuse but trusted, non-paid carers. People who deliberately befriend elderly or vulnerable people so they can abuse them, often economic abuse.

I asked the Home Office Minister to launch a call for evidence to ascertain the prevalence of this abuse and consider including it within the definition of abuse within the Bill. Professional carers are regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

I am grateful for to the many victims and survivors who have worked with me to help bring in this Bill forward.

First published in the West Briton 10/10/19.