While Brexit is dominating headlines, as expected, I want this week to highlight some of the important work that continues in government that will make a significant difference to lives across the country.
This week the government published draft legislation to clamp down on domestic abuse and offer greater support to victims. This follows a public consultation last year to address domestic abuse from prevention through to rehabilitation. The consultation ran for 12 weeks, including a series of national roadshows with victims and other stakeholders.
I have met victims of domestic abuse living in a women’s refuge in the county, so am aware of the damage that can be done. It is a cruel crime that can affect anyone, and the emotional and physical scars can last a lifetime. So the government must do what it can to shed light on a crime that all too often remains hidden in plain sight.
The impact of domestic abuse not only profoundly affects victims, but also is reflected in demand on public services, with the Home Office estimating the economic and social costs of domestic abuse to society at £66bn per year.
The response to the consultation has set out four key objectives, which are promoting awareness; protecting and supporting victims; transforming the justice process; and improving performance and consistency across the country.
Some of these objectives will require legislation to back them up – which is why the government has published a draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which will be scrutinised by a Committee of both Houses of Parliament before being introduced to Parliament.
The draft Bill proposes a statutory definition of domestic abuse – which includes for the first time economic abuse. It will establish and set out powers for an office of Domestic Abuser Commissioner, and provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Order.
This legislation will also, in a long overdue step, prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in family courts. There will also be greater responsibility on local councils to take into account domestic abuse in social housing arrangements.
The initial response from campaigners and stakeholders has been positive. So I hope this important legislation, once passed, will make a significant difference in combatting domestic abuse and supporting victims.