This message comes from the Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner of England and Wales and highlights some of their work in 2020!
Hello all and warm season’s greetings!
As we approach the end of the year, we wanted to get in touch with a few final updates that might be of interest, as well as taking the opportunity to reflect on a few key moments from what has been a very busy year.
DAC Office Updates
Many of you will be aware of the various mapping projects we have underway, so some brief updates on how these are progressing:
1. A pilot exercise to assess the feasibility of mapping the national provision of services for victims / survivors of domestic abuse. This is being delivered by social research firm, NatCen, on behalf of our Office. The work will explore what services (including both accommodation-based and community-based) are available within four pilot regions (Devon, Blackpool, Warwickshire, and Southwark), their funding streams, and the extent to which demand is being met. Practitioner surveys are currently with services providers, and we will be also be surveying survivors regarding their experience of accessing, or attempting to access, services in each of the pilot regions in January. Any questions to: Simon.Corkery2@domesticabusecommissioner.independent.gov.uk
2. A project to map the provision of behaviour change interventions for perpetrators of domestic abuse across England and Wales. The study will capture differences in the availability of programmes between geographic areas, the types of interventions used, and funding streams. A pilot in Cambridgeshire and Thames Valley is now underway, and we are asking all PCCs (in England) and regional VAWDASV leads (in Wales) to provide details of behaviour change interventions in their area. Please see the attached for full request and further information on the project. Any questions to: Simon.Corkery2@domesticabusecommissioner.independent.gov.uk
3. The mapping of domestic abuse and sexual violence support and advocacy services in criminal and family courts across England and Wales being carried out on our behalf by SafeLives is well underway. SafeLives has distributed surveys for DA and SV frontline practitioners which are open until early January, as well as an additional survey for victims and survivors to share their views on the court systems. The survivor survey is available at https://wh1.snapsurveys.com/s.asp?k=160622336048 – please do share amongst your networks. Any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We also wanted to briefly draw your attention to the launch of DOT Project’s free training series, supporting the sexual violence, domestic abuse, and mental health sectors. Starting in February 2021, their first four-part course is designed to help non-profit organisations gain the confidence and capabilities needed to review and adapt their digital and technology landscape in response to the impact of the Covid pandemic. More information, including course modules and dates, are available here – please do share with any sexual violence, domestic abuse, and mental health third-sector organisations who may be interested.
Central Government Updates
The MHCLG has launched a £46 million ‘Changing Futures‘ scheme to support vulnerable people. The prospectus invites expressions of interest from organisations such as councils, health bodies, police, probation services, voluntary and community sector organisations to form local partnerships, and provides further details on the programme, eligibility and the Expression of Interest processes.
‘Ask for ANI’ has been developed by the Home Office with the domestic abuse sector to provide a simple and discreet way for victims to signal that they need immediate help from the police or other support services. The scheme will go live early next year, and in preparation for this they have shared materials with participating pharmacies to ensure staff are familiar with the training and guidance. The training resources include a short video and guidance documents on responding to the codeword and information about domestic abuse. To inform customers that staff are ready to respond, pharmacies are also required to display Ask for ANI posters. The Ask for ANI training and promotional resources are available on gov.uk. Separate training resources and co-branded posters are also available to those already participating in the Safe Spaces scheme. The Home Office will be in touch with more information ahead of launch. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact: AskforANI@homeoffice.gov.uk
The Home Office has also launched its public VAWG Call for Evidence, which is open until 18th February. The evidence gathered will to help inform the development of the Government’s next Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. The Home Office will also publish a separate strategy specifically on domestic abuse later in the year.
With regards to the Domestic Abuse Bill, as many of you may know already, the second reading of the Bill in the Lords has now been scheduled for 5th January. Dates for the remaining stages after that are still to be confirmed. We expect the Bill to receive Royal Assent by Easter 2021.
Reflecting on 2020
This year has been such a busy and fast-moving one that it’s easy to forget how much has been achieved. There have been some real positives in amongst the challenges, and whilst this is in no way an exhaustive list, we wanted to highlight some of the key moments for us:
1. Hidden Harms Summit
In May, Nicole attended the Prime Minister’s Virtual Summit on Hidden Harms, which was attended by Government Ministers and leaders from across the statutory and third sectors. Nicole spoke to attendees about how the Covid-19 pandemic and public health measures to curb the spread of the virus had affected victims and survivors of domestic abuse and the services that seek to help them. It was a really important moment to emphasise to the Government about how the pandemic had increased the risk to victims and survivors of domestic abuse, as well as reducing the avenues available to seek support, and to encourage clear action to improve the response in both the short- and long-term. As a result, the ‘Hidden Harms Action Plan’ was published, and additional funding was made available to front-line services and helpline providers in order to respond to the surge in demand for their services. It is vital that we continue to keep domestic abuse at the fore-front of decision-makers’ minds as they consider further steps to control the virus, and, in time, recover from the pandemic.
2. Domestic Abuse Bill
In June, Nicole gave evidence to the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee in the House of Commons, setting out her key priorities for this important piece of legislation. The Committee heard from a range of experts, including Women’s Aid England, Refuge, SafeLives, Southall Black Sisters, and most importantly, from women who had lived experience of domestic abuse. This was an important moment this year as MPs considered and debated the detail of the Bill, and afforded the opportunity to press for the Bill to go much further in order to meet the Government’s own ambition for a ‘landmark’ piece of legislation. Nicole emphasised the importance of extending the statutory duty on Local Authorities to include community-based services, in addition to accommodation-based, as well as the critical need to better support all survivors of domestic abuse, regardless of their immigration status. This would involve establishing a clear ‘firewall’ between police and immigration enforcement to allow for safe reporting, as well as allowing victims and survivors with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ to still access services. Other key amendments that Nicole supported included introducing a new standalone offence of non-fatal strangulation, extending the coercive and controlling offence to post-separation abuse, and enabling better oversight of the Family Courts.
3. Global Webinar for National Domestic Abuse Leads
In July, Nicole hosted a Global Webinar for National Domestic Abuse Leads, in partnership with Vodafone Foundation. The event brought together representatives from UN Women, European Parliament and UK Government to identify and discuss shared challenges created by the global pandemic for survivors of domestic abuse and those working to support them. It highlighted innovation and best practice from around the world as well as the importance of improved understanding and data on the international domestic abuse picture. We look forward to continuing this invaluable dialogue at a further international event next year.
4. 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
This year has been very challenging for so many victims, survivors and frontline staff and it has been easy to focus on the negative, but there have also been positives. Organisations and individuals have pulled together and supported each other as well as victims and survivors. During the 16 Days of Activism we thought that it was really important to highlight some of the great work that has been taking place across England and Wales so each day we focused on some of the amazing work being done. These examples included a Sewing for Sanity group in Sunderland; the Ask Me Ambassadors initiative in Wales and a pilot to train GP staff to spot the signs of abuse in their patients. There are very many more and we would love to hear examples of good practice from your area if you want to get in touch.
Finally, we just wanted to say a huge thank you for all of the work you have been doing to support survivors of domestic abuse this year. We know it has been an incredibly challenging year and we have been overwhelmed by the way in which organisations and individuals have pulled together to rise to the challenge. It has been heartening to see and we hope this crisis has built an increasingly strong foundation for continued and closer partnership working as things return to return to normal in the not-too-distant future.
Very best wishes and we look forward to speaking to you in 2021!
Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner of England and Wales