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The paper primarily focuses on domestic abuse survivors in England. The Library has published a list of contact details for organisations which assist victims of domestic abuse across the UK. The paper does not cover support for victims and survivors during court proceedings or police procedures.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021 but is not yet fully in force. It aims to “underpin a lasting culture change” leading to “improved support for all victims of domestic abuse and the children who are affected by it”.

Prevalence of domestic abuse

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for the year ending March 2020 estimated that 5.5% of adults aged 16 to 74 had experienced domestic abuse in the last year. This equates to an estimated 7.3% of women and 3.6% of men aged 16 to 74.

20.8% of 16 to 74-year olds had experienced domestic abuse at some point since the age of 16 (27.6% of women and 13.8% of men).

Galop, a LGBT+ anti-violence charity, emphasise that while domestic abuse disproportionately affects women, “it is nevertheless important to raise awareness and increase understanding that this is by no means the only circumstance in which it exists,” and support should be available for all victims and survivors.

General support for victims and survivors

Victims and survivors of domestic abuse may access support from multiple organisations. This could include housing authorities for temporary accommodation and help setting up a new home. Services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) might also be relied upon to establish an independent income, alongside organisations offering financial support, including assistance with debt.

Local authorities and educational institutions are important for safeguarding and preventing abuse, and schools can provide support for child victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

Healthcare services respond to the physical and mental health impacts of domestic abuse and treat related issues, including substance misuse. Specialist domestic abuse support services are also increasingly provided in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital.

Specialist support for domestic abuse victims and survivors

Specialist domestic abuse support services provide tailored assistance to victims and survivors. These services are typically run by third sector organisations and include Independent Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Advisers (IDVAs and ISVAs), refuges and helplines.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of IDVAs and ISVAs has increased over the last decade in England. The number of domestic abuse helplines also increased during this time, while the number of refuges went down.

The availability of specialist support, such as IDVAs, varies across the country. In 2019, the domestic abuse charity SafeLives estimated that London was the only region with the recommended number of IDVAs for the population (108% coverage). Yorkshire and the Humber had the lowest percentage of coverage at 52%.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 will be brought into force in due course in line with the Government’s commencement schedule.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, is tasked with helping to improve the quantity and quality of domestic abuse support services. The Commissioner is mapping the provision of services, a process expected to end by the end of 2021.

During the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner supported an amendment which would have placed a statutory duty on local authorities to provide community-based services as well as accommodation-based services. When explaining why the Government did not support the amendment, Baroness Williams said the Government was committed to consulting on the provision of community-based domestic abuse services in its planned consultation on a new victims’ law.

There are two Library papers on the Bill: Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 (CBP8787) and Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21: Progress on the Bill (CBP 8959).

Consultation on draft guidance

The Domestic Abuse Act requires local authorities to publish a strategy for delivering support in its area. To support this, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published draft statutory guidance on delivering support to victims in ‘safe accommodation’ in June 2021.

The consultation is currently open for submissions and states that Tier One authorities (county councils, metropolitan and unitary authorities and the Greater London Authority)should make clear how they plan to deliver services to meet the needs for all victims, based on their protected characteristics and “unique or complex needs… including sex, race, gender, language, religion, sexual orientation, age, state of health and disabilities.”

Expected strategies related to domestic abuse

In 2021, the Government is due to publish a new Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2021-2024 (VAWG), alongside a separate domestic abuse strategy. In response to a Parliamentary Question, Victoria Atkins, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, said “the two strategies will be complementary and work together to drive down VAWG”.

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