Refuge’s Top 5 Asks for the Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge has played an essential role in influencing the content of the Domestic Abuse Bill and continues to campaign for the changes our front line staff and the survivors we support tell us they need.
The Government’s stated objective for the Bill is to transform the response to domestic abuse – which Refuge is fully behind. However, we are concerned that the Bill in its current form focuses too much on the justice system and policing, leaving out swathes of policy areas that need reform in order to better protect, and meet the needs of, survivors.
Listening to the survivors we support and our front line staff, we identified five priority areas for change:
- Universal Credit – the single payment structure of Universal Credit facilitates and exacerbates economic abuse by potentially handing over control of the household’s entire income overnight. Additionally, the automatic five-week delay in receiving the first Universal Credit impoverishes women and their children at the point of fleeing, making women dependent on food banks and other charitable resources. As such, Refuge is calling for separate Universal Credit payments by default and for survivors to be exempt from paying back any advanced Universal Credit payments they access while waiting for the first payment. Read our briefing on this issue here.
- Access to Housing – survivors who have fled their home in order to escape abuse are not automatically entitled to priority need for settled housing. This makes it incredibly difficult for survivors without dependent children to rebuild their lives in a new home, and can serve to trap them with their abuser. We are calling for extending priority need for housing to all survivors fleeing abuse. Read our briefing on this issue here.
- Gendered definition of domestic abuse – the Domestic Abuse Bill will define domestic abuse in law for the first time ever, including economic abuse. This definition will be instrumental in informing the public, and professionals tasked with responding to domestic abuse. Refuge therefore thinks it is essential that the definition reflects the reality of this crime, i.e. that it disproportionately impacts women. Refuge is therefore calling for the definition of domestic abuse to be gendered. Read our briefing on this issue here.
- Migrant women – a huge number of migrant women have ‘no recourse to public funds’, barring them from accessing benefits, including housing support, which is essential when fleeing abuse. Some women, i.e. those on spousal visas, can apply for the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC), an exemption from the no recourse to public funds category for three months, while they apply for indefinite leave to remain. Refuge is calling for protection from VAWG to be accessible to all women, regardless of immigration status, by extending the DDVC to apply to all women. Read our briefing on this issue here.
- Funding for specialist services – specialist domestic abuse service provision does not meet demand, with women and children turned away from refuges due to lack of space every day. Refuge is calling for a long-term, comprehensive, sustainable funding system, so that all survivors and their children can access the support they need. Read our briefing one this issue here.
Read more on the The Joint Pre-Legislative Domestic Abuse Bill Committee report. Having listened to Refuge they have made some strong recommendations to the Government on the Bill.